08/02/22 Message from Kirk Gafill

Re: Letter from the Big Sur LCP Defense Committee legal counsel regarding the County Issuance of the Estoppel Letter Dated June 16, 2022 (Link to letter here)

Following the unfortunate and problematic decision by Monterey County to issue an estoppel letter to effectively end enforcement of Short Term Rentals, the Defense Committee has been in discussions with our legal counsel to evaluate how we can best seek to have the County reverse or modify this decision to protect the Big Sur Planning Area from current and additional illegal and unpermitted Short Term Rental activity.

We believe that there is a strong case based on law and factual evidence to support the exclusion of the Big Sur Planning Area from the estoppel letter and the attached Comment Letter from our counsel makes this case.  It is our hope that the County will respond in a timely manner and enter into a tolling agreement to allow for discussions on how to best modify the estoppel letter to ensure its provisions are not in conflict with the Big Sur Land Use Plan.  

Should the County choose not to work with the Defense Committee to reach a workable solution, then the Defense Committee is seriously considering filing a lawsuit against the County on the grounds provided in the letter. (Letter Attached here)


Kirk Gafill

Big Sur Local Coastal Program Defense Committee

07/15/22 Message from Kirk Gafill

As you may know, in December of 2021, Monterey County was served with a lawsuit by a group named the Committee for Fair and Affordable Housing Committee on the Central Coast claiming that the County’s prohibition of Short Term Rentals constituted a “development” under the Coastal Act and as the County had not had its prohibition certified by the Coastal Commission, it could not enforce such a prohibition.

Unfortunately, the County responded to this lawsuit by issuing the attached estoppel letter and agreed to effectively stop enforcing Short Term Rental violations.  The Board of Supervisors made this decision in Closed Session and without any meaningful public process or even notification to long standing stakeholders in this issue, such as the Big Sur LCP Defense Committee.

The Big Sur LCP Defense Committee is now actively evaluating with its legal counsel options available to seek to have the County either rescind the estoppel letter in its entirety or at very least, modify the letter to exclude the Big Sur Land Use Area.

We will provide updates on this matter as they become available.

Letter to Chairman Chris Lopez Monterey County Board of Supervisors sent in advance of the Supervisors meeting on November 17.

The Defense Committee have asked Attorney Sara Clark, of the law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, to write a letter on behalf of the Defense Committee and all its supporters. The letter is sent in advance of the Supervisor meeting on November 17.

You can read the LETTER TO THE BOARD HERE.

Supervisors Meeting Agenda HERE.

(first part of the letter…)
On behalf of this firm’s client, the Big Sur Local Coastal Program Defense Committee (“BSDC”), I write regarding the Board of Supervisor’s consideration of the proposed Monterey County Vacation Rental Ordinances, especially as they relate to the Big Sur Land Use Plan.

The BSDC is a group of residents and business owners concerned for the preservation of the cultural and natural values of Big Sur and the land use plan that protects them for the public to enjoy. (continued…)

You can join the meeting virtually and make any comment you like. We encourage you to support the content of the letter above.

The letter also includes a lot of background information.

Comments on Destination Stewardship Plan (DSP)

PDF of this letter here.

In Order to Save It, They Will Destroy It
Comments on The Big Sur Sustainable Tourism Destination Stewardship Plan (DSP)

My thoughts: The County of Monterey, The Visitors Bureau and the Community Association of Big Sur (CABS) have supported the development of The Destination Stewardship Plan (DSP) draft management plan for the Big Sur Coast. It is my impression that this document is largely the product of Beyond Green Travel (BGT) with agency input, particularly the Coastal Commission. I was impressed by the BGT’s investigation but the bulk of the management solutions left me cold. These planners paid only lip service to the Big Sur LUP that has protected this coast for decades. From the Big Sur LUP:
• “The Scenic beauty of the Big Sur Coast, and the opportunity to escape urban patterns are prime attractions for residents and visitors alike.”

• “Man made improvements detract from the near wilderness attributes (of the coast) if not individually, then collectively.”

• “…all developments must harmonize with and be subordinate to the wild and natural character of the land.”

In the 1960’s, highway one through Big Sur was named both a state and a federal scenic highway and was more recently designated an All American Road, defined as a place of such beauty that the highway has become a destination unto itself. People come to see this 70 miles of unchanged, natural beauty. The solutions offered by the DSP to Big Sur’s overcrowding are new attractions which will bring more people and cars and will alter forever the experience of this wild coast.

The proposed Bixby Trail Loop and Overlook will move the car and pedestrian congestion to the south side of Bixby. The Pfeiffer Shuttle will attract more people and where will the parking lot be? A North Shuttle and a South Shuttle (what have been the results of the shuttles at Yosemite? more problems) Also, a local shuttle for visitors and guests who don’t want to weather the crowded highway (a new tour, more people, another parking lot). This plan would create our own Big Sur transit system: signs, shuttle stops, groups of waiting riders here and there, shuttles zipping by regularly clad in sustainability advertising. Does this feel urban yet? Does this feel like the LUP’s goal “all development must harmonize…”? There’s more. A visitor center (“educational and interesting”) will attract still more people. Where will we put this building and its parking lot? The only place that has been discussed in recent years is the Naval Base. A more significant blot (scar) on the critical viewshed is hard to imagine.

In my opinion these are not solutions to Big Sur’s congestion; they are invitations to greater congestion and overuse of the area and the gradual dismemberment of the Big Sur Land Use Plan (amendment after amendment). A plan that is broadly recognized as the gold standard of all such plans. In recent years, on peak use days, the Big Sur coast attracts more than 10,000 cars a day exceeding the carrying capacity of highway one. The resulting congestion reduces public access and the quality of visitor’s experience. We do not need more attractions.

The DSP promotes the development of Big Sur with total disregard for the fundamental goals of its Land Use Plan: preserve the unmarred and wild beauty of the coast for all to see.

We must solve Big Sur’s traffic and overcrowding problems without destroying its treasured beauty. The highway has points of congestion that need to be addressed: by reservation only or closure. Without adding eyesores and management nightmares to the wild coast, any additional bathrooms need to be contained in the existing four commercial zones, the state parks or the forrest stations. A critical issue is the need to regulate traffic entering Big Sur. Transportation studies and the Land Use Plan itself recognize that eventually Big Sur’s popularity will overwhelm the limited carrying capacity of highway one. We have arrived at that point. In order to maintain high accessibility and the quality of the visitor’s experience the traffic entering Big Sur needs to be regulated. Politically, this is not easy. However, it may be the only solution if the inspiring wild beauty of the coast is to remain a national treasure for all to see.

For more updates on the DSP and other issues concerning Big Sur please sign up for email updates from the Big Sur Defense Committee at bigsurlcp.com.

-Tim Green 

Regarding June 29 meeting

Subject: LUAC Memo – Last email alert 

Dear Supporters, 

The feedback from our last email is that the 80 page LUAC update memo is intimidating. So, here’s a shortcut.

The BSDC’s concerns are focused on pages 4-6 and 11-19 of the memo. The Big Sur and South Coast LUACs have been working on this update of the Big Sur Land Use Plan (LUP) for many years. This LUAC memo discusses their points of contention with the County Planning staff; the LUACs are trying to protect the plan that has protected this coast for 35 years. On the other hand, the County and Coastal Commission want to open up Big Sur. The pages referred to above deal with two of the issues that are in contention with the County and Coastal Commission. 

1. Preserving visual access (vs physical) as the primary public resource of the Big Sur coast.

2. Protecting residential housing from conversion to commercial transient use (STR).

As I write this, there are other threats looming that threaten the fundamental policies and goals of the Big Sur LUP.

They include:

Critical viewshed – the unmarred natural beauty of the Big Sur coast.

Community – the very limited housing of this tiny community.

Scenic highway – the major function of highway one is sightseeing and scenic driving. 

We must gather and stop the dismemberment of the plan. The June 29 meeting is very important, please spare a few moments and call in to state your support of the LUAC.

Here is the link to the memo for instructions on how to participate in tomorrow’s meeting. 

Thank you.

-Tim Green 

9 AM Join via Zoom/Landline

Letter from the Defense Committee to the Monterey County Planning Commission regarding Agenda Item No. 3 Vacation Rental Ordinances (Short – Term Rentals).

9 AM June 10

Join Zoom Meeting Via Computer


Join Zoom meeting via phone:

Dial:                      669-900-6833

Meeting ID:        931 2197 5696