Hearings offer locals a chance to
sound off on housing crisis
Published: January 25, 2013
FOR MANY people who work in Big Sur’s
service industry, finding a place to live down the coast
is an almost impossible task, leading some to commute vast
distances and others to even sleep in their cars. But a handful
of community leaders want to change that by amending local laws
to allow the construction of more workforce housing.
It’s just one of many issues that will be discussed when the
Big Sur and South Coast land use advisory committees meet Jan.
28 at the Big Sur Multi-Agency Facility. The two LUACs plan to
host additional hearings weekly for several months.
After receiving input from the public, the two groups will make
recommendations to Monterey County officials regarding updates
to the Big Sur Land Use Plan.
The owner of Treebones Resort and a member of the South Coast
LUAC, John Handy told The Pine Cone this week that Big Sur’s
famously tough building restrictions — combined with a
generation’s worth of public land acquisitions — threaten to rob
Big Sur’s community of its vitality.
“We’re losing our community,” Handy said. “Our population has
shrunk. It’s hard for people to live and work here. This
community is fragile.”
Handy said he’s not discounting the need to protect Big Sur’s
stunning landscape and rural character, but he believes Big
Sur’s eclectic human population — and its vibrant artistic
culture — is worth saving as well.
“People come here for the beauty, but they also come here for
the unique community that exists,” he said. “There’s a funkiness
about it that makes it special.”
Handy suggested that building restrictions be loosened to
permit what he calls “some rational development” to meet
critical needs in the community, particularly those of people
who work in Big Sur and are required to commute many miles along
a narrow and winding highway each day because nearby housing
Solving Big Sur’s workforce housing dilemma would have little impact on the environment, Handy suggested. “Less than one percent of Big Sur’s land mass is privately held,” he explained.
Another challenge for anyone seeking to build workforce housing
is the high cost of getting a permit, Handy said.
Handy praised Monterey County officials for their willingness to consider the input of residents when updating the Big Sur Land Use Plan, which was adopted by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors in 1985 and certified in 1986 by the California Coastal Commission. “The Monterey County Planning Department is being very cooperative,” he said. “When a government agency steps out of its comfort zone, it needs to be acknowledged.”
In addition to workforce housing, the weekly meetings will
offer the public an opportunity to comment on “anything and
everything” that’s contained in the Big Sur Land Use Plan, said
Big Sur LUAC chair Mary Trotter. Fire protection, development on
slopes and drilling wells are just a few subjects that will
likely be raised.
“If people have a topic they’d like to discuss, we encourage them to attend these meetings,” she said. “We’re seeking public input.”
The meetings start at 9:30 a.m. The Big Sur Multi-Agency
Facility is located at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park about 26
miles south of Carmel. To see a copy of the Big Sur Land Use