BIG SUR COAST
LAND USE PLAN
LOCAL COASTAL PROGRAM
MONTEREY COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
MONTEREY COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
BIG SUR COAST LAND USE PLAN
LOCAL COASTAL PROGRAM
Prepared by the Monterey County Planning
Adopted by the Monterey County Participating Staff:
Planning Commission 2/11/81
Robert Slimmon, Jr.
Director of Planning
Adopted by the Monterey County Raymond W. Lamb
Board of Supervisors 11/5/85 Assistant Director of Planning
David Young, Senior Planner/Project
Dusan Petrovic, Chairman
Marc J. Del Piero
Sam Karas Graphics:
Karin Strasser Kauffman
Barbara Shipnuck Steve Early
Certification Acknowledged by the
California Coastal Commission on Word Processors:
April 10, 1986
Rosalba M. Johnson
Former Project Participants:
Dennis L. Wardell
Consultants: Roy Trotter and Glen Vita | Black & Veatch Consulting Engineers
BIG SUR LAND USE PLAN – AMENDMENTS
As Adopted by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors for the following date(s):
1. January 9, 1996 – AMEND AND ADD LANGUAGE TO BIG SUR LAND USE PLAN POLICY
3.4.3.A.7 – Amend and add to Big Sur Land Use Plan Policy 3.4.3.A.7 regarding the timing of proof of water for subdivision applications.
BIG SUR LUP/BSLUP.IDX 79/96
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.2 Physical and Cultural Setting ……………………………………………………………………….5
1.3 Past and Present Planning……………………………………………………………………………6
PHILOSOPHY & GOALS…………………………………………………………………….9
2.1 Philosophy and Goals ………………………………………………………………………………….9
2.2 Basic Objectives and Policies………………………………………………………………………..10
3.2 Scenic Resources …………………………………………………………………………………………13
3.3 Environmentally Sensitive Habitats………………………………………………………………22
3.4 Water Resources…………………………………………………………………………………………25
3.5 Forest Resources ………………………………………………………………………………………..31
3.6 Agriculture ………………………………………………………………………………………………..37
3.7 Hazardous Areas ………………………………………………………………………………………..40
3.8 Mineral Resource……………………………………………………………………………………… . 4 5
3.9 Dredging, Filling, and Shoreline Structures……………………………………………………58
3.10 Historical Resources……………………………………………………………………………………59
3.11 Archaeological Resources ……………………………………………………………………………61
HIGHWAY ONE AND COUNTY ROADS …………………………………………..63
4.2 Recommended Actions ……………………………………………………………………………….69
LAND USE AND DEVELOPMENT…………………………………………………….71
5.2 Land Use Planning Issues …………………………………………………………………………..75
5.3 Proposed Land Uses ………………………………………………………………………………….76
5.4 Development Policies…………………………………………………………………………………84
ADMINISTRATION AND IMPLEMENTATION ……………………………….117
7.1 Plan Administration…………………………………………………………………………………117
7.2 Implementation ……………………………………………………………………………………….119
LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
TABLE 1: Land Use and Development Summary………………………………………………………..83
FIGURE 1: Proposed Land Use ……………………………………………………………………following 83
Rural Community Centers
Big Sur Valley North – Detail A
Big Sur Valley South – Detail B
Lucia – Detail C
Pacific Valley – Detail D
Gorda – Detail E
Commercial Facilities Outside
Rural Community Centers – Detail F
TABLE 2: Site Specific Recommendations for Shoreline Access …………………following 116
FIGURE 2: Shoreline Access Plan ……………………………………………………………..following 116
FIGURE 3: Trails Plan ………………………………………………………………………….following 116
The plan contained in these pages is the Land Use Plan for the Big Sur Coast segment of MontereyCounty’s Local Coastal Program. This plan supersedes the Monterey County Coast Master Plan adopted in 1962 and in effect for twenty two years. As the primary component of a certified LocalCoastal Program, it will provide development standards to guide the actions of all State and local agencies. Under the provisions of the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act, actions by all federal agencies must be submitted for review by the California Coastal Commission. The Coastal Commission will rely on the certified Big Sur Coast Land Use Plan for guidance when reviewing federal projects for consistency with the policies of the California Coastal Management Program.This plan has been prepared to carry out the requirements of the California Coastal Act of 1976. The Coastal Act places emphasis on environmental protection and public recreation and access. Therefore, these were three important considerations used to formulate this plan.
The Big Sur coast of Central California is over seventy miles in length and stretches from the Carmel area on the north, south to the San Luis Obispo County line near San Simeon. Perhaps the largest single coastal planning area in California, the Big Sur region is also among the most geographically distinctive. The western slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains, reaching an elevation of 5,200 feet at Cone Peak, drop precipitously to the sea. Much of the coast is bounded by sheer cliffs. Great offshore rocks punctuate the dramatic meeting of land and sea. Beaches are few; strong currents, waves, and cold water make swimming hazardous. Nearly fifty separate streams flow down the mountains to join the sea. Several of these, such as the Big Sur and Little Sur Rivers, Big Creek, Garrapata Creek, and Salmon Creek, have substantial year-round flows and support anadromous and resident game fish. The Big Sur coast is rich in plant and wildlife diversity. Coast redwoods are found in the cool, moist canyons. The Santa Lucia fir and many other rare plants are present. Mountain lion, an occasional black bear, deer, and many smaller terrestrial animals and birds make Big Sur their home. While the California sea otter refuge runs the length of the coast, the otter is only a small part of the diverse spectrum of marine wildlife.
The climate in Big Sur is mild. Although the winters bring some of the heaviest rainfall in California, the summers are long and dry. Coastal fog is typical in summer mornings near the shore; inland and at the 6 higher elevations temperatures can get quite high. Fire danger is ever present in summer and can be extremely hazardous for residents. The rugged mountainous terrain of the Big Sur coast has had a profound effect on historical use of the area and will continue to serve as a limitation on the kinds of activities that can be carried on and the scale of development. Natural constraints to development include availability of water, difficult access, unstable soils on steep slopes, and dangers of fire and flood.
The scenic qualities and the natural grandeur of the coast which result from the imposing geography, the rich vegetative compositions, and the dramatic meeting of land and sea are the area’s greatest single attraction to the public. Big Sur has attained a worldwide reputation for spectacular beauty; sightseeing and scenic driving are the major recreational activities. Although it has remained a rural area where sturdy pioneering families still carry on ranching, Big Sur’s residents have also achieved acclaim for their cultural contributions. Many well known writers, artists, and artisans have been inspired by the coast’s dramatic vistas and timeless solitude. A strong community identity continues to attract new residents and also contributes to tourism. Today, tourism and private residential development are the strongest trends affecting management of the area. Approximately half of the planning area’s 150,000 acres are within the Los Padres National Forest and the Ventana Wilderness. Nearly 9,000 acres are contained within units of the State Park System. Approximately 55,000 acres are in private ownership.
1.3 PAST AND PRESENT PLANNING
Past planning has been conscious of the unique qualities of Big Sur. Soon after the construction of Highway 1 in the late 1930’s, the County drew national attention when it successfully prevented construction of a service station advertising sign and won a landmark case, securing for local government the right to use its police power for aesthetic purposes.
Beginning in 1959 and continuing until 1962, the County worked with local residents and consultants to develop a master plan for the coast. This plan, known as the Monterey County Coast Master Plan, has been recognized as both innovative and far reaching and has enjoyed the support of the people in the area. Closely following adoption of the Coast Master Plan, the County took the unusual step of inviting the federal government to study Highway l for designation as a national scenic parkway. Although the Federal study was never undertaken, the County published a report entitled, Wonderful One, and expressed its concern for the protection of the national interest along the Big Sur coast. The County recognizes that even the best planning in time grows outdated and needs to be revised. Today’s standards for environmental protection were unknown ten or fifteen years ago. What were thought to have been adequate parcel sizes for private land holdings at the time of the 1962 Master Plan 7 are now understood to be too small to ensure the protection of the coast because excessive development could occur. Use of Highway 1 has grown beyond expectation. Pressures for new residential and commercial development, as well as increased public acquisitions and access, are now being felt along with a steady increase in recreational development and use. In an effort to respond to these emerging problems, the County has undertaken several new planning programs in recent years. These began in 1970 when the County joined with Santa Cruz County to the north and San Luis Obispo County to the south in the development of the Tri-County Coastline Study. This innovative plan preceded the passage of Proposition 20, the California Coastal Initiative of 1972, and reflected the three counties’ deep concern to improve the stewardship of the central coastline. This plan was set aside when Proposition 20 established the California Coastal Commission and charged it with the preparation of a master plan for the State’s coastline. Monterey County once again took the initiative by becoming one of ten jurisdictions in the State to conduct a special pilot planning program in cooperation with the Coastal Commission. The pilot study report, prepared by a consultant to the County in cooperation with local citizens and a broad range of public agencies, made strong recommendations but also identified areas where additional planning seemed needed. Thereafter, following passage of the California Coastal Act in the fall of 1976, the County developed a comprehensive work program to guide preparation of the Big Sur Coast Local Coastal Program. The work program identified issues to be resolved and outlined research and planning tasks. A comprehensive series of background reports prepared by the County summarized available data, studied coastal issues in the context of the California Coastal Act, and recommended County policy changes needed to meet the requirements of the Coastal Act. The reports have been widely circulated and reviewed both within the community of Big Sur and outside by interested individuals, groups, and public agencies. Based on the reports’ recommendations and on the responses to them, this plan has been prepared. A great deal of useful information supporting the plan is provided in the background reports but could not be included in this document. The background reports can be consulted concerning the justification for policies or for detailed information about Big Sur’s natural and human environment, but should not be considered authoritative.
The County adopted Protected Waterways Management Plans for the Little Sur River and Big Sur River in 1983. These provide authoritative resource data and analysis, identification of potential land use conflicts and goals, objectives, policies and recommendations for each watershed. These Protected Waterways Management Plans are incorporated by reference in this Plan. In general, the goals, objectives, and policies of the Little Sur and Big Sur protected waterways management plans are more specific and detailed statements of land use policy for these two waterways than the L.U.P. However, in the event of conflict between either waterway plan and the L.U.P., the most environmentally protective goals, objectives, or policies shall prevail regardless of the source.
Public participation in development of the plan has been extensive. A Citizen Advisory Committee appointed in 1976 by the Board of Supervisors held numerous meetings to provide direction for the plan and related studies. These meetings were often well attended by residents of the area and the general public. A series of town hall meetings were held in Big Sur at important points in the process to elicit the views of the entire community. Public agency participation included frequent and close working relationships with virtually every agency with an important role on the coast. Numerous presentations by State and Federal Agency personnel were made to the community. The plan has specifically been prepared to conform to the purposes and spirit of the California Coastal Act. Its proposals are intended to resolve the difficult issues that face Big Sur’s future.
The major features of the Plan are to:
• Guide all future planning decisions for County and State agencies, and set direction for the U. S. Forest Service in its planning.
• Show the kinds, locations, and intensities of land uses allowed, therefore, serving as a basis of zoning and other implementing actions.
• Present policies concerning land development and environmental protection and management.
• Call for management of Highway 1 and all other governmental activities on the Coast.
• Set forth detailed review procedures for all applications based on a permit review process.
• Set forth a system for coordinating the actions of all involved government agencies.
• Provide an environmental resource management data base to support the plan and future planning decisions and provide for the periodic updating of this information.
• Identify the urgent need for financial assistance to the County in preserving Big Sur’s natural resources and cultural heritage. Funds are specifically needed to protect scenic views and to provide public access.
2. PHILOSOPHY & GOALS
2.1 PHILOSOPHY AND GOALS
The Big Sur Coast Citizens Advisory Committee in providing guidance to the County established the basic philosophy and goals upon which this plan is based. In its report to the County entitled, Philosophy and Goals for Planning, the Committee stated: 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 area if not individually, then collectively. Quality should have precedence over quantity of any permitted uses, whether residential, recreational, or commercial. Any new development should remain within the small-scale, traditional and rural values of the area, rather than to introduce new or conflicting uses.
Land use planning and management policies should be directed towards maintenance and restoration of Big Sur’s remaining rural and wilderness character. Without compromising its character or depleting its resources, the area should be accessible to as many as can be accommodated.
The special cultural characteristics of the Big Sur Coast should also be recognized as a primary resource. Man’s presence along this coast continues to reflect a pioneering attitude of independence and resourcefulness; the environment has been a special nurturing ground for individual and creative fulfillment. The community itself and its traditional way of life are resources that can help to protect the environment and enhance the visitor experience.
From these philosophic concerns the following basic goal was defined by the Citizens Advisory Committee:
“To preserve for posterity the incomparable beauty of the Big Sur country, its special cultural and natural resources, its landforms and seascapes and inspirational vistas. To this end, all development must harmonize with and be subordinate to the wild and natural character of the land.”
The County recognizes that the comprehensive preservation ethic expressed by these statements will require special vigilance and determination by all persons, public and private, whose actions affect the
future of the Coast. New and innovative planning tools are needed. Coordination among the numerous governmental agencies with a role on the coast has taken on a new urgency. The plan makes a number of recommendations requiring actions by both the County and other agencies. These recommendations must be vigorously pursued to make the plan a success.
2.2 BASIC OBJECTIVES AND POLICIES
To accomplish the major goal of the plan, five basic objectives and policies are defined to guide all future public and private use of the coast.
1. Natural Resources
The overall direction for the future of the Big Sur coast is based around the theme of preserving the outstanding natural environment. The County’s objective is to develop and effectively carry out a constantly improving system for managing man’s use of the natural resources of the Big Sur coast for the long-term benefit of both visitors and residents. The County’s basic policy is to take a strong and active role in the stewardship and safeguarding of Big Sur’s irreplaceable natural resources. Where there are conflicts, protection of these national resources is the primary objective with definite precedence over land use development.
2. Coastal Scenic Resources
Recognizing the Big Sur coast’s outstanding scenic beauty and its great benefit to the people of the State and the Nation, it is the County’s objective to preserve these scenic resources in perpetuity and to promote, wherever possible, the restoration of the natural beauty of visually degraded areas. The County’s basic policy is to prohibit all future public or private development visible from Highway 1 and major public viewing areas.
3. Highway 1
Highway 1 traversing the Big Sur coast is a special road of great local, state, and national significance. It was built by the public primarily for scenic travel and recreational enjoyment and over the years has been managed with this purpose always in mind. In light of the public’s great need for recreational opportunities, this original objective has become even more important. Monterey County’s basic policy is to take a strong and active role in guiding future use and improvement of Highway 1 and all categories of land use related to and dependent on the highway. The County’s purpose will be to maintain and enhance the highway’s aesthetic beauty and to protect its primary function as a recreational route. The highway shall remain a two-lane road and provide walking and
bike trails wherever feasible. In order to maintain the highway’s benefit to the public as a scenic recreational travel experience, the County will pursue legislation to restrict and regulate slow moving vehicles during peak travel hours.
4. Land Use and Development
The County’s primary land use planning objective is to minimize development of the Big Sur coast in order to preserve the coast as a scenic rural area where residents’ individual lifestyles can flourish, traditional ranching uses can continue, and the public can come to enjoy nature and find refuge from the pace of urban life. The County’s basic policy is that future land use development on the Big Sur coast shall be extremely limited, in keeping with the larger goal of preserving the Coast as a natural scenic area. In all cases, new land uses must remain subordinate to the character and grandeur of the Big Sur coast. All proposed uses, whether public or private, must meet the same exacting environmental standards and must not degrade the Big Sur landscape.
5. Shoreline Access
The County acknowledges the increasing public demand for access to the Big Sur coast and wishes, in the spirit of the California Coastal Act, to accommodate this legitimate desire. However, in doing so, the
County recognizes an ever greater commitment to preservation of the fragile natural environment. A range of additional concerns appear as well, including the need to ensure public safety and to protect the rights of property owners. Therefore, it is the County’s objective to develop an optimal plan for public access that accounts, in a balanced way, for all these considerations. Because preservation of the land in its natural state is the highest priority, the County’s basic policy is that all future access must be subordinate to this objective. Care must be taken that while providing public access, that the beauty of the coast, its tranquility, and the health of its environment, are not marred by public overuse or carelessness. Visual access should be emphasized throughout Big Sur as an appropriate response to the needs of visitors. Visual access to the shoreline should be maintained by directing future development out of the viewshed. It is the intention of Monterey County to review both the plan policies and local development at 5-year intervals to determine what, if any, changes in the plan or its implementation may be desirable or necessary.
3. RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
The Big Sur coast has a rare heritage of scenic, natural, and cultural resources. The seventy-mile long coastal strip supports a diversity of plant, animal, and marine life found in few areas. The relative inaccessibility of the backcountry and the limited extent of man’s activities have helped to protect these resources and to maintain a local culture. The Big Sur coast is in its infancy in terms of geologic time. This newness–characterized by extreme ruggedness of terrain and underlying instability–makes the area susceptible to geologic disturbance. The relatively small seasonal water resources that support the present population of animals, plants and humans dictate that management of the quality and flow of this water resources be a primary issue. Development of the Big Sur coast has been limited by natural constraints and hazards such as the availability of water, difficulty of access, fire and flood potential, unstable soils, and seismic disturbance. However, as in other areas of high scenic and recreational value, neither natural nor man-made constraints have been sufficient to contain public and private development or recreational demands. The scarcity of choice land has resulted in use of inappropriate or hazardous areas. At peak summer periods, Highway 1 is approaching maximum carrying capacity and some recreational facilities are overused. Some species of plants and animals are already extinct or near extinction, and unique and fragile habitats are increasingly threatened. Accelerated land use and development will inevitably create new pressures and aggravate perennial problems: fires, floods, landslides, water and air pollution, depletion of water resources, and further destruction of plant, animal and marine habitats. Geologic hazards created by development activities are not only private matters, but affect the public in general. There is a need for limits in all areas of private and public development, in order to prevent overuse of resources. Maintenance of the quality of the natural experience along the Big Sur coast has precedence over the development of any permitted uses, whether residential, recreational, or commercial. New development should complement the area and its cultural traditions, rather than introduce conflicting uses.
The policies that follow are intended to guide the use and enjoyment of the coast and to afford an essential degree of protection for the area’s natural environment. The policies are based upon numerous background reports, analysis of a great deal of data, and the advice of many agencies and knowledgeable individuals. Much of this material is contained in the background reports. In addition to the text presented here, a series of maps have been prepared that reflect available information on the location of various resources and hazards. Copies of these maps at 2000′ scale are available for public study at the Planning Department and in Big Sur at the County
Branch Library. Reduced scale versions of these maps are available in booklet form from the Planning Department. Maps included cover:
1 — Viewshed
2 — Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas
3 — Agricultural and Forest Resources
4 — Hazards
5 — Recreation and Visitor-Serving Facilities
6 — Current Land Use
7 — Parcel Sizes and Land Ownership
8 — Existing Access Conditions
The County recognizes that inaccuracies may exist in these maps and no claims are made for their complete accuracy. It will be the County’s intention to use these maps as constantly improving tools to be shared with the public. As new or improved information becomes available, the maps will be revised.
3.2 SCENIC RESOURCES
There is longstanding concern for the protection of the scenic beauty of the Big Sur area. During the early 1940’s, the County’s refusal to approve service station roadside advertising resulted in national attention. A landmark court decision in favor of the County, upheld the right of local government to regulate aesthetics through the police power. In the 1960’s, Highway One was designated as the first scenic highway in California’s new State Scenic Highway System. Many other measures have been taken by the County to preserve the outstanding visual qualities of the Big Sur area. These have included, among other things, use of the Scenic Conservation zone, careful site, design and landscaping control, and abatement of visual nuisance.
In spite of these controls, increased development has gradually encroached into areas of outstanding beauty. In some cases this has been caused by poorly sited homes, or structures which have not been designed to blend well enough with their surroundings. In other cases, highly visible roads have been built on scenically sensitive mountainsides to provide access to new homesites or residential parcels. In still other cases, public agencies have undertaken construction with little sensitivity to the land or to Big Sur’s aesthetic values.
The aesthetic and scenic qualities and semi-wilderness character of the coast have received national and even international acclaim. Accordingly, the issue of visual resource protection is probably the most significant and far reaching question concerning the future of the Big Sur coast. A major premise of this plan is that unusual action must now be taken to preserve the coast’s scenic beauty and natural appearance. The strong policies set forth in this plan are intended to safeguard this critically important resource. If carried out, they should assure the protection of the scenic magnificence of the area and reflect the desire of the people of Monterey County and the Big Sur community to preserve their heritage for present and future generations.
3.2.1 Key Policy
Recognizing the Big Sur coast’s outstanding beauty and its great benefit to the people of the State and Nation, it is the County’s objective to preserve these scenic resources in perpetuity and to promote the restoration of the natural beauty of visually degraded areas wherever possible. To this end, it is the County’s policy to prohibit all future public or private development visible from Highway 1 and major public viewing areas (the critical viewshed), and to condition all new development in areas not visible from Highway 1 or major public viewing areas on the siting and design criteria set forth in Sections
3.2.3, 3.2.4, and 3.2.5 of this plan. This applies to all structures, the construction of public and private
roads, utilities, lighting, grading and removal or extraction of natural materials.
1. Critical viewshed: everything within sight of Highway 1 and major public viewing areas including turnouts, beaches and the following specific locations Soberanes Point, Garrapata Beach, Abalone Cove Vista Point, Bixby Creek Turnout, Hurricane Point Overlook, upper Sycamore Canyon Road (Highway 1 to Pais Road), Pfeiffer Beach/Cooper Beach, and specific views from Old Coast Road as defined by policy
3.2.3 Critical Viewshed
1. In order to avoid creating further commitment to development within the critical viewshed all new parcels must contain building sites outside the critical viewshed.
2. The best available planning techniques shall be used to permit development of parcels partially in the critical viewshed. These may include clustering of structures, sensitive site design, design control, transfer of development credits, and other techniques designed to allow development on such parcels outside the critical viewshed.
3. Where it is determined that an alternative building site on a parcel would result in conformance to the Key Policy, then the applicant will be required to modify his proposal accordingly. Similarly, changes in the design, height, or bulk of proposed structures will be required where this will result in an approvable project.
4. New roads, grading or excavations will not be allowed to damage or intrude upon the critical viewshed. Such road construction or other work shall not commence until the entire project has completed the permit and appeal process. Grading or excavation shall include all alterations of natural landforms by earthmoving equipment. These restrictions shall not be interpreted as prohibiting restoration of severely eroded water course channels or gullying, provided a plan is submitted and approved prior to commencing work.
5. Where it is determined that a proposed development cannot be re-sited, redesigned, or in any other way made to conform to the basic critical viewshed policy, then the site shall be considered environmentally inappropriate for development.
6. The County will participate with other public agencies and private groups to secure adequate
funds to purchase critical viewshed parcels proposed for development or to secure for use by
restricted landowners, other developable land areas to which new development can be
transferred. The value of parcels, for purposes of establishing purchase price, shall not be
diminished by virtue of their location in the viewshed or by the policies of this section.
7. The general policy concerning replacement of structures shall be to encourage resiting or
redesign in order to conform to the Key Policy. Replacement or enlargement of existing
structures, or structures lost in fire or natural disaster within the critical viewshed shall be
permitted on the original location on the site, provided no other less visible portion of the site is acceptable to the property owner, and provided the replacement or enlargement does not increase the visibility of the structure. Replacement or enlargement of structures outside the critical viewshed shall be permitted as long as such replacement or enlargement does not cause the structure to intrude into critical viewshed.
8. Landowners will be encouraged to grant scenic easements to the County over portions of their land in the critical viewshed.
9. The County encourages creative public and private efforts to restore the scenic beauty of visually/impacted areas of the coast and will assist such efforts where possible.
B. Procedures For identifying whether A Proposed Project Would Intrude On The
1. All development applications shall require individual onsite investigations to determine whether they would intrude on the critical viewshed. The proposed buildings shall be accurately
indicated as to dimensions, height, and rooflines by poles and access roads, by stakes with flags which shall remain in place for the duration of the project review and approval process. Such indications of the extent of development shall be recorded photographically with superimposed representation of the proposed project. The standard for review is the objective determination of whether any portion of the proposed development is visible from Highway 1 or the major public viewing areas identified in the definition of the critical viewshed.
Visibility will be considered in terms of normal, unaided vision in any direction for any amount of time at any season. Ocean views from Highway 1 shall not be obscured by artificial berming/mounding or landscaping. Distant development, although in the technical line of sight, will not be considered visible if sited and designed so as not to be seen from Highway 1 and other major public viewing areas. Exterior light sources shall be prohibited if such light source would be directly visible from the locations designated in Policy 18.104.22.168 above. The critical viewshed does not include areas visible only from the hiking trails shown on the Trails Plan
All new development not in conformance with the approved representations shall be removed.
3.2.4 Land Not in the Critical Viewshed
1. So that the visual continuity may remain undisturbed, the design and siting of structures, whether residential, commercial, agricultural, or public, and access thereto, shall not detract from the natural beauty of the undeveloped skylines, ridgelines, and the shoreline.
2. New applicants, when selecting a building site, must consider the visual effects upon public views as well as the views and privacy of neighbors. The portion of a parcel least visible from public viewpoints will be considered the appropriate site for the location of new structures.
New structures shall be located where existing topography or trees provide natural screening and shall not be sited on open hillsides or silhouetted ridges. Sites shall not leave excavation scars or slope disturbance. Structures and access roads shall be designed to minimize alterations of the natural landform and to avoid, insofar as feasible, removal of healthy tree cover.
3. New development should be subordinate and blend with its environment, using materials or colors that will achieve that effect. Where necessary, appropriate modifications will be required for siting, structural design, size, shape, color, textures, building materials, access, and screening.
4. Landscape screening may be used wherever a moderate extension of native forested and chaparral areas is possible. Other screening must be of similar plant or tree species.
5. Sites for new structures shall be selected to avoid the construction of visible access roads and minimize the extent of environmental and engineering problems resulting from road construction.
6. New roads providing residential, recreational, or agricultural access will be considered only where it has been demonstrated that the use of existing roads is not feasible, or that permission for the use of an existing road is shown in writing to be unobtainable from neighboring property owners.
7. New roads shall avoid steep slopes and shall be located along the margins of forested areas, along natural land contours, or within existing vegetation. Road shall be aligned to minimize removal of native trees, and constructed to minimum standards consistent with the requirements of fire safety and emergency use. Drainage and erosion control measures must be adequate to prevent erosion. During road construction, side-casting of earth materials shall not be permitted; all materials not used for on-site fill shall be removed from the area.
8. Television antennas shall be unobtrusive.
B. Procedures For Applying the General Scenic Resources Policies That Apply Outside
the Critical Viewshed.
All development applications shall require individual on-site investigations. The proposed dimensions of
buildings shall be accurately indicated as to dimensions, height, and rooflines by poles and access roads
marked by stakes with flags which shall remain in place for the duration of the project review and
approval process. The County shall determine whether the proposed development conforms to the
policies set forth in Subsection A of this section.
3.2.5 Exceptions to the Key Policy
A. Rural Service Centers
Development within the following Rural Community Centers–Big Sur Valley, Lucia, Gorda, and Pacific
Valley, as well as at Rocky Point Restaurant, Big Sur Inn, and Coast Gallery – provide essential
services to the community and visiting public, and shall be permitted under careful design and siting
controls as provided for in the County Zoning Ordinance (Title 20 of the County Code) and by Policy
5.4.3 of this Plan.
B. Essential Ranching Structures
Essential agricultural structures required by commercial ranching and agriculture operations that cannot
be feasibly located outside the viewshed shall be permitted under careful design and siting controls.
Examples include barns, fences, windmills, water pumps, water tanks, stockponds and corrals.
However, all aquaculture facilities will be subject to the same resource protection criteria and
environmental standards as other development. Such uses shall conform to all non-critical viewshed
C. Highway 1 Facilities
1. Public Highway Facilities.
Road capacity, safety and aesthetic improvements shall be allowed, as set forth below,
provided they are consistent with Section 4.1.1, 4.1.2, and 4.1.3 of this plan. Signs, guardrails,
and restrooms shall be of a design complementary to the rural setting and character of Big Sur,
with preference for natural materials. Protective barriers constructed by Caltrans should utilize
boulders or walls of rock construction. Public agency permanent highway signs should be
framed with unpainted redwood. All highway signs should be reviewed once every three years
by Caltrans to determine the need for their continued use. All unnecessary signs should be
2. Private Highway Improvements.
Private driveway entrances, gates, roadside fences, mailboxes, and signs shall be of a design
complementary to the rural setting and character of Big Sur, with preference for natural
It is the County’s intent that utilities be installed underground. Overhead power or telephone lines will
be considered only where overriding natural or physical constraints exist. Poles will be placed in the
least conspicuous locations out of public, and where possible, private view. Exterior lighting will require
shielding to reduce its long-range visibility, and to cause the light source to not be visible. Further,
exterior lighting shall be downlite and minimal to reduce as much as possible light pollution. Transmitter
towers and power facilities must not appear in the critical viewshed. Water lines or underground
conduits should be buried or otherwise obscured by vegetation.
E. State Park Parking
In order to provide for parking and other low intensity support facilities for the State of California
system of parks on the Big Sur coast, flexibility in the basic viewshed policy may be permitted to allow
use of excavating, berming, and indigenous plant screening at Soberanes Point, Garrapata Beach, Little
Sur River Mouth, and Point Sur Lighthouse if no environmentally suitable site is available that meets the
critical viewshed criteria. Other new parking facilities shall be provided at off-highway locations rather
than on the Highway One shoulder. The creation of new parking lots between Highway One and the
ocean shall be avoided wherever possible to avoid detracting from scenic coastal views. This policy
shall also apply to new units within the system that may be opened to the public. Parking and support
facilities existing at current facilities shall be removed from Highway One whenever the necessary offhighway
parking is provided. New off-highway facilities shall be designed, to conform to viewshed
policy 22.214.171.124 if located in the critical viewshed (except for necessary entrance ways, which cannot be
hidden from Highway One), and to policy 3.2.4 if located outside the critical viewshed. Existing
facilities shall be brought into conformance to the greatest extent possible. Land acquired for viewshed
protection shall not be developed for parking or visitor serving facilities. Parking facilities for Soberanes
Point, Garrapata Beach, and Little Sur River Mouth shall be located on the east side of Highway One
and be completely out of the view of the Highway through the use of excavation, indigenous forestation
and berming techniques which shall obscure all vehicles and facilities. Restroom facilities shall be
located with the parking facilities. For public safety at Soberanes Point, Garrapata Beach, Little Sur
River Mouth, and any new units on the east side of Highway One connecting the parking and beach
areas are highly desirable. Parking shall be provided for a maximum of 75 vehicles at these facilities.
F. Rocky Point Area Vacant Parcels
Existing vacant residential parcels in the critical viewshed between Highway 1 and the sea, from (and
including) the southernmost existing residential parcel on Rocky Point, to the northernmost developed
residential parcel on Kasler Point and from the southernmost developed parcel north of Abalone Cove
to the northernmost developed parcel south of Garrapata Creek shall be permitted to be used for
residential purposes subject to policies of Section 3.2.4 of this plan and the following standards.
Additional standards shall include keeping driveways as narrow as possible, avoiding paving where
practical and consolidation of driveways; the use of roof and surface treatments, colors and materials
which will visibly blend with the surrounding environment; the use of berming and other measures
designed to minimize views of structures without blocking ocean vistas seen from Highway 1; prohibiting
the dumping of excavated materials over the coastal bluff, and additions, antennae, night flood lighting,
or other improvements in view of Highway 1 without separate permit consideration; and dedication of
scenic easement over undeveloped portion of lot. Guest houses shall be attached to the main dwelling
except where they can be sited to better implement these policies.
G. Otter Cove
Existing vacant residential parcels in the critical viewshed in the Otter Cove Subdivision seaward of
Highway 1, south of Malpaso Creek, shall be permitted to be used for residential purposes subject to
policies of Section 3.2.4 of this plan.
Additional standards shall include keeping driveways as narrow as possible, avoiding paving where
practical and consolidation of driveways; the use of roof and surface treatments, colors and materials
which will visibly blend with the surrounding environment; the use of berming and other measures
designed to minimize views of structures without blocking ocean vistas seen from Highway 1; prohibiting
the dumping of excavated materials over the coastal bluff, and additions, antennae, night floodlighting, or
other improvements in view of Highway 1 without separate permit consideration; and dedication of
scenic easement over undeveloped portion of lot. All guest houses shall be attached to the main
H. Coastal-dependent Uses Exception
Coastal-dependent uses, natural resource management needs, and certain necessary public facilities as
specified below are permitted provided that in each case there be a finding that no reasonable
alternative exists, that no significant adverse visual impacts will result, and that all such uses are in
conformance with Scenic Resources Policy 3.2.4 and all other policies. The exceptions are limited to:
a. Removal of non-native trees;
b. County road improvements in keeping with Policy 3.2.5.C-1;
c. Minimal public access improvements on the beach along shoreline lateral accessways,
such as litter collection facilities and rustic stairways;
d. On-shore navigational aids (lights, radio beacons, weather stations) needed by the
commercial fishing industry; and
e. Improvements to Pacific Valley School.
f. The joint U.S. Forest Service-State Parks-Caltrans administrative site in Pfeiffer-Big
Sur State Park.
3.2.6 Recommended Actions
1. The County shall explore all sources of funds – County, State and Federal – to compensate
property owners denied development permits due to viewshed restrictions. The County will
discourage any increase in Federal land ownership, management or control if such increased
Federal role would expose more of the Big Sur Coast area to deleterious activities. Examples
of deleterious activities are clear-cut commercial logging, open pit mining, oil and gas
development, overuse of environmentally sensitive habitat areas, or the taking of private
property for public use. The County will also support improved stewardship and management
of existing public lands, and where appropriate, consultation with the Federal agencies to insure
compatibility of land uses on both Federal and non-Federal lands. The Federal government will
be asked to adhere to the same resource conservation policies of the certified Land Use Plan
(LUP) as are applicable to other landowners.
The California Coastal Conservancy is requested to investigate and propose specific sources of
funds to compensate property owners denied development permits due to viewshed
restrictions. The Conservancy should devise and recommend to the County practical
mechanisms and procedures to make such funds available to affected property owners in a
Monterey County’s representatives in the California Legislature and the United States Congress
are requested to investigate and propose specific sources of funds for the County to use to
compensate property owners denied development permits due to viewshed restrictions. These
representatives are further requested to devise and recommend to the County practical
mechanisms and procedures to make such funds available to affected property owners in a
2. The California Coastal Conservancy should undertake a study to identify areas of the Big Sur
coast suitable for visual restoration and should propose specific measures to encourage
restoration. This study may be a cooperative effort between interested residents, groups, and
other agencies, the Conservancy, and the County. At a minimum, the study should:
– identify specific parcels unsuitable for development due to viewshed restrictions and
recommend means of avoiding development on the properties.
– prepare a map and list of specific developments, including roads that impact visual
quality and propose means of gradually reducing such impacts. This should include an
incentive program, including cost-sharing, for private landowners and residents to
voluntarily undertake such work.
3. Where no other feasible mitigation measures for eliminating the adverse visual impacts of new
development in the critical viewshed are available, the County may institute and utilize a Transfer
of Development Credits (TDC) system that will permit development credits for a parcel
determined to be developable except for the critical viewshed restrictions. Such credits may be
transferred at the owner’s option to a receiving parcel not in the viewshed and otherwise found
to be suitable for an increased density of development. The use of transferred credits will be
allowed as a conditional use under this Plan. However, the increase in residential density on the
receiving parcel shall not exceed twice that which is specified by Section 5.4 of this Plan, except
where: a) an environmental impact analysis reveals site suitability for more units; b) traffic
impacts will be mitigated through reduction in the number of driveway encroachments onto
Highway 1; and c) consistent with all other standards listed in this Plan.
Critical viewshed parcels protected under a TDC system shall be secured through enforceable
restrictions (e.g. scenic easement dedication), subject to County Counsel review and approval
of the applicable documents.
4. An effective and continuing program for litter control and abatement, including public education,
should be undertaken by Caltrans, the State Department of Parks and Recreation, and the U.S.
Forest Service. This program should include a regular schedule of litter removal along Highway
1 and on or near public beaches and selected viewing points.
3.3 ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE HABITATS
Environmentally sensitive habitats are areas in which plant or animal life or their habitats are rare or
particularly valuable because of their special nature or role in an ecosystem. Environmentally sensitive
habitats are also areas susceptible to disturbance or degradation by human activities and developments.
Examples are riparian corridors and Areas of Special Biological Significance identified by the State
Water Resources Control Board; rare and endangered species habitat; all coastal wetlands and
lagoons; all marine wildlife haul-out, breeding and nesting area; education, research and wildlife
reserves, including all tideland portions of the California Sea Otter State Fish and Game Refuge;
nearshore reefs; tidepools; sea caves; islets and offshore rocks; kelp beds; indigenous dune plant
habitats; Monarch butterfly mass overwintering sites; and wilderness and primitive areas. The California
Coastal Act limits uses to those which are dependent on such resources; examples include nature
education and research, hunting, fishing, and aquaculture.
The Big Sur coast supports a wealth and diversity of environmentally sensitive habitats perhaps
unsurpassed in California. Many of these, especially in the marine environment, are in an essentially
undisturbed condition yet are endangered by changes in land use or offshore activities. Some sensitive
habitats already enjoy protection under laws guiding local, state, and federal agencies. Some sensitive
marine resources are protected by sections of the Fish and Game Code, the Federal Migratory Bird
Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. Wildlife
habitats are protected where they occur in legally designated areas such as the California Sea Otter
Refuge, and rare and endangered plants are singled out for preservation under State and Federal
legislation. Many of Big Sur’s terrestrial habitats, however, including sensitive plants, dunes, serpentine
rock associations, riparian corridors, coastal prairies, and grasslands are without adequate protection.
Essential roads are permitted in environmentally sensitive habitats provided that in each case there be a
finding that no reasonable alternative exists, that no significant adverse impacts will result, and that such
uses are in conformance with all other Plan policies. Essential roads are those which are unavoidably
necessary to provide a minimum level of access to an existing parcel, where no access road presently
exists and no reasonable economic use of the property is possible without such road. Reasonable
alternatives are those which would have less impact on sensitive habitats and the critical viewshed; or
would provide a more usable route for agricultural or visitor serving uses.
3.3.1 Key Policy
All practical efforts shall be made to maintain, restore, and if possible, enhance Big Sur’s
environmentally sensitive habitats. The development of all categories of land use, both public and
private, should be subordinate to the protection of these critical areas.
3.3.2 General Policies
1. Development, including vegetation removal, excavation, grading, filing, and the construction of
roads and structures, shall not be permitted in the environmentally sensitive habitat areas if it
results in any potential disruption of habitat value. To approve development within any of these
habitats the County must find that disruption of a habitat caused by the development is not
2. Where private or public development is proposed, in documented or expected locations of
environmentally sensitive habitats, field surveys by qualified individuals or agencies shall be made
in order to determine precise locations of the habitat and to recommend mitigating measures to
ensure its protection.
3. The County shall require deed restrictions or dedications of permanent conservation easements
in environmentally sensitive habitats when new development is proposed on parcels containing
such habitats. Where development has already occurred in areas supporting sensitive habitat,
property owners should be encouraged to voluntarily establish conservation easements or deed
4. For developments approved within environmentally sensitive habitats, the removal of indigenous
vegetation and land disturbance (grading, excavation, paving, etc.) associated with the
development shall be limited to that needed for the structural improvements themselves. The
guiding philosophy shall be to limit the area of disturbance, to maximize the maintenance of the
natural topography of the site, and to favor structural designs which achieve these goals.
5. Public access in areas of environmentally sensitive habitats shall be limited to low-intensity
recreational, scientific, or educational uses. Access shall generally be controlled and confined to
the designated trails and paths. No access shall be approved which results in significant
disruption of the habitat.
6. To protect environmentally sensitive habitats and the high wildlife values associated with large
areas of undisturbed habitat, the County shall retain significant and, where possible, continuous
areas of undisturbed land in open space use. To this end, parcels of land in sensitive habitat
areas shall be kept as large as possible, and if structures are permitted, they shall be clustered in
the least environmentally sensitive areas.
7. Land uses adjacent to environmentally sensitive habitats shall be compatible with the long-term
maintenance of the resource. New land uses shall be considered compatible only where they
incorporate all site planning and design features needed to prevent significant habitat impacts,
and where they do not establish a precedent for continued land development which, on a
cumulative basis, could degrade the adjoining habitat.
8. New development adjacent to environmentally sensitive habitat areas shall be allowed only at
densities compatible with the protection and maintenance of the adjoining resources. New
subdivisions shall be approved only where potential impacts to environmentally sensitive habitats
from development of proposed parcels can be avoided.
9. The County shall require the use of appropriate native species in proposed landscaping.
3.3.3 Specific Policies
A. Terrestrial Plant, Riparian, and Wildlife Habitats
1. Uses of sand dune habitats shall be restricted except for scientific and educational activities.
Particular attention shall be given to sites of rare and endangered plants. Recreational access
and associated facilities shall be directed away from dune habitats and focused on the beach
area. All management agencies shall prohibit off-road vehicle use in dune areas.
2. In serpentine rock associated habitats, land use activities shall be low intensity and designed to
ensure protection of habitat values.
3. Development or land use activities shall be sited to protect riparian habitat values. Development
adjacent to stream courses shall be restricted to low intensities and constructed to minimize
erosion, runoff, and water pollution. In order to protect riparian habitats, land use development
activities will not be permitted that will have the effect of diminishing surface flows in coastal
streams to levels that will result in loss of plant or wildlife habitat.
4. Setbacks of 150′ on each side of the streambank shall be required for all streams to protect
riparian plant communities unless a narrower corridor can be demonstrated to be sufficient to
protect existing vegetation and provide for restoration of previously disturbed vegetation.
5. Access routes including recreational trails and roads shall be sited to avoid significant impacts to
6. Recreational access to scientifically important terrestrial habitat areas maybe restricted when
necessary to protect the habitat.
7. Land uses in areas where natural grassland is found shall be compatible with the maintenance of
the habitat. Development shall be sited and designed to avoid disturbance or destruction of
grasslands. Compatible uses include managed grazing and low-intensity recreational and
8. Residential development shall be sited and designed to have minimum impacts on redwood trees
from soil compaction and other disturbances to tree roots. With similar considerations,
recreation should be encouraged as an appropriate use for redwood forests.
9. Commercial harvesting of old growth redwoods or rare or sensitive tree species is generally
inappropriate because of their scarcity, uniqueness, and scientific and educational value.
10. Monterey County encourages residents and public agencies to undertake restoration of Big
Sur’s natural environment by removal of exotic plants such as Scotch and French Broom,
Eucalyptus, Kikiyu grass, Vinca, Pampas grass, Gorse, and other non-native invasive species
providing such removal does not increase potential erosion problems.
B. Marine Habitats
1. Development on parcels adjacent to intertidal habitat areas should be sited and designed to
prevent percolation of septic runoff and deposition of sediment.
2. Alteration of the shoreline including diking, dredging, and filling, shall not be permitted except for
work essential for the maintenance of Highway 1.
3. Concentration of recreational development or recreational activities near accessible tidepool
communities shall not be permitted unless adequate management measures are provided to
prevent degradation of the sensitive environment.
4. Site design techniques intended to screen structures from view of Highway 1 shall not involve
major land modification that may impact adjacent marine habitats.
5. The coastal lagoons and estuaries of the Big Sur Coast shall remain undeveloped. Development
in the adjacent buffer area shall be limited to the minimum required to support low-intensity
recreational, scientific or educa-tional uses, as consistent with policy 126.96.36.199 above. The
coastal lagoon and estuary buffer area shall, at a minimum, include all areas within 150 feet of
the landward extent of hydrophytic vegetation or the average high water mark if no such
3.4 WATER RESOURCES
Water is the lifeblood of both the natural ecosystem and all of the domestic uses on the Big Sur coast.
Numerous streams flow down the west slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
Several of these streams are quite large, but the majority are relatively small. They all directly support
the wildlife and vegetative communities that make up the riparian environments enjoyed by the visitors
and residents alike. The groundwater storage basins, located in the upper portions of watersheds,
provide water of excellent quality for the spring and stream flows essential to the well-being of water
users on the coast.
Because many of the streams are small, development of residences, business, agriculture, and public and
private recreation and visitor-serving facilities can place excessive demands on the water available in
some watersheds. Overuse of the water supply can result in degradation of the natural environment with
losses of plant, wildlife, and fish habitats. Eventually, people dependent on the adequate supply of
quality water will suffer as private and community water systems fail. The drought of 1976-77
emphasized the critical need for a careful and conservative approach to planning that recognizes that
drought year flows are the controlling factor for all human and natural uses.
Most residents on the coast obtain water from natural springs, or divert water directly from a stream.
The most favored sites for development are those with dependable year-round water, either on the
parcel or close by. Yet, in some locations, the number of existing vacant parcels appears to exceed the
capability of available water supplies. Informal water systems have been developed to bring water to
“dry” parcels. Increasingly, property owners without a source of surface water on the property are
installing wells to pump for groundwater. In some cases, these wells are being constructed in
groundwater basins feeding springs that serve existing users lower down the mountain slopes. Such
wells can jeopardize spring supplies of existing users and should be discouraged.
Proper management of water resources encompasses more than just insuring adequate water supplies.
The protection of stream flows to maintain the natural environment is vital. The protection of water
quality through planning that considers stream setbacks, erosion potential, siltation, vegetative
maintenance, wildlife, scenic values, and other factors should be a part of all decisions concerning the
development of the Big Sur coast.
3.4.1 Key Policy
The protection and maintenance of Big Sur’s water resources is a basic prerequisite to the protection of
all other natural systems. Therefore, water resources will be considered carefully in all planning
decisions and approvals. In particular, the County shall insure that adequate water is retained in the
stream system to provide for the maintenance of the natural community of fish, wildlife, and vegetation
during the driest expected year.
3.4.2 General Policies
1. The County will take an active role in the conservation of Big Sur’s water resources and will
support and encourage the wise use and management of water resources by residents and
2. The County will require adherence to the best watershed planning principles including: stream
setbacks, stream flow maintenance, performance controls for development site features,
maintenance of safe and good water quality, protection of natural vegetation along streams, and
careful control of grading to avoid erosion and sedimentation.
3. Where watersheds are affected or are threatened by overuse of the water supply, the County
will use its land use regulatory authority to limit development in order to protect the public health
and welfare and to protect the natural values of the stream and its watershed.
4. The County will request technical assistance from appropriate public agencies as often as may
be required in order to make sound decisions concerning management and protection of Big
Sur’s water resources.
5. The County shall in concert with the State Department of Water Resources and the Division of
Water Rights, and the Department of Fish and Game, be responsible for cooperating with
residents to manage surface and groundwater supplies, and to implement the goals and policies
of this section. In approving new development, the County will require the monitoring of water
use and the observance of water conservation measures.
3.4.3 Specific Policies
A. Water Supply and Use
1. Applicants for development of residential, commercial, and visitor-serving facilities must
demonstrate by appropriate seasonal testing that there will be an adequate water supply for all
beneficial uses and be of good quality and quantity (e.g. at least 1/2 gallon per minute per single
family dwelling year round) from a surface or groundwater source, or from a community water
system under permit from the County.
2. Development of water supplies, or intensification of use of existing supplies from springs,
streams, wells, or community water systems shall be regulated by permit in accordance with
Coastal Act requirements. These permits shall be in addition to any required permits from the
County Health Department.
3. Applicants intending to utilize a water supply from a source not occurring on the parcel to be
served, shall obtain any necessary rights or permits to appropriate the water from the State
Division of Water Rights prior to receiving project approval from the County. The State is
requested to notify the County of all applications for appropriate water rights. The County’s
policy shall be to protest such applications that conflict with the protection of beneficial uses of
water including instream flow requirements. The County shall require riparian or groundwater
users applying for development rights to perfect and record their rights to the water to minimize
future conflicts. The County also encourages existing riparian users to perfect and record their
4. Interbasin transfer of water: No new water system and no expansion of existing water systems
which transport water out of the watershed of any perennial stream shall be allowed.
Undeveloped parcels outside of the watershed of origin shall not be allowed to utilize
transported water. Permit applications shall demonstrate a suitable source of water not
requiring establishment or expansion of, or intensification of use, of an interbasin water transfer
system. Where no on-site surface water source exists, exceptions may be made for the
development of a primary residence on a vacant parcel served by a County-approved
connection to an existing water system — if the total number of existing/potential vacant
buildable residential parcels on such water system is four or less and as authorized in the Big Sur
River Protected Waterway Management Plan. Water system development or expansions
constructed or installed after December 31, 1976, without benefit of coastal development
permit will not be considered as “existing”.
5. Small public water systems and private water systems supplying more than one user shall
conform to the California Health and Safety Code, California Administrative Code, and County
Ordinance 2250 as administered by the County Health Department, consistent with other
policies of this section.
6. All applicants for permits to develop water shall base their proposed systems on the current
health laws and on the guidelines contained in “Guidelines for Applications, Appropriations,
Permits, Control and Protection of Water Supply, Storage Distribution, and Use”, on file in the
County Planning Department.
B. Rivers and Streams
1. The effects of all new development proposals or intensification of land use activities or water
uses on the natural character and values of the Big Sur coast’s rivers and streams will be
specifically considered in all land use decisions. Subjects to be addressed in such evaluations
include protection of scenic quality, water quantity and quality, wildlife and fish habitat, and
recreational values. Land use proposals determined to pose significant impacts to the natural
integrity of the stream must be modified accordingly. The County will request assistance from
the Department of Fish and Game as a technical expert on wild life and fish habitat and
2. In general, the high rate stream discharges during the winter should not be interrupted because
of their beneficial effects on the stream and its living community and on beach replenishment.
Therefore, any water diversions beyond the ordinary year-round entitlements must be consistent
with policy 3.4.3.B.7 and carefully regulated to avoid impairment of beach sand supply and
anadromous fish runs, and shall be limited to agricultural irrigation, and developments where the
primary function is the improvement of fish and wildlife habitat.
3. Water quality, adequate year-round flows, and stream bed gravel conditions shall be protected
in streams supporting rainbow and steelhead trout. These streams include: Garrapata Creek,
Rocky Creek, Bixby Creek, Little Sur River, Big Sur River, Partington Creek, Anderson
Creek, Hot Springs Creek, Vicente Creek, Big Creek, and Limekiln Creek.
4. The Big Sur and Little Sur Rivers are part of the California Protected Waterways system and
the State Legislature has requested the County to prepare individual management plans that set
forth criteria and guidelines for their protection. The County has worked cooperatively with
property owners adjacent to the Big Sur and Little Sur Rivers in formulating the management
plans. The goals, objectives and policies of these plans shall be followed in considering all land
use applications within the areas they cover consistent with the other policies presented here.
5. Channelizations, dams, and other substantial alterations of natural streams will be considered
generally inappropriate in the Big Sur Coast area. Minor alterations may be considered, but
only if: a) consistent with the protection of environmentally sensitive habitats; b) no substantial
interference with surface water flows, beach sand supply and anadromous fish runs will result; c)
the type of use is consistent with Policy 3.7.3.B-2 regarding floodplains; and, d) the project
incorporates the best mitigation measures feasible.
6. Priority for Wells Over Surface Water Diversions: Where groundwater is available on the site,
developments for the purpose of diverting surface water sources — perennial streams and
springs that feed perennial streams — shall be avoided. Wells and infiltration fields located
within or near a stream channel so as to tap stream sub-flow rather than groundwater will be
considered as stream diversion structures for the purposes of this policy. Exceptions will be
allowed only: a) for the development of a primary residence on a vacant parcel served by a
County-approved connection to an existing water system where no interbasin transfer of water
will result; b) for parcels which qualify as exceptions under LUP Policy 3.4.3.A-4 regarding
inter basin transfer of water; c) where groundwater well(s) would significantly deplete recharge
areas needed to maintain natural springs; or, d) where the use of groundwater, either on the site
or via a community system, is demonstrated to be infeasible and the adverse impacts of such
diversion are mitigated to the extent feasible.
Non-availability of groundwater shall be demonstrated by test boring to a reasonable depth,
unless it is demonstrated through surface geologic evidence or well-drilling data from adjacent
properties, that the presence of adequate ground water is unlikely. This policy should not be
read to prohibit instream uses which do not alter water quality or quantity.
7. Water Resource Verification: No substantial water use intensification (e.g., residential
subdivision with potential to increase number of households; residential or inn development of
more than one unit; restaurant, bar or other food service development or expansion; recreational
vehicle campground; development for commercial irrigated agriculture) shall proceed without
specific verification that adequate water supplies are available, and that the proposed
development will not adversely affect, cumulatively or individually, existing water supplies
needed for the maintenance of riparian vegetation and anadromous fisheries, or the supply
needed by existing users during the driest expected year. Such verification shall be supported
by a report, prepared by a qualified professional hydrologist on the basis of well logs,
stratigraphic profiles, and technical data as needed. The County shall consult with Department
of Fish and Game as to the adequacy of the report before allowing water use intensification;
and, if necessary, may at applicant’s expense engage the services of an appropriate independent
expert to review the report as well. In the case of water withdrawals from streams and springs,
water use shall be measured and maximum use levels shall be consistent with instream flow
C. Water Resource Study Area
1. The County encourages the restoration of streams and their immediate natural environment both
on public and private lands. Restoration projects may include: improvements to water supply
and quality, enhancement of water flows or water retained for in-stream uses, improvement of
fish habitat, installation of fish ladders, stream restocking, re-establishment or irrigation of
riparian vegetation, etc.
Alteration of natural streams shall be minimized by minimizing adverse effects of waste water
discharges and entrainment, controlling runoff, preventing significant depletion of groundwater
supplies and substantial interference with surface water flows, encouraging waste water
reclamation, and maintaining natural vegetation buffer areas that protect riparian habitats.
2. Establish a Community Water Resource Monitoring Program: The purposes of this program
are to determine the factual extent of water supply problems and riparian habitat impacts in the
water resource study areas; to provide for coordination with the Department of Fish and Game,
State Water Resources Control Board, U.S. Geologic Survey, County Flood Control District,
and other involved water resource agencies; to identify potential solutions (if needed); and to
detect water resource deficiencies which may arise in other watersheds. Maximum community
support and participation will be important to the success of the program.
Water resource study areas shall be designated by the County, subject to public hearings. Initial
designations shall include the following watersheds: Sycamore Canyon, Palo Colorado Canyon,
Castro Canyon, Mud Creek, Graves Canyon, Little Sur River and Big Sur River (including Post
Creek). The program will be supported with water data to be recorded by individual water
system owners/operators, as well as test wells and/or stream flow measurements conducted by
appropriate water management agencies.
Where significant water supply deficiencies are verified by the program, the County shall take
appropriate steps to curtail further intensification of development and to implement conservation
or restoration measures as needed to maintained instream flow requirements. In order to assure
that future development is coupled with a viable water resource monitoring program, a financial
contribution to the County proportional to expected new water use will be required from each
developer at the time of project approval.1/
3. Individual Water System Monitoring. In the water resource study areas, permits for public and
private water system expansion, new wells, and new stream and spring diversion developments
shall require measuring of water resource extraction. A table of monthly readings shall be
maintained by the water system operator. In the case of new wells, a well-driller’s log shall also
be completed and retained as a permanent record. Such information shall be made available to
appropriate water management or planning authority upon request for purposes of completing a
water resource study. All such information, if so requested by the water system operator, shall
be protected as proprietal information.
4. Encourage Watershed Self-Sufficiency: Priority shall be given to the consolidation of existing
mutual water systems or development of a new community water system in the Sycamore
Canyon watershed, for the purpose of developing a water source other than Sycamore Canyon
stream or the Big Sur River. Likewise, the development of a water source other than the Post
Creek headwaters shall be encouraged for the westerly portion of the Coastlands tract.
3.4.4 Recommended Actions
1. The State Department of Fish and Game, or other appropriate agencies should undertake
studies to determine instream flow requirements to maintain the natural environment on all of Big
Sur’s streams that support resident or anadromous fish populations. Such studies should enlist
the cooperation, participation, and guidance of local residents. The Department of Fish and
Game should file for necessary water rights to protect the fisheries resource.2/
3.5 FOREST RESOURCES
Big Sur is rich in forest resources. The California Coast Redwood reaches the southern limit of its range
in the forested canyons of the south coast. Many other conifers are present also including large trees
such as Ponderosa and Sugar Pine and Douglas Fir. Many species of hardwood trees are found as
well. Oaks and madrones often dominate the drier slopes above the moist canyons. Many water-loving
hardwoods grow along the streams forming rich riparian zones.
At the same time, the commercial value of the larger conifers found both on public and private lands is
significant. While in the past, the limited extent of Big Sur’s forests and the difficult terrain discouraged
extensive harvesting, the dramatic depletion of more northern forests is escalating the demand for
timber, especially old growth redwoods.
1/ The required financial contributions will not be collected until the monitoring program is initiated
through implementation of this plan provision.
2/ The long-term objective of this policy statement is not intended to interfere with existing water
access rights in the Coastlands Subdivision.
In recognition of these forest values, the Los Padres National Forest was established to insure
protection and careful management of the resource. Public lands under Forest Service Management in
Big Sur total about 75,000 acres, slightly more than half of the planning area. Much of this area is in the
wilderness or reserve classification and tree harvesting is not permitted. The Forest Services overall
policy for Big Sur is to manage the forest for its scientific, recreational, and aesthetic values and to
permit only salvage cutting or harvesting necessary to maintain a healthy stand or to reduce fire hazard.
Regulation of the use of forest resources on private lands is the responsibility of the State Department of
Forestry. In the past, the County has not encouraged logging, but has regulated it through a use permit
process. To evaluate logging proposals the County has required Environmental Impact Reports to be
prepared, and has relied on the Department of Forestry for technical advice. This State agency
administers harvests according to the requirements of the Forest Practices Act of 1973 including its
special provision for southern forests. The California Coastal Commission, as required by the Coastal
Act, has designated some of the potential commercial forest area in Big Sur as Special Treatment
Areas. These designations provide for specific objectives and guidelines to be carried out by the
Department of Forestry, and consequently Monterey County, in administering any timber harvests. The
rules are aimed generally at protecting public recreation areas, scenic values, soils, streams and
In summary, the demand for harvesting of merchantable trees whether by timber operators from outside
the area or by local landowners can be expected to increase. At the same time, there is growing
pressure to preserve Big Sur’s environment in its natural or present state for aesthetic, recreational and
scientific purposes and as wildlife habitat. The concern that commercial harvesting could be highly
destructive to the environment has raised questions as to whether logging should be permitted at all, and
if so, under what regulations. These trends pose difficult issues for the County. They require that clear
policy be established concerning commercial harvesting, and that careful management be assured.
3.5.1 Key Policy
The primary use of forested land in Big Sur shall be for recreational and aesthetic enjoyment and for
educational, scientific, watershed, and habitat protection activities. Commercial logging of healthy old
growth redwood shall be considered an inappropriate use of a nationally significant resource. Limited
salvage and selective logging activities will be allowed to maintain the health of the forest provided that
all natural resource protection provisions of this plan are met.
3.5.2 General Policies
1. The regulations adopted by the Board of Forestry for Special Treatment areas generally provide
a high level of resource protection and shall be applied to all commercial harvests.
2. All cutting or removal of trees shall be in keeping with the broad resource protection objectives
of this plan. Specific policies, criteria, and standards of other sections of this plan shall govern
both commercial and non-commercial tree removal.
3. Restoration of native forest resources is encouraged for public agencies and residents as a
means of maintaining and enhancing Big Sur’s natural character. Removal of non-native tree
species is encouraged.
4. Landmark trees of all species shall be protected in perpetuity as significant features of Big Sur’s
natural heritage. The California Department of Forestry, scientists from research institutions,
and landowners should cooperate in the protection and enhancement of these resources and
their supporting habitat. Landmark trees shall be defined as visually significant, historically
significant, exemplary of its species, or more than 1000 years old.
5. Commercial harvesting of commercial timber species as well as oak and madrone will be
regulated by permit and must be in conformance with the policies of this plan carried out in
compliance with all applicable State and Federal laws, most notably the Forest Practices Act of
1973 with amendments, the California Environmental Quality Act, and the Special Treatment
Area Criteria for the Monterey County area adopted by the California Coastal Commission,
and the State Board of Forestry. Only state licensed timber operators may conduct commercial
6. The County will require that applicants for timber harvest permits first file and receive approval
from the California Department of Forestry for a Timber Harvest Plan (THP). The THP will
then be reviewed by the County for environmental impacts and consistency with the policies of
this plan. If environmental documents are required, they shall be and certified prior to Planning
Commission consideration of the coastal use permit. The Timber Harvest Plan will be required
to provide substantive consideration of alternative harvesting systems which have less
environmental impact, before tractor yarding is allowed.
7. The County will request advice and guidance from the State Department of Fish and Game,
Regional Water Quality Control Board and California Division of Mines and Geology, as
appropriate, in reviewing proposed Timber Harvest Plans. The County shall engage the
services of a registered professional Forester to review THP’s as needed. This will be at the
8. In addition to compliance with forestry and soils resources policies, all developments, forest
management activities, and tree removal shall specifically conform to this plan’s policies
regarding water and marine resources, sensitive habitat areas, and coastal visual resources.
9. Division of coastal commercial timberlands into units or less than commercial size or their
conversion to uses which would preclude the primary uses listed in the key policy shall not be
allowed. Contiguous coastal commercial timberlands of 20 acres or more on any one legal
parcel shall not be divided into units of less than 20 acres, unless a binding agreement for the
joint management of the timberland resource as a single unit is effected prior to or conditionally
upon such land division. This policy does not apply to small-scale milling operations established
pursuant to policy 188.8.131.52, or to lands which are permanently precluded from timber harvest for
any reason–including the terms of a scenic easement in favor of a public agency or private nonprofit
10. So long as required by state law, applicants for timber harvest permits must first file and receive
approval from the California Department of Forestry for a Timber Harvest Plan (THP). The
THP will then be reviewed by the County for environmental impacts and consistency with the
policies of this plan. The Timber Harvest Plan will be required to provide substantive
consideration of alternative harvesting systems which have less environmental impact, before
tractor yarding is allowed.
11. All timber removal under Monterey County jurisdiction within the Big Sur Local Coastal
planning area shall be processed as a County use permit item and shall not be exempted from
normal CEQA negative declaration or EIR process, whichever applies.
3.5.3 Specific Policies
1. Harvests proposed in watersheds which provide domestic water downstream of the proposal
shall be limited to removal of no more than 15 percent of the total merchantable timber in any
2. Soil or stream disturbance resulting from commercial timber harvest shall not be allowed
between October 15 and April 15. Erosion control programs shall be accomplished and
certified by the Department of Forestry by September 30 of each year.
3. All salvage or selective logging activities shall take place outside the riparian corridor except the
felling of trees. Felling and bucking shall not occur where trees, logs or debris could be
deposited in the stream. Where a tree might fall into or across a stream it shall be cabled so that
it falls at a right angle to the stream.
4. Road construction to accommodate salvage or selective logging shall be kept to an absolute
minimum. Applicants shall be required to evaluate the expected sediment yield or runoff
associated with each project and the secondary impacts on aquatic and marine resources.
Logging roads shall not impact the scenic view. Sidecasting of earth material shall not be
permitted during the construction of roads. All excess material shall be removed from the site.
Logging roads shall be constructed only in with the criteria set forth in Section 5.4.3.K-2.
5. Water quality sampling of suspended sediment and turbidity shall be required for any
commercial harvest prior to beginning of the operation and during at least one subsequent winter
with average or above rainfall when the proposed harvest area contains a stream or welldefined
stream channel. Costs of monitoring are to be borne by the applicant.
6. Applicants for timber harvest plans or use permits shall be required to certify through a qualified
biologist that the proposed commercial timber harvesting activity will contribute to the stability
and diversity of the forest and will be carried out in a manner that has no effect on
environmentally sensitive habitat areas or water resources. Applicants shall further demonstrate
through site investigation that proposed commercial timber harvesting does not impinge on the
critical viewshed and that the timber harvest shall be permitted only in those areas which can
show that the timber can be removed from the area without creating a safety or traffic problem
on a public road.
7. A cash deposit, bond or equivalent surety, payable to the County in an amount to be set by the
Board of Supervisors, is required to insure compliance with the State Forest Practices Act and
regulations and policies of this plan. Should the timber operator fail to correct any violation or
water quality problem due to the harvest within 15 days following receipt of notification to do
so, the County may correct the problem and charge all reasonable costs against the timber
8. Small-scale milling operations shall be permitted as part of logging operations subject to
compatibility with resource protection policies and the peace of adjacent land uses.
9. An insurance policy or other sufficient surety to indemnify the county for damages to county
roads and appurtenant structures should be required of every timber operator during the life on
the Timber Harvest Plan.
10. Areas where timber is harvested shall be zoned into a district which allows only low intensity
recreational uses and emphasizes the highest and best use of the land as being the continued
management of water, soil and trees for timber production.
11. In the upper Bixby-Turner Creek watershed, every effort should be made to explore potential
public acquisition of this scenic area for recreation and aesthetic enjoyment prior to the issue of
permits for timber harvesting.
3.5.4 Recommended Actions
1. The County should consider preparing detailed guidelines or a timber harvest ordinance to
regulate proposed timber harvest activities in furtherance of the local coastal program land use
2. Public agencies should fully explore the possible public acquisition of the upper Bixby-Turner
Creek watershed for recreational aesthetic purposes.
In the past, farming was practiced on a limited scale on the Big Sur coast. However, the lack of soils
suitable for cultivation, limited water supply and other factors do not support commercial farming.
Cultivation of crops can be expected to remain small scale for private use.
Since the 1800’s cattle ranching has been the primary agricultural activity on the coast. Today
commercial ranching takes place on a number of the larger properties and descendants of pioneer
families still carry on this traditional use of the land. The U. S. Forest Service administers substantial
range allotments in the Los Padres National Forest.
In addition to providing cattle for market, ranching has helped maintain the open grasslands
characteristic of the scenic landscape. Many of the large meadows found on the coast were created by
native grazing animals and have been kept brush free by cattle. The presence of livestock enhances the
rural western feeling of Big Sur and adds to visitor’s enjoyment of the area.
Increasing costs, high taxes, government restrictions, encroaching residential and public recreational
development and other factors make profitable ranching difficult today. Owners of traditional ranching
lands are compelled to consider other options for the use of their lands. Yet it is also acknowledged
that ranching remains an activity that can produce some return from land that otherwise may have few
economic alternatives. There is the feeling that it is desirable to perpetuate the ranching lifestyles both as
part of Big Sur’s heritage and for the public benefit.
The County and other agencies need to work cooperatively to support landowners in conserving grazing
lands. Careful land planning for large properties can result in the retention of ranching use while still
permitting other uses of the property. Agricultural conservation contracts, initiated by the property
owners, can in some instances, help reduce taxes and make profitable ranching more feasible. These
and any other means of assisting owners of large ranching properties in protecting their land for
agricultural use should be encouraged by the County.
3.6.1 Key Policy
Agriculture, especially grazing, is a preferred use of coastal lands. In locations where grazing has been a
traditional use, it should be retained and encouraged both under private and public ownership.
Williamson Act contracts, scenic easements, tax incentives, large lot zoning, and other techniques will be
encouraged by the County to promote and assist agriculture.
3.6.2 General Policies
1. All contiguous grasslands of 320 acres or more and those traditionally used for grazing use
should be preserved for such use.
2. Uses compatible with the retention of grazing, including hunting and some forms of low intensity
recreation, shall be encouraged as a means to assist maintaining land in agricultural use by
providing additional income to land owners.
3. Residential, recreational and other land use development shall not be sited on land suitable for
grazing unless an equivalent area of new grazing land is provided.
4. Residences and utility buildings and barns associated with agricultural uses shall be located to
conserve grazing land.
5. Subdivision of large ranching properties is generally discouraged. The configuration of new
parcels created through land divisions shall be designed in such a way to protect existing or
potential agricultural activities and grazing resources. In cases where large ranching properties
must be divided to accomplish other policies of this Plan, a binding agreement for the continued
management of the entire property shall be required. (See policy 5.4.3.M for related policies).
6. Public accessways shall be designed to avoid conflicts with agricultural use. Where public trails
must cross actively grazed areas a range of measures including signs, fences, berms, vegetation
screens, and prescribed burning to eliminate hazardous accumulation of brush, shall be applied,
as appropriate, to reduce conflicts to acceptable levels.
7. The County Farm Advisor should continue to assist landowners in developing grazing
management plans. Such plans should include rotation schedules, fencing programs, and other
techniques to enhance grazing activity.
8. The U. S. Forest Service and the State Department of Parks and Recreation should lease
grazing land to private individuals in order that such areas may continue in traditional agricultural
9. Where the Department of Parks and Recreation acquires title to land formerly in grazing use,
and where a lag of several years is anticipated before park development plans are implemented,
the Department should make every effort to lease the land for the purpose of continuing grazing
on the property.
10. The State Department of Forestry and the U. S. Forest Service should actively participate and
assist in developing prescribed burning programs for private and for public lands in order to
improve and maintain the grazing resource.
11. Landowners shall be encouraged to establish or expand agricultural operations, such as animal
husbandry, livestock breeding, aviaries, vineyards, tree farms, native plant farms, and seed
1. The County should seek long-term tax reforms that will permit agriculture lands to be assessed
and taxed on the value of their earnings, rather than their development potential.
2. In order to encourage protection of grazing lands and continued cattle operations, the County
shall explore all sources of funds – County, State and Federal – to compensate owners of
grazing land for scenic easements over their lands except those federal funds which would
increase federal land ownership, management or control.
3.7 HAZARDOUS AREAS
The Big Sur Country presents an unusually high degree of hazards for both existing residents and new
developments. The rugged terrain of the Big Sur coast is in part the result of seismic activity associated
with movement of continental plates. The plates intersect at the San Andreas Fault which parallels the
coast some 40 miles inland. The series of faults paralleling the San Andreas account for the orientation
of the ridges, valleys, and the shoreline. The two principal faults in the Big Sur segment are the San
Gregorio-Palo Colorado Fault and the Sur-Nacimiento Fault which are both seismically active. Seismic
hazards include ground rupture, shaking, and failure. Seismic sea waves (tsunami) originating elsewhere
in the Pacific Ocean are not considered significant hazards on the Big Sur coast.
Geologic hazards are also induced or aggravated by human activities. Construction of roads and
building pads, in particular, can have disastrous consequences in terms of erosion or land failure. Extra
care is needed both by property owners and the County to insure that new excavation, road building
and construction is undertaken only where natural conditions permit, and that such activities when in
progress are carried out to the highest engineering standards.
Flood danger is very real in certain areas of Big Sur. The Big Sur and Little Sur Rivers have sizeable
flood plains and many other streams on the coast can be hazardous during high water. Structures within
known floodplains pose a life hazard to occupants during severe storms. Flood associated hazards
include devastating mud flows such as the 1972 disaster that wiped out the Post Office and ambulance
center, road wash-outs, and loss of septic tanks and leach fields. Flood damage to small water systems
or contamination of wells can result from high water, septic system failure, or stream-carried debris.
Road washouts isolate some properties and prevent the entry of emergency vehicles.
The entire Big Sur area is subject to fire hazard to life, property, vegetation, and wildlife. The hazard
varies locally and seasonally due to differences in fuel levels, weather, and topography, yet the risk to
life and property remains high due to remoteness from fire stations, difficult access, and water supply
problems. Public fire protection on the Big Sur coast is geared to forest fires rather than structural fires.
Response time from the Department of Forestry Station at Carmel Hill is lengthy due to distance and
slow-moving traffic on Highway 1 where the shortage of turnouts and shoulders makes passing difficult.
The volunteer companies at Garrapata and Big Sur, because of the shorter response time, provide
some structural fire protection.
While fires can start from natural causes, people pose the greatest danger. Carelessness by residents or
visitors during the long dry summers endangers the entire community. This danger will inevitably
increase as recreational use of the area increases and as more and more homes are built. Recreational
use of public areas, in particular, needs to be curtailed or closely supervised during periods of very high
fire danger. The value of public education cannot be over-estimated. The siting and construction of
new structures likewise needs extreme care to avoid endangering the occupants and the broader
community as well.
3.7.1 Key Policy
Land use and development shall be carefully regulated through the best available planning practices in
order to minimize risk to life and property and damage the natural environment.
3.7.2 General Policies
1. The Big Sur coast shall be considered as an area where projects may impact or be affected by
environmental resources of hazardous or critical concern. Most projects will therefore not be
eligible for the categorical exemption allowed under the California Environmental Quality Act.
2. As part of the development review process, all proposed development shall be evaluated for
conformance and be required to comply with adopted hazard policies applicable to the site in
3. All development shall be sited and designed to minimize risk from geologic, flood, or fire
hazards to a level generally acceptable to the community. Areas of a parcel which are subject
to high hazard(s), shall generally be considered unsuitable for development. For any
development proposed in high hazard areas, and environmental or geotechnical report shall be
required prior to County review of the project.
4. In locations determined to have significant hazards, development permits should include a
special condition requiring the owner to record a deed restriction describing the nature of the
hazard(s), geotechnical and/or fire suppression mitigations and long-term maintenance
3.7.3 Specific Policies
A. Geologic Hazards
1. All development shall be sited and designed to conform to site topography and to minimize
grading and other site preparation activities. Applications for grading and building permits and
applications for subdivisions shall be reviewed for potential impacts to on-site and off-site
development arising from geologic and seismic hazards and erosion. Mitigation measures shall
be required as necessary.
2. The lands within 1/8 mile of active or potentially active faults shall be treated as a fault zone
characterized by high seismic hazards until geotechnical investigations accepted by the County
indicate otherwise for either an entire fault zone or for any specific location with any zone.
3. All structures shall be sited a minimum of 50 feet from an identified active fault or potentially
active fault. Greater setbacks may be required where it is warranted by local geologic
4. Critical facilities, such as major transportation links, communications and utility lines, and
emergency shelter facilities, shall be located, designed, and operated in a manner which
maximizes their ability to remain functional after a major earthquake.
5. In those instances where critical facilities are located in or where they cross high hazard areas,
all reasonable measures shall be taken to insure continuity or quick restoration of service in the
event of earthquake.
6. New roads, bridges, and utility lines (either public or private) that cross active or potentially
active fault zones should be designed and constructed in a manner which recognizes the hazard
of fault movement. Water and electric lines should be equipped with shut-off devices or the
equivalent which utilize the best available technology for quick shut-off consistent with providing
7. All structures should be designed and constructed to: a) resist minor earthquakes with
epicenters on the closest potentially active fault without damage; b) resist moderate earthquakes
without structural damage, but with some non-structural damage allowable; c) resist major
earthquake of the intensity or severity of the strongest experienced in California without
collapse, but with some structural as well as non-structural damage allowable.
8. Structures and roads in areas subject to landsliding are prohibited a certified engineering
geology report indicates mitigations exist to minimize risk to life and property. Mitigation
measures shall not include massive grading or excavation or the construction of protective
devices that would substantially alter natural landforms.
9. Any proposed development within 50 feet of the face of a cliff or bluff or within the area of a 20
degree angle from the toe of a cliff, whichever is greater, shall require the preparation of a
geologic report prior to consideration of the proposed project. The report shall demonstrate
that (a) the area is stable for development; and (b) the development will not create a geologic
hazard or diminish the stability of the area.
10. New roads shall be constructed in accordance with the criteria set forth in Section 5.4.3.K-2.
11. Soils and geologic reports shall be required for all new land divisions and for the construction of
roads and structures, excluding minor structures not occupied by people, in areas of known or
suspected geologic hazards. Both potential onsite and offsite impacts shall be evaluated in the
Hazard areas requiring submission of such reports include the 100-year floodplain; landslide
areas and other locations showing evidence of recent ground movement; earthquake fault zones;
sites falling within the area of demonstration as provided in the Statewide Interpretive Guidelines
for Blufftop Development (as amended February 4, 1981); and any other geologic high hazard
area for which a geotechnical report is required by policy 184.108.40.206 above. Such reports shall be
prepared by a soils engineer or registered and certified engineering geologist, as appropriate,
acting within their areas of expertise, based upon an on-site evaluation; the reports shall be
consistent with “Guidelines for Geologic/Seismic Reports” (CDMG Notes #37).
The California Division of Mines and Geology will be requested to assist the County in
reviewing the reports and resolving any disputes. The reports shall consider, at a minimum, the
following, as applicable to the site:
(1) Historic, current and foreseeable cliff erosion, including investigation of recorded land
surveys and tax assessment records in addition to the use of historic maps and
photographs where available, and possible changes in shore configuration and transport.
(2) Cliff geometry and site topography, extending the surveying work beyond the site as
needed to depict unusual geomorphic conditions that might affect the site and the
(3) Geologic conditions, including soil, sediment and rock types and characteristics in
addition to structural features such as bedding, joints, and faults.
(4) Evidence of past or potential landslide conditions, the implications of such conditions for
the proposed development, and the potential effects of the development on landslide
(5) Wave and tidal action, including effects of marine erosion on seacliffs.
(6) Ground and surface water conditions and variations, including hydrologic changes
caused by the development (e.g., introduction of sewage effluent and irrigation water to
the groundwater system; alterations in surface drainage).
(7) Potential effects of seismic forces resulting from a maximum credible earthquake.
(8) Effects of the proposed development including siting and design of structures, septic
system, landscaping, drainage, and grading, and impacts of construction activity on the
stability of the site and adjacent area.
(9) Any other factors that may affect slope stability.
(10) Potential erodibility of site and mitigating measures to be used to ensure minimized
erosion problems during and after construction (i.e., landscaping and drainage design).
B. Flood Hazards
1. The County’s primary means of minimizing risk from flood hazards shall be through land use
planning and the avoidance of development in floodprone areas. The development of flood
control projects to protect new development in the natural floodplain is not considered
2. All new development, including filling, grading, and construction shall be prohibited within 100-
year flood plains except as needed for outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat, agriculture, and
similar low intensity open space uses, as well as bridges, water resource developments requiring
a streamside location, restoration activities pursuant to the Protected Waterways Plans, and
flood control projects where no other method for protecting existing structures in the floodplain
is feasible and such protection is necessary for public safety or to protect existing development.
C. Fire Hazard
1. The fire hazard policies contained in the Safety Element of the Monterey County General Plan
shall be regularly reviewed and consistently applied. The critical fire hazard map should be
updated continually as new and more specific information becomes available from the required
2. New developments shall be avoided in extreme wildfire hazard areas as determined by sitespecific
3. New development proposals or development inducing projects which would not be served by
adequate fire protection services, public or private roads, or water for fire suppression should
be limited to a low-intensity commensurate with such increased risk.
4. Roads serving new residential development shall be adequate to allow access by emergency
vehicles while permitting evacuation of the area by residents.
5. Monterey County should support and assist the efforts of the various fire protection agencies
and districts to identify and minimize fire safety hazards to the public.
6. Each development proposal shall be accompanied by a written assessment of adequacy of
access. The written assessment shall be prepared by the applicant and shall evaluate the project
in relation to Monterey County Subdivision Ordinance requirements, types of existing and
proposed roads, minimum road widths, and specific evacuation routes applicable to the parcel.
The assessment shall be submitted to fire officials for their review and recommendations.
3.7.4 Recommended Actions
1. All existing utility lines that cross active or potentially active fault traces should be examined to
determine their ability to survive fault movement in the amount likely to take place in the
particular location. Utility companies should institute orderly programs of installing cut-off
devices on these lines, starting with the lines that appear to be most vulnerable and those which
serve the most people. Adequate emergency water supplies should be established and
maintained in areas dependent upon water lines which cross active fault zones.
2. The County shall review and periodically revise the County-wide Disaster Contingency Plan.
All appropriate County and public agencies shall be included in all phases of disaster
3. The guidelines contained in the cooperative federal/state FIRE SAFE GUIDE FOR
RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT IN CALIFORNIA, especially those pertaining to water
supply, fire hydrants, and other fire prevention and control features, should be considered by the
County for adoption as the basis for building standards in areas of moderate to high wildland fire
3.8 MINERAL RESOURCES
The Big Sur area has a number of sites of historic and potential mineral resources which may be
proposed for extraction in the future. Gold mining in the Los Burros District has occurred in the past
and may be continued.
Significant conflicts arise in the watershed of the Little Sur River where substantial limestone deposits on
Pico Blanco lie partly inside and partly outside the Los Padres National Forest. In 1981 the U.S.
Forest Service approved a five-year Plan of Operations, 1981-1986, that allows the owner Granite
Rock to commence exploratory operations and the mining company has opened a quarry on the South
face of Pico Blanco within the National Forest boundary.
In 1982, in response to a petition by Granite Rock, Co., the California State Mining and Geology
Board classified these limestone deposits as a significant mineral resource (MRZ-2 area). The
Classification Report estimates they contain 640 million tons of limestone whiting, a non-strategic,
industrial chemical mineral. The State Mining and Geology Board has not designated the Pico Blanco
deposits as a mineral resource of regional or statewide significance.
Granite Rock also owns two easements across the El Sur Ranch connecting its limestone deposits to the
Old Coast Road, one of which — referred to in this Plan as the Dani Ridge access road — has been
developed for a haul road, while the other — which cuts across slopes on the north side of the South
Fork of the Little Sur River — has not been developed.
In 1973 the California State Legislature recognized the statewide significance of the Little Sur River
watershed’s “extraordinary scenic, fishery, wildlife, (and) outdoor recreational values” by including it in
the California Protected Waterways System and requested Monterey County to prepare a Protected
Waterways Management Plan to protect these values and the watershed’s “free-flowing and wild
status.” (Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 32 – Relative to the Little Sur and Big Sur Rivers, 1973,
and 1968 Cal. Stats. Chap. 1278 1.) Pursuant to this legislative request the Board adopted a
Protected Waterways Management Plan for the Little Sur River in December 1983 and incorporated it
by reference in this Plan.
Through adoption of the Protected Waterways Management Plan for the Little Sur River, the State has
recognized the statewide significance of the fish and wildlife habitat of this watershed. These resources
are also of national significance, and the County encourages the State to designate this area as a “coastal
resource of national significance”, as the term is used in Section 1455(i) of the federal Coastal Zone
Management Act, and to adopt as part of the state coastal Zone Management Act, and to adopt as part
of the state coastal management program” specific and enforceable standards to protect (these)
resources”, in accordance with Section 1455(i).”
Because of the extraordinary value of the natural resources of the Little Sur River watershed, the
conflicts arising from mining operations on Pico Blanco and the jurisdictional complexities arising from
the location of Pico Blanco limestone deposits partly inside and partly outside a national forest in a
California Protected Waterway within the California coastal zone, the specific policies of Subsection
3.8.4 are needed to guide the application of state and federal law and other policies of this plan.
Limited mining of sand and gravel for local use has taken place in the past from the stream beds of the
Big Sur and Little Sur Rivers. The Department of Fish and Game has reviewed and provided guidance
to some of these operations. Also, of considerable concern, is the potential development of the offshore
oil and gas deposits. In addition to these mineral resources there are also limited oil and gas reserves
located offshore on the Outer Continental Shelf. Proposals are being made by the Federal Government
to lease these reserves for exploration and development. Experience with offshore oil development has
repeatedly shown the inevitability of serious oil spills or other disasters that result in degradation and
destruction of the marine environment including extensive loss of fish and wildlife and damage to local
dependent industries. The Big Sur coast is the location of the California Sea Otter Refuge and
possesses extensive and undisturbed marine and intertidal habitats for fish, marine mammals, and birds.
Additionally, the coast is a scenic recreation area of great reknown. The County is deeply concerned
that these wildlife and recreation resources of national significance will be critically jeopardized by
exploration and development of off-shore oil and gas reserves and, accordingly, is in strong opposition
to the development of these reserves.
The following policies are applicable in any review by the County of development activities, whether on
federal or non-federal land. These policies are adopted pursuant to the California Coastal Act of 1976,
and the County’s general plan power and police power. All lands within the “National Forest” land use
designation (see Figure 1) which are subject to coastal development permit jurisdiction are subject to
the land use policies for the Watershed and Scenic Conservation land use designation.
3.8.1 Key Policy
Development of mineral resources in the Big Sur coast area must be carefully planned and managed to
ensure protection of the area’s important scenic, recreational, and habitat values. The County shall
evaluate any proposal for an increased level of extraction based upon a thorough balancing of the social,
technological, environmental and recreational values long recognized to exist on the Big Sur coast and
the economic values of any mineral deposit. In determining the value of a mineral deposit, the costs of
reclamation and mitigation of adverse impacts will be considered. The County opposes development of
any offshore or onshore oil and gas reserves that could adversely affect the scenic or habitat values of
the Big Sur coast.
3.8.2 General Policies
1. All mineral resource development shall be in keeping with the broad resource protection
objectives of this plan. The specific policies, criteria and standards of other sections of this plan
shall govern both onshore and offshore mineral resource development. Mining will not be
allowed in environmentally sensitive habitat areas such as riparian corridors, rare and
endangered plant and animal habitat locations, or wetlands. Mining activities and related
facilities such as roads, loading or conveyance facilities, shall not be permitted to be constructed
in the critical viewshed and shall be sited and designed to protect views to and along the ocean
and designated scenic coastal zone area.
2. The California Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 (SMARA) establishes procedures
whereby mineral deposits can be classified as significant mineral deposits and designated as
having statewide or regional significance. In the event of classification the State Mining and
Geology Board publishes a Classification Report containing useful mineral information. The
County will recognize in this Plan such information pertaining to mineral deposits on the Big Sur
Coast and will emphasize the conservation and development of classified deposits. However,
pursuant to SMARA the County retains responsibility and broad discretion as lead agency to
regulate, approve or disapprove all proposed surface mining operations, including those
affecting deposits that have been classified as a significant mineral resource or designated as
having statewide or regional significance.
3. Alternative methods of mineral extraction which result in minimal environmental impact shall be
given substantive consideration before surface mining is allowed. Surface mining will not be
considered an acceptable practice where less environmentally damaging techniques are feasible
or in streams supporting anadromous fish runs unless it can be demonstrated that no adverse
impacts will result.
4. For purposes of this Plan the term “surface mining” is now used to mean “surface mining
operations” as that term is defined by the California Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of
1975, Pub. Res. Code ~2735. The following operations are excluded from this definition: (1)
the operations conducted by the California Department of Transportation to extract road
building materials for local use and (2) prospecting for, or the extraction of, minerals for
commercial purposes and the removal of overburden in total amounts of less than 500 cubic
yards in any one permit area or from any single mineral deposit or contiguous mineral deposits
that have been classified as a significant mineral resource by the California Division of Mines
pursuant to Pub. Res. Code ~2761(b).
“Mining”, as that term is used in this Plan, includes both surface mining and subsurface mining.
“Mineral development” is the broad term that encompasses both mining and onshore and
offshore exploitation of oil and gas resources.
5. Surface mining operations shall not be allowed in the following areas:
a. Surface mining operations shall not be allowed in areas susceptible to landslide, erosion
and other hazards such as proximity to earthquake faults, as designated on the Big Sur
LCP Hazards Map or in the “Seismic and Slope Stability Hazards” maps in the
Protected Waterways Management Plans for the Little Sur River and Big Sur River.
b. In order to maintain the long term productivity of soils and timberlands, mining within
Forestry Special Treatment Areas or other potential commercial timber lands shall not
be permitted except for subsurface workings which would not result in a conversion of
timberlands to other uses.
3.8.3 Specific Policies
1. Large-scale mineral development is not an appropriate use in Big Sur. The total amount of
proposed surface from any mineral extraction operation or aggregate of operations (including
quarry sites, tailings, overburden disposal sites, drilling pads, processing sites, roads) within any
watershed shall be the minimum necessary to support the operation. (For the purposes of this
policy, a watershed must be considered in its entirety, from the point where it drains into the
Pacific Ocean, inland to the limit of the coastal zone).
2. All permit applications proposing to conduct mineral exploration or extraction operations shall
be required to prepare an Environmental Impact Report, a quarry management plan and
reclamation plan, and must meet the requirements of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of
1975 as implemented by the County Mining Ordinance herein incorporated by reference. The
County will request advice and guidance from the State Department of Fish and Game,
Regional Water Quality Control Board, and California Division of Mines and Geology, as
appropriate in reviewing proposed quarry management and reclamation plans. The County may
engage the services of geologic and biologic experts to review such plans as needed. This will
be at the applicant’s expense.
3. In addition to the requirements set forth in Monterey County Code Chapter 16.04,the required
quarry management plan or reclamation plan, must address at a minimum, all the following
elements as a condition of permit approval.
a. Cross section maps or plans of the land to be affected including the actual area to be
mined, prepared by or under the direction of and certified by a registered professional
engineer, or professional geologist with assistance from experts in related fields such as
land surveying and landscape architecture, showing pertinent elevation and location of
test borings or core samplings and depicting all of the following information:
(1) The nature and depth of the various strata of overburden.
(2) The location of subsurface water, if encountered, and its quality.
(3) The nature of the stratum immediately beneath the mineral deposit to be mined.
(4) Existing or previous surface mining limits.
(5) The location and extent of known workings of any underground mines, including
mine openings to the surface.
(6) The location of aquifers.
(7) The estimated elevation of the water table.
(8) The location of spoil, waste, or refuse areas, suitable plant growth material
stockpiling areas and, if necessary, stockpiling areas for other suitable strata.
(9) The location of all impoundments for waste or erosion control.
(10) Any settling or water treatment facility.
(11) Constructed or natural drainways and the location of any discharges to any
surface body of water on the area of land to be affected or adjacent thereto.
(12) Profiles at appropriate cross sections of the anticipated final surface
configuration that will be achieved pursuant to the applicant’s proposed
b. Procedures to retain soil or eroded material on the site, to prevent the discharge of any
water or runoff which would increase the natural level of turbidity in receiving waters,
and to control the circulation of particulate matter in the atmosphere. Water quality
sampling of suspended sediment and turbidity shall be required for any mining
operations prior to the beginning of the operation and during subsequent winters. Costs
of monitoring are to be borne by the applicant.
c. Measures to stabilize slopes and mine tailings such as hydromulching, seeding and other
appropriate measures; measures to prevent any increase in normal runoff, especially
during peak periods, from the site such as requiring dispersal or storage so that scouring
and erosion do not occur.
d. A soil survey of all the plant growth material within the permit area.
e. Measures to provide for the restoration of native plant species normally occurring in the
f. Measures to stockpile soil and spoils and provide for recontouring quarry sites to a
g. Measures to regulate disposal of undesirable pollutants found in conjunction with mined
materials (such as heavy metals, mercury, in gold mines).
h. A phasing plan or other measures adequate to minimize the area of disruption during
active mining in order to alleviate such impacts as soil erosion, dust propagation, and
viewshed intrusion in areas not covered by General Policy #1. This phasing plan shall
include a detailed estimated timetable for the accomplishment of each major step in the
i. A transportation element which discusses alternative methods of transporting quarried
material. Haul routes and destinations must be specified.
j. Measures to maintain existing or historic recreational access over the property.
k. Measures to prevent impacts which would significantly degrade adjacent
environmentally sensitive habitats and parks and recreation areas.
l. A determination by the permit applicant of the probable hydrologic consequences of the
mining and reclamation operations, both on and off the mine site, with respect to the
hydrologic regime, quantity and quality of water in surface and ground water systems
including the dissolved and suspended solids under seasonal flow conditions and the
collection of sufficient data for the mine site and surrounding areas so that an assessment
can be made by the Board of the probable cumulative impacts of all anticipated mining
in the area upon the hydrology of the area and particularly upon water availability and
m. The use which is proposed to be made of the land following reclamation, including a
discussion of the utility and capacity of the reclaimed land to support a variety of
alternative uses and the relationship of such use to existing land use policies and plans,
the surface owner’s preferred use, and the comments of state and local governments or
agencies thereof, which would have to initiate, implement, approve, or authorize the
proposed use of the land following reclamation.
n. A detailed description of how the proposed postmining land use is to be achieved and
the necessary support activities which may be needed to achieve the proposed land use.
4. Annual report of activities by permittee. The operator shall annually file on the anniversary date
of the permit a notice of intent to continue mining operations and a map or statement that shall
a. The land affected during the preceding year;
b. The land to be affected during the coming year; and
c. Any land reclaimed during the preceding year.
5. Environmental protection performance standards. General performance standards shall be
applicable to all surface mining and reclamation operations. In addition to the requirements set
forth in Monterey County Code Chapter 16.04, each permittee shall be required at a minimum
to comply with the following standards as a condition for permit approval:
a. Mining trucks shall not be permitted on Highway 1 during peak recreational use periods
(7 a.m. until 10 p.m.).
b. Fill activities or improvements related to mining operations shall not be permitted in
active flood plains or stream channels.
c. Existing or historical recreational access to the shoreline, the Ventana wilderness area or
state parks shall not be prevented by mining operations.
d. Unless the County finds that no significant adverse affects on the following specified
habitat and recreational features will result, no mining which involves surface blasting,
operation of loud equipment, or similar disruptions of natural peacefulness and solitude
shall be allowed within close proximity of the following:
(1) Any State Highway 1 pullout;
(2) The Ventana Wilderness:
(3) Public recreation sites such as state parks, trails, campsites, and designated
(4) Known Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle and Peregrine Falcon nesting sites.
(5) Any California Condor roosting site.
e. Water quality sampling of suspended sediment and turbidity shall be required for any
mining operations prior to the beginning of the operation and during subsequent winters.
Costs of monitoring are to be borne by the applicant.
f. Construction or improvements of private roads required by mining operations shall meet
standards described in Section 3.5, 5.4.3.K, and other sections of this plan.
g. All surface areas, including spoil piles affected by the surface mining and reclamation
operation, shall be stabilized and protected to prevent or effectively control erosion and
attendant air and water pollution. The operator shall ensure that the construction,
maintenance, and postmining conditions of haul roads and access roads into and across
the site of operations will effectively control or prevent erosion and siltation, pollution of
water, damage to fish or wildlife or their habitat.
h. The mining operator shall ensure that explosives are used only in accordance with
existing state law and shall:
(1) Provide adequate advance written notice to local governments, adjacent
landowners and residents who might be affected by the use of such explosives
by the publication of the planned blasting schedule in a newspaper of general
circulation in the area by mailing a copy of the proposed blasting schedule to
every resident living within one-half mile of the proposed blasting site, and by
providing daily notice to residents in such areas prior to any blasting.
(2) Maintain for a period of at least three years and make available for public
inspection upon request a log detailing the location of the blasts, the pattern and
depth of the drill holes, the amount of explosives used per hole, and the order
and length of delay in the blasts.
(3) Limit the type of explosives and detonating equipment, the size, the timing, and
the frequency of blasts based upon the physical conditions of the site so as to
a. Injury to persons.
b. Damage to and the impairment of the use and enjoyment of public and
private property outside the permit area including, but not limited to,
California State Parks, the Ventana Wilderness Area and public access
c. Change in the course, channel, or availability of ground or surface water
outside the permit area.
i. To minimize visual, scarring, disturbed surface areas shall be restored through use of
indigenous vegetation so that no boundary is discernible between mined and unmined
j. Disturbed land shall be restored to a condition capable of supporting the uses which it
was capable of supporting prior to any mining, or higher or better uses approved by the
Board of Supervisors which may include agricultural, residential, recreational facilities or
fish and wildlife habitat.
k. Lands affected by surface mining operations which have been designated for postmining
agricultural purposes or wildlife habitat shall be restored to the level of productivity
equal to or greater, under equivalent management practices, than nonmined agricultural
lands or wildlife habitat of similar soil types in the surrounding area. For those lands
which are to be rehabilitated to indigenous grasslands, a diverse, effective and
permanent vegetative cover shall be established of the same seasonal variety indigenous
to the area to be affected and capable of self-regeneration, plant succession, and at
least equal in extent of cover and productivity to the indigenous vegetation of the area.
The level of productivity and cover attained on disturbed lands within the permit area
shall be demonstrated by the permittee using comparisons with similar lands in the
surrounding area having equivalent historical management practices and that are
undisturbed by mining, or comparable disruptive activities.
l. Reclamation activities, particularly those relating to control of erosion and prevention of
visual scarring, to the extent feasible, shall be conducted simultaneously with mining and
in any case shall be initiated promptly after completion or abandonment of mining on
those portions of the mine complex that will not be subject to further disturbance by the
mining operation. In the absence of an order by the Board of Supervisors providing a
longer period, the plan shall provide that reclamation activities shall be completed not
more than 2 years after completion or abandonment of mining on that portion of mine
6. A cash deposit, bond or equivalent surety, payable to the County in an amount to be set by the
Board of Supervisors, is required to ensure compliance with the Surface Mining and
Reclamation Act and regulations and policies of this plan. Should the mine operator fail to
correct any violation or water quality problem due to the mining operation with 15 days
following receipt of notification to do so, the County may correct the problem and charge all
reasonable costs against the mine operator’s surety.
7. Mining shall not be permitted in live stream channels or in locations where water quality or
wildlife could be adversely affected or in sand dunes. In other areas limited extraction of sand
and gravel for local construction purposes may be permitted under careful controls designed to:
a. Regulate instream and near-stream extraction so that maximum mitigation of adverse
environmental effects occurs.
b. Limit future insteam extraction to “safe yield” or annual replenishment levels.
c. Preserve soil resources and agricultural lands adjacent to the instream channels.
d. Maintain and enhance streambank stability while encouraging deposition, rather than
erosion of fluvial materials.
e. Preserve and enhance the growth of riparian vegetation.
f. Maintain groundwater supplies and quality.
g. Maintain surface water quality.
The Department of Fish and Game shall be requested to review all applications for sand and
gravel extraction and to provide recommendations to the County concerning protection of
wildlife habitat before the County approves the permit application.
8. Because of extraordinary risk to the Big Sur coast’s special wildlife and recreational values and
based on extensive evaluation of the Big Sur Coast, no sites have been identified which would
be either practical or appropriate for the exploration, extraction, or handling of petroleum or
related products either on-shore or off-shore. Therefore, such uses are not provided for in this
plan, either on-shore or off-shore in the area under the jurisdiction of the State of California and
Monterey County. This prohibition is especially designated to protect the California Sea Otter
State Fish and Game Refuge, the most sensitive watersheds listed in Section 3.2.3 Rivers and
Streams policy No. 3, or any watershed which empties into the Ventana Wilderness, a
designated Area of Special Biological Significance, a State Protected Waterway, State Fish and
Game Refuge, or onto a public beach or other public shoreline recreation area.
9. In the event an oil spill occurs on the Big Sur coast the responsible entities shall secure a permit
from the Board of Supervisors to determine appropriate measures to restore the damaged area
to its condition prior to the spill. Any such permit shall be applied for within 3 calendar days of
the spill’s impact on the Monterey County Coast. Any actions taken immediately following the
spill to limit or clean up the spill shall be evaluated as to their appropriateness and may be
modified as conditions of the subsequent permit.
10. The County asserts its jurisdiction over mining operations on Federal lands within or adjacent to
the Big Sur Coastal Zone to the full extent allowed by law. This includes the County’s permit
jurisdiction pursuant to its Surface Mining and Reclamation Ordinance and the California
Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 and its coastal development permit jurisdiction
pursuant to the California Coastal Act of 1976 and the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act
The County shall establish mechanisms for consultation and comment upon mining operations on
federal lands. These mechanisms may include formal and informal review, cooperative planning
with federal agencies, development of memoranda of understanding, joint preparation of
environmental impact statements or assessments, coordination through state agencies such as
the Office of Planning and Research, and the like. These measures will be in addition to any
coastal development permit requirements which may apply in any individual case.
11. To assure protection of habitat and recreational values on adjacent lands, the County shall
consult with the affected public land management agency prior to approval of any mining activity
on any parcel adjacent to National Forest, State Park, or University of California Land and
Water Reserve lands, access roads or trails.
3.8.4 The Little Sur River Watershed and Pico Blanco Limestone Deposits
1. The upper watershed of the Little Sur River is classified as a natural waterway in accordance
with the analysis stated in the Protected Waterways Management Plan for the Little Sur River
(PWMP), pp. 64-65.
2. No new road may be developed nor may the capacity of any existing road the expanded in the
upper watershed of the Little Sur River unless its dominant purpose is to serve priority uses for
the Little Sur River watershed as determined by this Plan (Policy 220.127.116.11 and PWMP
Objectives 1 and 10, pp. 66-67) and unless it conforms to all resource protection policies of
this Plan. This restriction is based in part on: (1) the prohibition on large scale surface mining
any place on the Big Sur Coast (Policy 18.104.22.168); (2) the policy “to retain significant and, where
possible, continuous areas of undisturbed land in open space use” in order to protect
environmentally sensitive habitats and wildlife values (Policy 22.214.171.124); (3) the determination by
the Forest Service that the existing Dani Ridge road provides sufficient access across the U.S.
Forest Service lands for Granite Rock’s present mining operations (U.S. Forest Service,
Environmental Assessment Report on approval of Granite Rock’s Operating Plan, 1981, p. 1),
(4) the determination that the upper watershed of the Little Sur River is a natural waterway
(Policy 126.96.36.199) and (5) the conclusion in the PWMP that it is extremely unlikely that a new
road could be built in the upper watershed without causing severe damage to aesthetic,
ecological and recreational resources (PWMP, pp. 32, 46 and 51).
3. Because the North and South Forks of the Little Sur River are steelhead spawning habitat and
because they support old growth redwoods and other riparian vegetation that would be harmed
by siltation (PWMP, pp. 38, 27, 30 and 45), no new roads or expansion of existing roads shall
be allowed that would cause siltation to enter either riparian corridor or the waters of either
4. Because of the extraordinary scenic views of Pico Blanco from the Old Coast Road (PWMP,
pp. 51, 53, 83 and Objective 10, p. 67) views of Pico Blanco from the Old Coast Road are
included in the “Critical Viewshed” as that term is used in Policies 3.2.1 and 3.2.2 of this Plan.
For the purpose of this Plan, Pico Blanco is defined as that land form bounded on the South by
the South Fork of the Little Sur River, on the North by the North Fork of the Little Sur River
and on the East by the Ventana Wilderness Area. All other views from the Old Coast Road
shall be excluded from the Critical Viewshed except those views visible from Highway One.
5. With respect to any proposed development within the upper watershed of the Little Sur River,
the applicant must demonstrate as a condition for permit approval that the proposed
development, including the use of explosives, is consistent with Objectives 1 and 10 of the
PWMP (pp. 66-67) and that it will not affect adversely the following resources and their
resource value as identified in the PWMP:
o critical habitat for raptors (golden eagles and prairie falcons) including both nesting and
foraging habitat (PWMP, pp. 36. 38 and Figure 9, p. 37.)
o mountain lion habitat (PWMP, p. 37)
o riparian vegetation (PWMP, p. 37)
o water quality and Steelhead trout habitat (PWMP, pp. 1, 30-33)
o peregrine falcon
These specific environmental standards apply to the upper watershed of the Little Sur River in
addition to the standards set out in Policy 188.8.131.52 that apply throughout the Planning District.
6. Existing mining operations on Pico Blanco on federal mining claims within the Los Padres
National Forest are deemed to constitute a first phase of operations that must be reclaimed in
accordance with the standards set out in Policy 184.108.40.206 before any expansion of mining
operations related to the Pico Blanco limestone deposits may be approved.
For purpose of this policy, “Pico Blanco limestone deposits” refers to those deposits that were
classified as MRZ-2 or MRZ-3 areas by the California State Mining and Geology Board in
1982. “Additional surface disturbances” as used in this policy includes disturbances affecting the
Pico Blanco limestone deposits resulting from both expanded operations that are contiguous to
areas that have already been disturbed (e.g., the existing quarry site, access and exploratory
roads or disposal site) and those that are not contiguous to such presently disturbed areas.
3.9 DREDGING, FILLING, AND SHORELINE STRUCTURES
The natural shorelines processes on the Big Sur coast have been rarely affected by man’s interference.
The dredging, filling, and diking of coastal waters and wetlands have not occurred in the Big Sur area to
any appreciable extent. Activities within this general category will be limited in the future to occasional
instances where a temporary dike would be required in conjunction with construction or maintenance
activities on Highway 1 or its numerous bridges. Cliff retaining walls also may be needed in limited
places where cliff retreat may endanger the roadway. Ports and transport facilities are not to be located
on the Big Sur coast and are considered in appropriate to the area. However, this prohibition shall not
pertain to fishing.
3.9.1 Key Policy
1. Blufftop setbacks shall be adequate to avoid the need for seawalls during the development’s
2. Boating facilities requiring onshore structures are not appropriate on the Big Sur coast. If a
harbor of refuge is required, it should be designed so as not to require onshore structures.
3. Where dredging or temporary dikes are required for essential work or maintenance of Highway
1, they should avoid disruption of marine and wildlife habitats and should restore the site to its
original condition as early as practical. Dredge spoils suitable for beach replenishment should
be transported for such purposes to appropriate beaches.
4. Shoreline, wetland, or blufftop projects, regardless of size, should have thorough environmental
review with an assumed preference of the “no project alternative”.
5. Permits issued by the State Lands Commission for projects on State tidelands shall conform to
the policies of the Big Sur Coast Local Coastal Program.
3.10 HISTORICAL RESOURCES
Monterey County’s historical heritage is rich and diverse. Prime examples of historic sites survive from
each of the major periods of California’s history. Historical settlement of the Big Sur coast was initiated
by the Mexican Government in the late 18th century through the bestowal of two land grants — the
8,949 acres Rancho El Sur, between the Little Sur River and what is now called Cooper Point, and
Rancho San Jose y Sur Chiquito, an 8,876-acre grant, bounded on the north by the Carmel River and
on the south by the Palo Colorado Canyon.
With United State’s occupation, unappropriated public lands in California became available to settlers in
parcels of 160 acres. Big Sur was initially settled by a number of homesteaders whose names are now
borne by well known topographic and natural features in Big Sur (e.g., the Pfeiffer’s, Charlie Bixby, Jim
The development of the tan bark industry in the mid-1870’s led to the construction of several landings
along the Big Sur coast. These landings were used not only for loading the bark, used in the
manufacture of tannic acid, but also for shipping prime redwood lumber. Among them was Godfrey
Notley’s Landing, near the mouth of the Palo Colorado Canyon, around which a thriving village sprang
up. Jim Anderson also had a landing, and there was another at the mouth of the Big Sur River. Perhaps
the most spectacular was Partington Landing. The Rockland Cement Company chose Limekiln Canyon
as its headquarters in the 1880’s in order to exploit a rich deposit of calcareous rock discovered in the
vicinity of the canyon. Schooners began to regularly frequent Rockland Landing to load limestone
bricks and deliver supplies. With the demise of the liming operation, the days of industrial enterprise
along the Big Sur coast came to an abrupt halt.
The discovery of gold near the head of Alder Creek led to the Big Sur Gold Rush of the 1880’s. The
Los Burros Mining District sprang into being with three stamp mills, and a boomtown named
Manchester mushroomed on Alder Creek. In its heyday, Manchester boasted four stores, a restaurant,
five saloons, a dance hall, and a hotel. By 1895 the boom had begun to fade.
As the 19th century drew to a close, more settlers came to live on the south coast. The two sons of one
of the original homesteaders, Bill Post, each homesteaded 160 acres, while various relatives acquired
tracts totaling another 640 acres. Their land stretched as far south as the site of the present-day
Nepenthe Restaurant. The ranchhouse still stands on Highway 1 at the top of what is now called “Post
Grade”. Big Sur’s original post office and its second schoolhouse were built on the Post Ranch.
The 20th century saw the emergence of recreation-oriented commercial development along the Big Sur
coast. For decades, the Big Sur country had been attracting hunters and fishermen. The start of the
resort business began with the Pfeiffer Ranch resort which catered to these sportsmen. The Hotel
Idlewild, located on the banks of the Little Sur River, soon rivaled the Pfeiffer Ranch for its business.
The one deterrent to the development of the south coast as a mecca for tourists as well as sportsmen,
was the hazardous road that had to be closed part of the year. The concept of a year-round scenic
highway originated with Dr. John Roberts, the founder of the City of Seaside.
Many of the original settlers were enraged by the devastation resulting from the highway construction.
Machinery blasted through the great cliffs, scarring granite promontories and defiling canyons and
waterfalls with debris. On June 27, 1937, the highway was completed at a cost of approximately
$8,000,000. A way of life had ended, and a new era began for the beautiful country.
The process of ensuring the long-term protection of Big Sur’s unique coastline was initiated by John
Pfeiffer in 1934 when he sold 706 acres to the State for the nucleus of the 822-acre Pfeiffer Big Sur
State Park. The Lathrop Browns, who purchased Saddle Rock Ranch, later donated the 1,700 acres
which now constitutes Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The 21-acre John Little State Park originally part
of the State property sold to Milton Little, was donated by Elizabeth Livermore. Francis Molera,
granddaughter of Juan Baustista Roger Cooper, placed 2,000 acres in trust for Andrew Molera State
Park. The generosity of these pioneering families has been a lasting contribution to the preservation of
Big Sur and the people of Monterey County and the State.
3.10.1 Key Policy
It is the policy of the County to protect, maintain, and where feasible, enhance and restore the cultural
heritage of the County and its man-made resources and traditions.
3.10.2 General Policies
1. New development shall, where appropriate, protect significant historical buildings, landmarks,
and districts because of their unique characteristics and contribution to the cultural heritage of
2. The County shall provide for the mitigation of site and artifact disturbance in County-approved
projects through the careful surveying of project sites and the consideration of project
alternatives to preserve significant cultural resources.
3. The County shall maintain an identification survey and inventory program of historical sites and
shall maintain a registry program to protect and preserve historical land-mark sites and districts.
4. Designated historical sites shall be protected through zoning and other suitable regulatory means
to ensure that new development shall be compatible with existing historical resources to maintain
the special values and unique character of the historic properties.
3.11 ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESOURCES
The Big Sur coastal area of Monterey County is considered to be one of the most significant
archaeological regions in California. At the time of Spanish contact, this area was occupied by three
distinct aboriginal tribal groups — the Esalens, Costanoans, and Salinans. Investigations of the
immediate coastline of Monterey County have revealed a very high density of shell middens. Areas
adjacent to the immediate coast are not as well known although they are thought to contain a high
density of sites. A number of these inland sites likely have significant archaeological value such as those
identified in the vicinity of the Post Ranch (near Big Sur River), Big Sur Valley, and Pacific Valley.
Several Esalen, Coastanoan, and Salinan sites in the Big Sur area have religious value to local Native
Americans. These include Junipero Serra Peak and Slates Hot Springs. Numerous pictograph sites
discovered on the coast may also have religious significance.
Currently known sites are mapped and on file with the California Archaeological Site Survey District at
Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. To protect the sites, these maps are confidential. However, the
Monterey County Planning Department maintains contact with the Survey on all development projects
affecting archaeologically sensitive areas.
At the present time, urbanization and unrestricted public access are the principal sources of destruction
or damage to archaeological sites. In 1973, the California State Archaeological Task Force estimated
that 50 percent of all recorded sites and 79 percent of all known sites in Monterey County had been
destroyed. Direct threats to remaining sites from urbanization include: grading; construction of
residential, commercial, and industrial structures; construction of paved surfaces; water projects; cattle
grazing; plowing; and off-road vehicle use. Threats posed by public access are related to vandalism, the
development of recreational sites (e.g., campgrounds, trailer parks) near archaeological sites, and the
development of public roads and trails which inadvertently provide access to areas of archaeological
3.11.1 Key Policy
Big Sur’s archaeological resources, including those areas considered to be archaeologically sensitive but
not yet surveyed and mapped, shall be maintained and protected for their scientific and cultural heritage
values. New land uses and development, both public and private, should be considered compatible
with this objective only where they incorporate all site planning and design features necessary to avoid
or mitigate impacts to archaeological resources.
3.11.2 General Policies
1. All available measures, including purchase of archaeological easements, dedication to the
County, tax relief, purchase of development rights, etc., shall be explored to avoid development
on significant historic, paleontological, archaeological, and other classes of cultural sites.
2. When developments are proposed for parcels where paleontological resources or
archaeological or other cultural sites are located, project design shall be required which avoids
or substantially minimizes impacts to such cultural sites. To this end, emphasis should be placed
on preserving the entire site rather than on excavation of the resource, particularly where the site
has potential religious significance.
3. Because of the Coastal Zone’s known abundance of paleontological resources and
archaeological and other cultural sites, no sites or development shall be categorically exempt
form environmental review in the Big Sur Local Coastal Plan.
4. Whenever development is to occur in areas having a probability of containing archaeological
sites, the Site Survey Office or a professional archaeologist shall be contacted to determine
whether the property has received an archaeological survey. If not, such a survey shall be
conducted to determine if an archaeological site exists.
5. When sufficient planning flexibility does not permit avoiding construction on paleontological,
archaeological or other types of cultural sites, adequate preservation measures shall be required.
Mitigation shall be designed to accord with guidelines of the State Office of Historic
Preservation and the State of California Native American Heritage Commission.
6. Off-road vehicle use, unauthorized collecting of artifacts, and other activities other than
development which could destroy or damage paleontological, archaeological or cultural sites
shall be prohibited.
4. HIGHWAY ONE AND COUNTY ROADS
Designated in 1965 as the first State Scenic Highway in California, Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast is
the basic access route to the area. It traverses the length of Big Sur connecting two other major
recreational areas, the Monterey Peninsula and the Hearst Castle at San Simeon in San Luis Obispo
County. The Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, a lightly-used County road crossing the Hunter-Liggett
Military Reservation and the coastal range, provides the only other access route to the seventy-mile long
Big Sur coast from inland areas.
The major population centers of California, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Los Angeles Area, and the
large cities of the Central Valley, are less than a day’s drive from Big Sur. The Monterey Peninsula,
Salinas, Santa Cruz, and San Luis Obispo are one to two hours away. The accessibility of Big Sur to
these centers has a major impact on the demand to visit Big Sur and the resulting traffic congestion on
Highway 1. Visitors from other states and foreign countries who are attracted to Big Sur’s scenic beauty
also contribute significant amounts of traffic along Highway 1. At present, an estimated 2.9 million
people visit the Big Sur coast annually and demand is predicted to double over the next 20 to 25 years.
The traffic on Highway 1 is predominantly recreation oriented. Recreational traffic is estimated to
comprise 95% of all trips during the peak summer months. The remaining 5% consists of residential
traffic and a small volume of commercial and agricultural traffic. Driving for pleasure constitutes the
major proportion of recreational traffic along the Big Sur coast that originates from outside the area. It
accounts for about 70% of the recreational traffic volume during the peak summer months. Internal
local trips within Big Sur consist of about 65% recreational trips and 35% residential trips during a
summer month. During this same peak period, passenger cars are estimated to account for about 91%
of the traffic on the highway north of Big Sur Valley; trucks account for 2%; buses, campers, motor
homes, and vehicles with trailers make up about 5% of the traffic; and motorcycles account for 2% of
It is expected that Highway 1 cannot accommodate anticipated demands by traffic during peak use
periods if recreational use continues to increase along current patterns. At present, Highway 1 north of
the Big Sur Valley is able to handle average annual daily traffic volumes of 4,500 vehicles at Caltrans
Level of Service D. Level of Service E is attained during summer peak use periods when traffic reaches
8,300 vehicles per day. South of(the Big Sur Valley, conditions are similar. Average annual daily traffic
reaches 2,600 vehicles per day corresponding to Service Level D. Peak use volumes reach 4,700
vehicles per day producing Service Level E conditions.
Activities or development that could generate significant volumes of truck traffic such as potential
logging, mining, or other commercial operations could have detrimental effects on traffic conditions and
could reduce the vehicle capacity of the highway.
Public transit to and through Big Sur is available only on a very limited basis by buses operating along
Highway 1. Public bus service from downtown Monterey to Nepenthe south of the Big Sur Valley is
provided by Monterey Peninsula Transit during the summer. Bus service between Monterey and San
Luis Obispo with two round trips daily was recently put in operation by Coastlines, a privately owned
transit company. Private tour buses operate along Highway 1 on a charter basis, transporting groups of
visitors to various places in Big Sur and to Hearst Castle in San Luis Obispo County. Scheduling of bus
service in the past has not fully met resident needs nor offered visitors adequate flexibility in travel times.
Bus service needs to be expanded in order to become a viable transportation alternative. Increases in
ridership and increased subsidies are necessary to expand service and meet the differing transit needs of
both residents and visitors.
Bicycling along Highway 1, with its narrow lanes, blind curves, and heavy traffic, can be hazardous for
inexperienced or careless cyclists. These conditions and the long steep grades, and strong winds
discourage bicycling along the coast. However, experienced bicyclists on cross-country trips or day
tours do use the highway in low numbers. Improvements to the Bicentennial Bicycle Path would provide
increased safety for bicyclists and motorists on Highway 1.
The very characteristics that make Highway 1 such an interesting driving experience also create traffic
safety problems, particularly during congested periods. Slow-moving vehicles, numerous access points
to the highway from private roads or recreational areas, roadside parking, and unpaved turnouts cause
traffic to slow down, effectively reducing the traffic capacity of the highway and limiting access to Big
Sur. Improvements consistent with the character of the two-lane scenic highway are desirable to
increase its safety and traffic capacity.
Local roads in Big Sur are private except for a few County roads and access roads to public trailheads
and recreation areas. Palo Colorado Road carries both residential and recreational traffic and has the
highest use of any road intersecting Highway 1. It has inadequate capacity to meet significantly
increased recreational and residential traffic demands. Considerable volumes of traffic turning onto or
off of Highway 1 in the Big Sur Valley occur at entrances to campgrounds, shop parking areas, and
Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park. Sycamore Canyon Road, a private one-lane road over which the U. S.
Forest Service holds easements for public access to Pfeiffer Beach, is carrying traffic during peak use
periods that exceeds its safe capacity. This is leading to conflicts between recreational and residential
traffic. The Old Coast Road and Nacimiento-Fergusson Road experience low volumes of traffic which
are accommodated without congestion problems and no future capacity problems are envisioned.
A primary transportation objective of the Coastal Act is to maintain Highway 1 in rural areas as a scenic
two-lane road and to reserve most remaining capacity for the priority uses of the Act. The limited
capacity of Highway 1 to accommodate local and recreation traffic at a level that reserves reasonable
service and emergency use and also allows motorists to enjoy the beauty of Big Sur’s scenic coast is a
major concern. Because traffic volumes along sections of Highway 1 are at capacity during peak
recreational use periods and because future demand for recreational access is expected to exceed the
capacity of the highway, the capacity of the highway is a major constraint on the long range
development of the coast. How the road capacity can be increased without damage to the intrinsic
values of Big Sur and how capacity is allocated between visitor and local use is a major challenge.
A closely related issue is what can be done to effectively manage use levels of the highway between
Carmel and Cambria, particularly as needed to protect the priority uses of the Coastal Act. This
appears necessary to insure that acceptable service levels are preserved so that the highway can meet
its essential functions as the sole transportation and emergency route up and down the coast, and as a
safe, pleasurable scenic and recreational travel facility.
Studies supporting this plan have reached several important conclusions concerning future planning and
management of Highway 1. One conclusion is that because the vast majority of traffic on the highway
during congested peak use periods is recreational driving originating outside of Big Sur, efforts to reduce
highway congestion by limiting land use development within Big Sur itself can have only marginal effects.
Unless there is substantial change in current recreational use patterns and volumes, significant decreases
in peak period traffic congestion will only be achieved through physical regulation of the highway
including limitations to visitor access at its north and south ends.
A second important conclusion is that management of Highway 1 should attempt to optimize rather than
maximize visitor use levels on the highway in relation to other user needs and planning objectives for the
coast. As an objective, the maintenance of an acceptable minimum level of service and corresponding
maximum traffic volume standard for Highway 1 traffic must satisfy several criteria. A reasonable level
of traffic volume must be accommodated that reflects current recreational and residential use patterns,
future demand for access to Big Sur, property rights of landowners, and resource protection goals
aimed at preserving the natural character and beauty of Big Sur.
The encouragement of land uses that help redistribute traffic volumes to non-peak periods is a desirable
approach to reducing traffic congestion on the highway. Development and management policies that
encourage a more even distribution of traffic flow would result in an overall increase in access to Big Sur
and place fewer constraints on the amount of recreational and residential development that could be
Finally, study has shown that the aesthetic qualities of Highway 1 are eroding. This is the result of both
private and public development in the scenic viewshed, and visitor overuse within the highway right-ofway
itself. Gradually, many informal, unsurfaced and unsightly pullouts have developed along the
highway. The level of careless public use is resulting in a serious problem. Non-native and invasive
plants are spreading along the highway to the detriment of the scenic beauty. In keeping with the stature
of Highway 1 as the preeminent scenic drive on the California coast, considerably greater attention and
funds need to be allocated to its maintenance in order to preserve, restore, and enhance its aesthetic
4.1.1 Key Policy
Monterey County will take a strong and active role in guiding the use and improvement of Highway One
and land use development dependent on the highway. The County’s objective is to maintain and
enhance the highway’s aesthetic beauty and to protect its primary function as a recreational route. The
highway shall remain a two-lane road and shall include walking and bicycle trails wherever feasible. In
order to protect and enhance public recreational enjoyment of Big Sur’s unique natural and scenic
resources, recreational traffic should be regulated during congested peak use periods.
4.1.2 General Policies
1. Improvements to Highway 1 shall be undertaken in order to increase its service capacity and
safety, consistent with its retention as a scenic two-lane road.
The highway capacity improvements detailed in the following policies are essential for the
maintenance of existing service levels for the benefit of Coastal Act priority uses and residents
alike. In light of the anticipated traffic increases on the Coast Highway, the County shall review
the traffic levels after five years and determine what capacity improvements have been
implemented or planned and what additional solutions may be necessary and feasible.
2. A principal objective of management, maintenance, and construction activities within the
Highway 1 right-of-way shall be to maintain the highest possible standard of visual beauty and
3. Existing levels of service on Highway 1 during peak use periods are unacceptable, particularly
from June to August between 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Therefore, in order to restore
reasonable traveling speeds for residents and visitors, to protect emergency use of the highway,
and enhance the quality and enjoyment of the scenic driving experience, reductions in peak use
period traffic should be sought. A combination of actions, including public education and
regulation of Highway 1 use during peak periods, shall be undertaken to achieve an improved
4. To conform to the Coastal Act, most remaining capacity on Highway 1 shall be reserved for
coastal priority uses: recreation and visitor-serving facilities, the military, agriculture and other
coastal dependent uses.
5. In order to enhance public access to the Big Sur coast and to reduce traffic congestion, an
improved level of public bus service is encouraged. Monterey Peninsula Transit, other public
carriers, and private and public recreational facilities are requested to participate in reaching this
4.1.3 Specific Policies
A. Road Capacity and Safety Improvements
1. The County requests that, in order to maximize vehicular access to the Big Sur coast the width
of Highway 1 be upgraded to a standard of 12-foot lanes and 2 – 4-foot shoulders where
physically practical and consistent with the preservation of other coastal resources values. A
program of constructing left-turn lanes, and other improvements shall be undertaken to improve
traffic capacity and safety.
2. The County requests that appropriate areas along Highway 1 be designated by Caltrans for
construction of paved turnoffs for slow-moving vehicles. The turnoffs should be signed to notify
approaching vehicles in time to pull over. The California Slow-Moving Vehicle Law, California
Code Section 21665, should be enforced during peak traffic periods.
3. Pedestrian and traffic hazards which result from on-shoulder parking at unsafe locations shall be
corrected wherever possible, with priority being given to congested recreational attractions such
as the Garrapata Beach-Soberanes Point area, the Andrew Molera State Park frontage, and
River Inn. New facilities, both publicly-owned and commercial, must have adequate and safe
off-shoulder parking before they are opened to public use. Existing facilities shall not be
expanded unless the standard of adequate and safe parking is met. On-shoulder parking
should not be allowed where safe shoulder width or sight distances can not be achieved, or
where important seaward vistas will be impaired. Caltrans is requested to initiate a program to
carry out this policy; emphasis should be placed on the construction of parking areas with
designated entrances and exits, at suitable locations as identified in cooperation with the County,
U.S. Forest Service, Department of Parks and Recreation, and local citizen advisors.
4. The number of private roads and recreational access road entrances off Highway 1 shall be
limited whenever possible for traffic safety and management purposes. The County shall require
new developments to demonstrate that the use of existing public or private roads is either not
feasible or that easements for use cannot be obtained before it approves construction of a
separate entrance to Highway 1.
5. Sycamore Canyon Road and Palo Colorado Road should be maintained at a level that resident
and visitor traffic can safely be accommodated. Improvements to the width or alignment of
these roads shall only be approved when negative visual and environmental impacts will not
result and where the improvements will not adversely impact adjacent residents. Pedestrian
access shall be provided where feasible. Priority uses shall not be precluded on these roads by
6. The traffic bottleneck at Hurricane Point should be corrected as the highest priority for Caltrans’
efforts on Highway 1 within the Big Sur L.C.P. area
B. Aesthetic Improvements
1. Undesirable parking locations identified pursuant to policy 4.1.3.A.3, as well as those which
must be phased out under habitat or visual resource restoration programs, shall be retired from
service when alternative safe facilities are in place. The placement of boulders or other methods
should be used to prevent inappropriate public access or parking in such areas. Native
vegetation that does not obscure the public view should be re-established on bare areas.
2. Specific attention should be given by the State to eradicate non-native plant species that are
contributing to a decline in the natural beauty of Big Sur. Pampas Grass, Kikuyu Grass, Broom,
Eucalyptus and other species should be removed and replaced with native plants.
3. Where consistent with scenic protection and other resource management policies, public
restrooms should be provided at major destination points including the Rural Community
Centers, major public viewing areas adjacent to Highway 1, and State and National Forest
developed recreation sites. Trash receptacles should be considered and a program of litter
abatement shall be undertaken.
4. The County requests that an overall design theme for the construction and appearance of
improvements within the Highway 1 right-of-way be developed by Caltrans in cooperation with
the State Department of Parks and Recreation, the U. S. Forest Service and local citizens.
Design criteria shall apply to roadway signs, fences and railings, access area improvements,
bridges, restrooms, trash receptacles, etc. The objective of such criteria shall be to ensure that
all improvements are inconspicuous and are in harmony with the rustic natural setting of the Big
Sur Coast. The special report by local citizens entitled, Design Standards for the Big Sur
Highway, on file at the County Planning Department, should serve as a guide and point of
departure for Caltrans and other public agencies in developing a design theme for Highway 1
and in making improvements within the State right-of-way.
C. Traffic Regulation and Coastal Priority Uses
1. To comply to Coastal Act policies concerning the allocation of limited highway capacity to
coastal priority uses, 85 percent of the capacity of Highway 1 under improved road conditions
and managed traffic shall be reserved to serve recreational travel, service trips to public and
private recreation and visitor-serving facilities, use by military vehicles, and coastal-dependent
agriculture. To implement this policy, the land use regulations of this plan limit future residential
development to a level that will utilize not more than 15 percent of highway capacity at buildout.
2. Proposed new or expanded public or private recreation and visitor-serving uses shall be
required to submit with their application, a traffic component which evaluates the anticipated
impact to Highway 1 service capacity and makes recommendations on how conflicts can be
overcome or mitigated.
3. Proposals for commercial mining or logging, that may produce heavy truck traffic, shall submit
with their application, a traffic component evaluating potential conflicts with recreational and
residential use of Highway 1 and County roads, and describing how such conflicts can be
avoided. In general, the County will not approve applications requiring use of heavy trucks on
Highway 1 during peak recreational use periods.
D. Public Transit
1. A program should be initiated by Monterey Peninsula Transit or other public carriers, in
conjunction with the Department of Parks and Recreation, the U. S. Forest Service, and the
County to expand bus service and provide bus stops at appropriate access points to recreation
areas, trail roads on Highway 1, and visitor-serving facilities.
2. Development of new recreation areas and visitor-serving facilities or expansion of existing
facilities shall be planned to maximize opportunities for access by bus. Applicants shall
cooperate with Caltrans and transit authorities to provide bus stops in convenient proximity to
the proposed recreational facility. Other improvements or services such as shelters, pick-up
service from the transit stop, access trails that may be necessary, etc. shall be provided as part
of the recreational facility proposal.
3. Monterey Peninsula Transit or other public carriers, in conjunction with resident representatives
should plan bus schedules to improve service for residents.
4. An expanded education and promotion program should be implemented in cooperation with
other recreation agencies operating in the County, to provide information on Big Sur bus service
and recreational areas that are accessible by bus.
4.2 RECOMMENDED ACTIONS
1. Caltrans should conduct Origin and Destination Studies of traffic on Highway 1 along the Big
Sur coast on a regular basis in order to provide up to date information on trends in recreational
and residential use of the highway.
2. Monterey County, San Luis Obispo County, and Caltrans should cooperate to evaluate the
impacts of proposed developments on Highway 1 traffic conditions. The program should
coordinate the planning and phasing of development generating significant traffic impacts in the
two counties in order to insure that an equitable share of remaining Highway 1 capacity is
allocated to each area according to appropriate priority uses.
3. Consideration should be given to regulating vehicular access to Pfeiffer Beach on Sycamore
Canyon Road during peak use periods. A temporary gate at Highway 1 operated by the Parks
and Recreation Department is a possible approach. A shuttle service between Pfeiffer-Big Sur
State Park and Pfeiffer Beach should also be considered.
4. The County requests that Caltrans, in cooperation with Monterey and San Luis Obispo
Counties and the U. S. Forest Service immediately begin a program of management of
recreational use of Highway 1. The objectives of this program shall be to enhance public access
and enjoyment of the Big Sur coast and the safety of Highway 1 by ensuring that service
capacity at no time falls below Level of Service E or a minimum driving speed of 35 miles per
hour and that Levels of Service D and C be obtained wherever the basic design of the highway
The following management actions in addition to the improvements listed in Section 4.1.3 A.
above, shall be completed as part of this program. Caltrans is encouraged to complete
additional studies as needed to determine specific features of this program.
a. A system of unobtrusive traffic signs advising travelers of traffic congestion on Highway
1 and suggesting alternate routes should be installed by Caltrans as a step in reducing
undesirable peak period traffic congestion.
b. Roadside visitor information centers should be established near the north end of the Big
Sur coast and at San Simeon at the south end. These centers should provide information
on road and traffic conditions, recreation opportunities, visitor accommodations and
facilities, coastal access locations, and the environmental responsibilities of the public.
c. Progressively stronger traffic regulation measures should be implemented if traffic
congestion seriously affects access and travel conditions. The program should start with
the placement of automated traffic conditions and route option signs. If traffic continues
to increase causing unacceptable Highway 1 service loads, then the flow of traffic into
Big Sur should be regulated by devices such as signal lights.
d. Use of Highway 1 by slow-moving vehicles should be regulated during peak hours of
peak traffic days in order to increase highway capacity to accommodate future growth
in Big Sur coast travel demand. This can be accomplished by requiring slow-moving
vehicles that are holding up traffic to pull over consistent with State law and may, in
addition, require special State legislation to be adopted that will permit access controls
to be established at certain critical times.
5. LAND USE AND DEVELOPMENT
The history of development in Big Sur reflects the changing demands for use of the land. Subsistence
ranching, logging of redwoods, harvesting of tan bark, and mining of limestone and gold provided a
livelihood for early residents. While life was extremely rugged in these early years, there was a
population of nearly 1000 people by the 1880’s largely supported by these basic industries. The
mountainous terrain, numerous deep canyons, and lack of roads made travel difficult and slow. Most
local products were shipped out by sea on the small coastal trading vessels that brought supplies to the
isolated coast’s residents. Palo Colorado Canyon, Notley’s Landing, Bixby Creek, the Big Sur Valley,
and Partington Canyon were early centers of activity. Around the turn of the century, limited
recreational use of the coast began to take place. The Big Sur Valley could be reached by stage from
Monterey and camping in the redwood groves grew in popularity. Hunting and trout fishing were also
popular and some local residents supplemented their income by guiding sportsmen from the cities.
Today the tan bark and limestone industries have ceased. Gold is still mined on a limited basis in the
Los Burros region and a few trees are harvested along the coast. Ranching continues as the major use
of the large private holdings and contributes much to the character of Big Sur. Public recreation and
private residential development are by far the strongest land use trends today.
Single family residences comprise a major developed land use on private land. This occurs either in
rural residential clusters in areas where development has historically been concentrated, or scattered
along Highway 1. Many of the larger parcels are used for cattle grazing. Commercial uses, including
restaurants, grocery stores, and service stations are generally concentrated in the Big Sur Valley. Small
visitor-serving commercial areas include Lucia, Pacific Valley and Gorda, and a few isolated businesses
along Highway 1. Recreational uses include public and private campgrounds, visitor accommodations,
restaurants, State Park units, and the Los Padres National Forest. The U. S. Forest Service has offices
and other facilities in the Big Sur Valley and at Pacific Valley. State Parks and Recreation manages its
units in Big Sur from offices in the Big Sur Valley. Caltrans has maintenance facilities in the Big Sur
Valley and at Gorda. There is a U. S. Naval Station at Point Sur, and the Coast Guard operates the
lighthouse atop Point Sur. A variety of public and quasi-public uses serving the local community are
located in the Big Sur Valley. These include the Big Sur Grange Hall, Captain Cooper Elementary
School, churches, the County library, and Post Office. Another elementary school is located at Pacific
There are approximately 1100 parcels in private ownership on the Big Sur coast, ranging in size from
less than an acre to several thousands of acres. Approximately 700 parcels are vacant, and 370 parcels
are occupied. Many have more than one unit on them, either residential or commercial. Small parcels
of 2.5 acres or less are generally located near the highway or in one of several areas subdivided in the
past for residential purposes. Palo Colorado Canyon, Garrapatos Redwoods, Rocky Point, the Big
Sur Valley, Coastlands, and Partington Ridge are among the areas having the greatest number of
Approximately half of the Big Sur coastal zone is in public ownership by the U. S. Forest Service, the
State Department of Parks and Recreation, the U. S. Navy, the U. S. Coast Guard, and the University
of California. If public acquisitions now contemplated or in progress are completed, approximately
60% of the coast will be publicly owned. Some of the private lands have scenic easements or deed
restrictions which limit the level of development.
5.1.1 Residential Land Use
The 1976 mid-decade census recorded approximately 800 housing units, of which about 600 were
permanent single family dwellings. A large proportion of these home are located in the several
residential areas listed. These areas have generally been developed to a level where the natural
environment is perceived to have been significantly altered, and where residential use is very apparent
on the land. The size and density of these residential areas varies, but in all cases, they are more densely
developed than surrounding lands. They contain a significant number of subdivided and residentially
zoned lots in close proximity, yet do not contain resources or land use activities which generate
significant employment services for the public. While there are historic expectations that buildout of
these areas would proceed, a number of areas are not suitable for full development of all existing parcels
because of conflicts with the broad objective of this plan – particularly the protection of water and
scenic resources or limited capacity of local roads.
Restoration projects, discussed under the implementation (section of the plan will be needed in several
of the areas to reduce developmental potential or to provide improved water supplies.
The significance of the residential areas for planning purposes is that they have the capacity, to some
extent, to accommodate additional residential demand. Unlike the larger properties or commercial
centers, they are not well suited for commercial agriculture, commercial, or visitor uses; use of these
areas, to the extent consistent with resource protection, should continue to be for residential purposes.
Residential areas include: Otter Cove, Garrapata Ridge/Rocky Point, Garrapata and Palo Colorado
Canyon, Bixby Canyon, Pfeiffer Ridge, Sycamore Canyon, Coastlands, Partington Ridge, and Buck
Creek to Lime Creek. The Big Sur Valley, Lucia and Gorda also have significant residential use,
although the primary function of these areas are community service and visitor-serving commercial
The mid-decade census provided considerable information concerning the need for low and moderate
income housing on the coast. Of the housing units in the area, 17% were vacant due to being second
homes. Only 1.3% were vacant and available, at that time, for sale or for rent. The census revealed
that less than half of the occupied units were owner-occupied and that of all the units, 91% were single
families. The census also estimated a median household income of $9,785. A transportation study
inventory revealed 423 persons employed in the area, one third in eating, drinking, and lodging places,
and one third in government (military, Forest Service, etc.). Building Inspections Department records
show the average cost-of construction for a single family unit on the Big Sur coast, the unincorporated
Peninsula area, and the Carmel Valley, was $36,000 in 1970 and rose to $107,000 in 1979. This
factor alone precludes low and moderate income persons and median income households from
homeownership. The 1970 housing inventory identified 215 “Substandard” units and 109 units as
“Conservation Feasible” in the Big Sur area. These figures indicate that some households may need
assistance to meet the national and state goal of “a safe, decent, and sanitary house.”
A serious housing shortage exists for employees in Big Sur, particularly in the visitor industry. Because
there is little housing available, employees have at times been forced to camp-out, live in cars, or move
in with friends. The shortage of affordable housing has also made recruitment of skilled employees
difficult. Several factors affect solutions to the housing problems: the costs of land and housing
precludes the use of traditional housing assistance programs; and year-round employment is not at a
high enough level to support traditional single and multiple family housing projects. Employee housing
provided by an employer must be a primary source of affordable housing in the area. Caretaker
housing, which has traditionally provided shelter for many long-time residents and employees, will also
continue to be an important element of the affordable housing supply.
5.1.3 Recreational Uses
As a recreation area of regional, national, and international importance, Big Sur attracts about 2.9
million visitors annually. The accessibility of Big Sur to several nearby population centers is a major
factor contributing to its high visitation. The basic recreational resource of Big Sur is the visual beauty of
its striking landforms and upspoiled landscape. The mountains, forests, creeks, rivers, and ocean
shoreline combine to offer diverse recreational opportunities. The artistic and rustic lifestyle for which
Big Sur is known creates an attractive cultural setting that complements the natural character of the area.
Recreational activity is concentrated along the coastal strip: on beaches, rocky shoreline, public parks
and forest lands, campgrounds off Highway 1, and various visitor-serving facilities. The major
recreational pursuit is pleasure driving and sightseeing along Highway 1. Other Big Sur recreational
activities include picnicking, sunbathing, beach and tidepool exploration, surfing, scuba diving, fishing,
hunting, nature study, hiking, backpacking, camping, horseback riding, and hang-gliding.
The Big Sur Valley has numerous camping, lodging, dining, and other visitor-serving facilities and is a
focal point for recreational activity and services in Big Sur. The Big Sur River, the beach at the river
mouth, the redwoods in the valley, and Pfeiffer Beach are major natural recreation resources in the area.
The coastal area north of the Big Sur Valley is intensely traveled by visitors passing through or
sightseeing. People stop at numerous turnoffs to view panoramas of the coastline. The major beaches
at Garrapata, Little Sur River, and Point Sur are currently in private ownership and are not formally
open to the public, although there is significant public use of Garrapata and Little Sur River Beach.
The Department of Parks and Recreation is currently negotiating to acquire Garrapata Beach. The
Little Sur River Beach and the Point Sur Beach have been proposed for acquisition. The backcountry
of the National Forest is accessible in the northern area of Big Sur at Bottchers Gap at the end of Palo
The Los Padres National Forest occupies much of the area south of the Big Sur Valley. The National
Forest is a major hiking, backpacking, and camping area. Several trailheads offering access to the
backcountry and the Ventana Wilderness are located off Highway 1. Several beaches including Sand
Dollar Beach, Mill Creek Beach, and other smaller pocket beaches are scattered along the southern Big
Sur coast within the boundaries of the National Forest. Hiking trails are scattered throughout the
Ventana Wilderness and the National Forest backcountry. Day use facilities are provided at Mill
Creek, Sand Dollar Beach, Willow Creek, and Pfeiffer Beach.
5.1.4 Commercial Uses and Private Visitor-Serving Facilities
There is little current demand by residents for development of commercial facilities in Big Sur.
Residents normally shop in the Monterey area. Visitors do create demand for convenience goods and
recreation-oriented supplies and services. Local artisans work in Big Sur, usually at small shops in their
Privately-operated, visitor-serving facilities constitute the major commercial activity on the Big Sur
coast. The Big Sur Valley is an historical and geographic area of residential and commercial
development with a distinct community identity. A chief recreational destination point, it provides a
variety of commercial and public services on a year round basis for area-wide residents and the visiting
public, as well as functioning as a social center for activities and entertainment. Lucia, Gorda, and
Pacific Valley offer more limited services along the southern coast.
At present, there are eight motels, lodges, or inns on the coast providing a total of 168 rooms. Prices
range from about $25.00 to $175.00 a night. Rustic cabins are available at two of the campgrounds.
The New Camaldoli Hermitage, run by a Benedictine Order, has 11 rooms which are available with the
Hermitage’s permission for use as a retreat. Esalen, a nationally known institution, offers
accommodations for 90 people enrolled in education programs. Private campgrounds with about 350
units constitute over half of the vehicle access campsites in Big Sur. All of the private campgrounds
except Limekiln Beach Redwood Campground are located in the Big Sur Valley.
Twelve restaurants seat about 1100 people. There are also nine grocery stores, seven gas stations, and
few gift shops scattered along the length of Highway 1. Private facilities are typically of a small to
moderate scale in harmony with the natural beauty of Big Sur.
5.1.5 Other Activities
In addition to ranching, several industries based around the use of natural resources have historically
been located in Big Sur. Logging and mining were among the first important economic activities in the
area, although over the years, the level of activity has declined. During the last several years, renewed
interest in the coast’s redwood forests has been expressed by several commercial loggers. As the
scarcity and price of redwood increases, it can be expected that pressure to log in Big Sur will increase.
Aquaculture, the cultivation of fish and shellfish for food, is an industry that is growing rapidly in many
parts of the world. Several aquaculture operations have in the past been active on the coast. The
Garrapata Trout Farm at the confluence of Garrapata and Joshua Creeks and a commercial abalone
farm offshore from the mouth of the Big Sur River are among these. The Department of Fish and Game
presently operates a crab and abalone breeding and research facility at Granite Creek.
Gold mining in the Los Burros District is the focal point of present mining activity. Development of a
large deposit of commercial grade limestone near the summit of Pico Blanco Mountain in the Little Sur
River drainage has been proposed in the past by the owners of the property and may be proposed
again in the future.
Big Sur does not possess the characteristics essential to most industries engaged in manufacturing.
Neither the transportation system work force, nor market are adequate to support most manufacturing
and there is a lack of developable land for such uses.
5.2 LAND USE PLANNING ISSUES
Several key issues directly affect planning for the Big Sur coast. These issues concern the effects of
intensified land use and development on the environment and character of the coast and the effect on
public access to the area. Continued residential development and subdivision for residential purposes is
a trend at odds with the preservation of the coast’s natural, scenic, and rural character. The remaining
capacity on Highway 1 at peak use periods to serve further land development is extremely limited. The
California Coastal Act states that remaining road capacity shall be used to serve coastal development
uses such as agriculture and coastal recreation and shall not be precluded by residential development.
Thus, availability of capacity on Highway 1 to accommodate further residential development or
subdivision is a major limitation to these uses.
The basic emphasis of the Coastal Act is clear: to protect the environmental quality and resources of
the California coast while making these available for the enjoyment of all of the citizens of the State. A
major challenge of this plan is to find a way to substantially curtail further commitment to residential
development resulting from subdivision or other land use intensification while also assisting landowners in
achieving the most sensitive possible development of existing parcels.
A second challenge of the plan is to encourage and to protect ranching as an important and traditional
use of the larger land holdings with significant grazing resources. How recreational uses and visitor
accommodations on such properties can be developed to help support agriculture is also an important
Finally, the plan must meet the Coastal Act’s goal of encouraging public recreational use and enjoyment
of the coast while ensuring that the very resources that make the coast so valuable for human enjoyment
are not spoiled. Undesirable impacts of recreation have been in evidence for some years and must be
corrected if Big Sur’s long term promise is to be fulfilled. Overuse of existing private and public
campgrounds, loss of riparian vegetation through trampling, erosion of paths, compaction of soil in
redwood forests, disruption of wildlife habitats, and increased fire hazards are a few of the problems
associated with current levels of recreational use. Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park is an example of a State
facility whose popularity and use is at or beyond its environmental holding capacity. Some private
campgrounds are similarly affected.
Visual impacts associated with recreation in Big Sur include littering, excessive numbers of parked
vehicles along Highway 1, and development of visitor facilities that are visually obtrusive from the scenic
highway. Residents of the coast are at times undesirably affected by recreational activities. There is a
clear need to protect the quality of local water supplies, for residents and visitors alike, and to minimize
the danger of fire hazard during high public summer use periods. The privacy of the residents of the
area should be protected as public access both to the shore and upland areas increases. Visitor safety
is also an issue because of hazardous cliffs and dangerous ocean conditions.
The location, intensity, and character of new recreational facilities needs to be cognizant of all of these
problems. Careful planning is needed to lessen, not increase, impacts associated with recreational
enjoyment of the coast.
5.3 PROPOSED LAND USES
This section describes the kinds, locations and intensities of land uses recommended for the Big Sur
coast. The capabilities of Big Sur’s natural environment and the capacity of the public service system to
support development are reflected in these proposals. However, all new development is also subject to
the policies of other sections of this plan concerning resource management, Highway 1 and other roads,
shoreline access and trails, and is subject to the plans and provisions for administration and
implementation. Thus, final determinations of the acceptability of development proposals and their
locations and densities on a parcel can only be made during the project review process, in consideration
of all elements of the plan.
5.3.1 Land Use Categories
Eight broad categories of land use are proposed for the Big Sur coast that reflect existing and traditional
land uses and the priorities of the California Coastal Act. In all categories agricultural land use is a
principal permitted use as provided for in Section 3.6 of this Plan.
1. National Forest
The U. S. Forest Service manages the Los Padres National Forest under a multiple use concept in
which conservation of plant and wildlife communities, protection of watersheds, maintenance of scenic
beauty, and low intensity recreation are principal land use activities. Forestry, mineral extraction and
grazing can also be practiced under careful controls. Land uses permitted in the Ventana Wilderness
portion of the National Forest are limited to backcountry recreation.
Non-federal development within this designation will be subject to the same development standards and
criteria as Watershed and Scenic Conservation category. Existing administrative and community uses
may continue to operate on National Forestland (e.g. Caltrans maintenance stations, local fire
suppression facilities, Pacific Valley School).
2. Watershed and Scenic Conservation
Protection of watersheds, streams, plant communities, and scenic values is the primary objective.
Principal uses in this category include agriculture/grazing and supporting ranch houses and related ranch
buildings. Recreational facilities permitted in the Outdoor Recreation category including rustic inn or
lodging units, hostels; forestry, mineral extraction, aquaculture and related facilities; and rural residential
and employee housing associated with any of these uses are secondary, conditional uses that will be
considered on their individual merits. Where on-site dining facilities are allowed for the inn units, they
must be limited to that which is needed to serve on-premises overnight guests.
The following criteria shall apply to rustic inns, lodging units, hostels and employee housing: suitability
for recreational uses of the parcel (5.4.3.C-1); ability to avoid adverse impacts on adjacent habitats and
agricultural activities (220.127.116.11 and 3); adequacy of access (5.4.3.D-9) and water supply (3.4.1 and
5.4.3.N-1); and ability of a proposed visitor-serving facility to support or assure the long term provision
of open space and agricultural uses (5.4.3.C-6).
3. Resource Conservation
Protection of sensitive resources, plant communities, and animal habitats and important archaeologic
sites is emphasized. Only very low intensity uses and supporting facilities compatible with protection of
the resource are allowed. Appropriate uses can include carefully controlled low intensity day use
recreation, education, and research. Two types of Resource Conservation areas are shown on the plan
map. State Park Environmental Camping facilities and other low intensity facilities are allowed, but only
where it can be demonstrated that no significant adverse impact on the resources will result.
Coastal Strand and Wetlands – Applies to shoreline and intertidal areas, coastal wetlands, the
lower reaches of major riparian corridors, and floodprone areas.
Forest and Upland Habitats – Applies to environmentally sensitive forest habitat, and grass,
scrub, or chapparal ground cover, rare and endangered plant or wildlife habitats and upland
riparian areas. It also applies to public or private reserves or open space areas set aside for
resource preservation or research.
4. Outdoor Recreation
Low intensity recreational and educational uses that are compatible with the natural resources of the
area and require a minimum level of development to serve basic user needs and necessitating minimal
alteration of the natural environment are appropriate. Such uses are defined as trails, picnic areas,
walk-in camping, tent camping where the campsites are separated from one another, and supporting
facilities. Campgrounds are limited to a maximum of 60 spaces. These are considered to be principal
Minimal necessary housing and maintenance facilities and moderate intensity recreational uses defined as
tent platforms, cabins, RV campgrounds (up to 60 units per site), parks, stables, bicycle paths,
improved restrooms, and interpretive centers are allowed as secondary and conditional uses. On-site
dining facilities may be allowed, but only to the extent needed to serve on-premises overnight guests.
Hostels and campgrounds over 60 spaces may be appropriate as well.
Such secondary and conditional moderate intensity uses are allowed provided that they be allowed in
undeveloped park units only where it is infeasible to locate them in the existing developed park areas
and only where strict conformance to viewshed protection policies can be achieved.
5. Recreational, Visitor-Serving Commercial, Public and Quasi – Public Uses
To respond to the needs of the traveling public, recreational and visitor-serving facilities which may
include restaurants, grocery or general stores, local arts and crafts galleries, inns, hostels, service
stations, RV campgrounds, and moderate intensity recreation are the principal permitted uses.
Secondary, conditional uses include administrative, management and maintenance facilities for public
agencies, fire stations, clinic and ambulance services, community halls, churches, post office, library and
6. Rural Residential
Rural residences are considered a principal use on vacant parcels where applicable resource protection
policies can be met. Secondary uses appurtenant to rural residences include garages, work or storage
sheds, and art or craft studios.
7. Military and Coast Guard
This category applies to the U. S. Naval Station and Coast Guard Station at Point Sur and the Navy
property at Granite Creek leased to the California Department of Fish and Game. Coastal dependent
development is the principal allowed use, with public agency facilities and moderate intensity recreation
uses (as specified in Section 18.104.22.168) as secondary uses.
As provided by the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (CZMA), lands subject to
exclusive federal jurisdiction, such as the Naval Facility at Pt. Sur, are not subject to Coastal Commission
or County jurisdiction. However, when federally owned lands are opened to non-federal
development, such developments are subject to coastal permit requirements. Accordingly, the land use
designations shown for federal lands are for the purpose of regulating future non-federal development, if
any. Federal projects on excluded lands will be addressed by the federal consistency process as
provided by the CZMA.
5.3.2 Land Use Map and Summary of Land Use Proposals
The land uses described in the preceding section are to be located on the Big Sur coast as shown on the
proposed land use map. Eight separate land use patterns are shown on the map’s legend and an
additional designation is used for the four rural community centers.
Overall, the map reflects current land use patterns, with traditional centers of commercial, recreational,
and residential activity remaining as the recommended areas for such uses in the future. Most of the
land on the coast is rural and undeveloped as part of the Los Padres National Forest or large privatelyheld
ownerships. The emphasis on these lands has been on minimal use and careful stewardship. These
basic uses are proposed to remain over most of the area as indicated by the broad use of the
Watershed and Scenic Conservation designation and the National Forest designation. The Watershed
and Scenic Conservation category permits a number of land uses including ranches, rural residences,
low intensity recreation, rustic visitor accommodations, and under careful controls, forestry, mining, and
aquaculture. The development and resource policies of the plan will guide landowners in assuring that
development is compatible with protection of the area. At the same time, the flexibility that this category
permits provides an opportunity for landowners to obtain a reasonable return from the land.
Two Resource Conservation categories are shown on the map. The lagoons at the mouths of the Big
Sur and Little Sur Rivers, and the riparian areas along the lower reaches of the two streams are
classified as Wetlands and Coastal Strand. Numerous other areas along the coast, particularly shoreline
and intertidal areas need the strict protection required by the Resource Conservation classification but,
because of imprecise data on the locations and extent of these areas, they are not shown on the map.
They will be managed instead through the application of the plan’s various resource policies. The plan
shows the Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve as Forest and Upland Habitat in recognition of the research
and preservation purposes to which this State-owned property is devoted.
The Outdoor Recreation category is applied to Molera State Park and the recent Garrapata acquisition,
in order to provide recreational opportunities while ensuring the areas remain in a natural state. The
major beaches on the coast, Garrapata, Little Sur, Point Sur, Pfeiffer, and Sand Dollar, are also
included in this category to protect their primitive and natural character. In addition, uses permitted in
this category are encouraged on appropriate sites within areas shown on the map as Watershed and
Scenic Conservation. Large private properties in particular, can be developed to provide enjoyable low
intensity, outdoor recreation opportunities for the public in a scenic and natural setting. Proposals for
such uses will be considered on any suitable property.
Activities and facilities described in the Outdoor Recreation category are currently available at several
public and private locations including Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park,
Limekiln Creek, Kirk Creek, Mill Creek and Plaskett Creek, which are reflected on the land use map.
A number of privately-operated improved campgrounds are located in the Big Sur Valley.
Otter Cove, Palo Colorado Canyon, Bixby Canyon, Sycamore Canyon, Pfeiffer Ridge, Coastlands,
and Partington Ridge areas are designated principally for Rural Residential use because they contain
numerous comparatively small parcels, generally unsuitable for other kinds of development. While the
land use map reflects the rural residential character of these areas, further subdivision is not generally
appropriate and full buildout of all existing parcels may be unwise in view of the limitations of the natural
environment. Recommendations in Section 5.4 of the plan, point to the need for careful study of each
of these areas to avoid undesirable cumulative impacts resulting from continued residential development.
In all cases, residential development proposals for individual parcels will be considered on their merits
in accordance with applicable plan policies.
The Military Land use designation is used at three locations, Granite Creek, the Point Sur Coast Guard
Light Station, and the U. S. Navy Station just south of Point Sur.
A special land use classification, called Rural Community Center, is depicted by a dotted line
circumscribing portions of the Big Sur Valley, Pacific Valley, Lucia, and Gorda. This is intended to
illustrate the approximate areas within which a variety of land use activities are now carried on. The
plan proposes that these areas continue to provide a spectrum of functions for both the visiting public
and for residents of the adjoining rural areas. Major categories of land use activities appropriate are
those found in the Outdoor Recreation; and Recreational, Visitor-Serving Commercial, Public and
Quasi-Public classifications. Residential development can take place in this category in the Big Sur
Valley at 1 dwelling unit per existing vacant parcel or as employee housing although the limited available
developable land urges that other more essential uses should have preference. In the portions of the
Lucia, Gorda, and Pacific Valley areas delineated as Rural Community Centers, residential development
should be avoided altogether, again, because of limited available land.
The locations of any of these uses within the Rural Community Centers is not a major concern and can
best be determined upon review of individual, specific proposals. In general any use allowed in any
zone is appropriate for Rural Community Centers.
5.3.3 Summary of Development Potential
The plan permits development on existing vacant or partially developed parcels based on conformance
to the standards of the plan. It is estimated that there are 800 such parcels and that approximately 100
new parcels could be created through subdivision. The plan also permits up to 50 caretakers houses.
Expansion of lodging facilities in the Big Sur Valley, Lucia, Pacific Valley and Gorda is possible to some
extent. Up to 50 hostel units can be constructed. Employee housing may also be constructed to serve
commercial visitor-serving facilities and State and Forest Service facilities. The inn unit density
standards are expected to hold inn development to less than 300 new units.
The policies that follow establish a slope density formula as the determinant of potential residential
development. A conversion factor is available in the Watershed and Scenic Conservation land use
designation that permits potential residential units to be developed as inn units at the rate of two inn units
per residence (up to a maximum of 8 per parcel), thereby establishing potential buildout for this major
land use category.
Consequently, long range development of the coast will depend upon the choices made by landowners
over time. A strong response to demand for visitor facilities will result in a reduction in residential
construction potential. For example, if 100 additional residential units are ultimately approved for
development in the Watershed and Scenic Conservation area, this could result in 100 residences. It
could also result in 50 residences and 100 inn units, or no residences and 200 inn units, etc. While this
is only illustrative, it shows the relationship of visitor-serving facilities and residential development based
on the conversion factor. An important condition of the plan is that property can be devoted to either
residential or visitor-serving overnight accommodations, or a combination of both, but that density
credit cannot be applied for both uses from the same acreage.
The plan is flexible concerning the siting of new development, allowing a range of land use proposals to
be made at any particular location. Yet the plan’s resource protection standards, and slope and road
requirements, are stringent, ultimately causing new development to be sited on the most physically
suitable locations and limiting buildout to a level that can be accommodated on those sites that can meet
all of the plan’s requirements.
Table 1 summarizes the major categories of development according to the locations at which the use
could take place and provides standards to guide the density at which campgrounds can be clustered on
the site. No limitation is established in the plan for the number of campsites that could be developed.
TABLE 1: LAND USE AND DEVELOPMENT INTENSITY AND BUILDOUT
5.4 DEVELOPMENT POLICIES
5.4.1 Key Policy
Future land use development on the Big Sur coast should be extremely limited, in keeping with the larger
goal of preserving the coast as a scenic natural area. In all cases, new land uses must remain
subordinate to the character and grandeur of the Big Sur country. All proposed uses, whether public or
private, must meet the same exacting environmental standards and must contribute to the preservation of
Big Sur’s scenery.
5.4.2 General Policies
1. All development and use of the land whether public or private shall conform to all applicable
policies of this plan and shall meet the same resource protection standards.
The Big Sur River and Little Sur River Protected Waterway Management Plans are
incorporated by reference into this plan. The goals, objectives and policies of the plans shall
apply in those areas, as will all provisions of this plan.
2. Development of any area of Big Sur will be limited to uses for that area illustrated on the plan
map and to the use intensities described in the text. Uses not shown on the plan map or
described in the text will not be permitted.
3. Agriculture, passive recreation, and rural residential uses traditionally established in Big Sur are
the most appropriate activities on private lands.
4. Land divisions in general are discouraged and are especially inappropriate on large ranches.
5. Existing parcels of record are considered buildable parcels and are suitable for development of
uses consistent with the plan map provided all resource protection policies can be fully satisfied,
there is adequate building areas of less than 30% cross slope, and they are not merged by
provisions elsewhere in this plan.
6. Many types of land use found in other locations in the County are inappropriate to the Big Sur
coast and are in conflict with the rural environment, the protection of natural resources, and the
general peace of the area and are not therefore provided for in the plan. Among these uses are
intensive recreational activities such as tennis, golf, cinemas, mechanized recreation, boating
facilities, industrial development, manufacturing other than cottage industry or art production,
on-shore or off-shore energy facilities, large scale mineral extraction or mining, oil extraction,
commercial timber harvesting, and any non-coastally dependent industries.
In general, any land use or development of a character, scale, or activity level inconsistent with
the goal of preserving the coast’s natural, undeveloped beauty and tranquility will not be
7. Where areas are designated for watershed restoration in accordance with the procedures
specified in Policy 3.4.3.C-2 of this plan, the County shall consider the objectives of the
proposed restoration activities and limit development in such areas accordingly, regardless of
the land uses proposed for the area in this plan.
8. It is the policy of Monterey County that lands in excess of thirty percent cross slope, located
east of Highway 1, shall not be developed. Those portions of a parcel in this area that have a
cross slope of thirty percent or more shall receive a density of one dwelling unit (d.u.) for 320
The calculation of residential development potential on property east of Highway 1 will be
based on the following slope density formula:
CROSS SLOPE DWELLING UNIT/ACRE
Under – 15% 1 – 40
18 – 30% 1 – 80
Over – 30% 1 – 320
Property west of Highway 1 may be developed at a density rate of 1 d.u. per 40 acres.
9. The following density standards for inn unit development are designed to allow up to 300 new
visitor-serving lodge or inn units on the Big Sur Coast, based on protection of the capacity of
Highway One to accommodate recreational use, the avoidance of overuse of areas of the coast,
and the need for development to respect the rural character of the Big Sur Coast and its many
The number of visitor-serving lodging units on any one site is limited to 30, reflecting the small
scale character of the special Big Sur community. Two or more facilities on the same property
shall not be contiguous (minimum separation 400 feet). As specified in Table 1, the maximum
inn unit density in the Rural Community Centers shall be one unit per acre, with a minimum
parcel size of ten acres. In other locations where inn unit development is allowed in the land use
designations, the number of allowable new inn units shall be two lodging units for each potential
subdivision lot that is permanently retired by action of the applicant. An applicant must
determine from Policy 22.214.171.124, above, the allowable residential density on land that can be
further subdivided and then multiply that density times two to determine the allowable number of
visitor-serving units. However, the maximum inn unit density allowance for any one ownership
in the Watershed and Scenic Conservation land use designation shall not in any event exceed a
net of 8 per existing parcel, which may be aggregated into clusters up to the maximum per site
10. Open space approved as a part of a development proposal shall be secured by a scenic
easement, assuring its retention in perpetual open space or agricultural use.
11. Before any development (other than agricultural improvements and a hostel at the Pt. Sur
lighthouse) is approved for the area adjacent to Naval Facility Pt. Sur, the Commanding Officer
shall be consulted to insure that the proposed development will not constitute a hazard to
military security. The area is defined as that area bounded by Highway One on the east, the first
ridge south of the facility, and the Pt. Sur Lighthouse access road on the north, including the Pt.
Sur Lighthouse Reservation and extending perpendicularly to the seaward limit of the coastal
12. Off-site advertising signs shall not be allowed.
Advertising signs only allowed in connection with commercial or visitor-serving uses, to a
maximum 35 square feet. The size, design, materials, and location of all signs should be in
keeping with the local character, appropriate for the intended use, and be subject to the
Development Permit Process. Materials shall be limited to those which are natural, including
unpainted wood (except for lettering) and stone, whenever feasible. No exterior or interior
neon plastic, moving, or flashing signs will be allowed.
Caltrans should not allow any private signs or advertising structures within the state right-ofway.
13. A coastal development permit must be obtained for the removal of trees and other major
vegetation. However, in the Big Sur Coast area the following will not be considered as removal
of major vegetation:
a. Removal of non-native or planted trees, except where this would result the exposure of
structures in the critical viewshed;
b. Removal of hazardous trees which pose an imminent danger to life or property, or
threaten contagion of nearby forested areas, subject to verification by the County or
California Department of Forestry;
c. Thinning of small (less than 12″ diameter) or dead trees from density forested areas,
especially as needed to reduce unsafe fuel accumulations adjacent to existing occupied
d. Prescribed burning, crushing, lopping or other methods of brush clearing which do not
materially disturb underlying soils.
Selective removal of trees may be permitted where consistent with the Forest Resources
policies of this Plan, provided that no impairment of the critical viewshed or degradation of
environmentally sensitive habitat will result. Where the removal of trees is part of a stand
improvement project or similar long-term management effort, the submission of a Forest
Management Plan for the site will be encouraged by the County; approval of such plans
pursuant to a coastal development permit will obviate the need for multiple permit requests on
the same site.
5.4.3 Specific Policies
A. National Forest Lands
1. The County strongly supports continued management of the Ventana Wilderness in strict
adherence to the provisions of the Wilderness Act.
2. The County requests that the Forest Service give special attention in its planning and
management of the Los Padres National Forest to the protection of the natural environment
from recreational overuse and to the protection of adjacent residents from fire hazard and
water pollution resulting from recreational use.
3. The County will consult with the U.S. Forest Service prior to the issuance of a coastal
development permit for any parcel adjacent to the National Forest lands, roads, or access trails.
4. The “National Forest” land use designation may include some lands not currently managed by
the U.S. Forest Service. Non-federal development within the “National Forest” land use
designation will be subject to the policies for “Watershed and Scenic Conservation”. Lands
added to Los Padres National Forest outside the certified “National Forest” designation will not
be redesignated without Plan amendments.
1. Agricultural resource protection policies presented in Chapter 3 provide the basic framework to
guide agricultural activities and shall be considered in all development applications where
existing or potential grazing land is concerned. Management of agricultural operations should be
particularly sensitive to the protection of water quality and vegetation in riparian areas.
2. Aquaculture activities are considered agriculture uses and are generally compatible with the
goals of this plan. Processing facilities will be carefully considered to assure compatibility with
C. Development of New or Expanded Recreation Facilities
1. Development of recreation and visitor-serving facilities at locations suitable for such use is
preferred over other types of development in Big Sur because of Big Sur’s national significance
as a recreation area.
2. Maintenance of the rustic, outdoor recreational character of Big Sur is emphasized. The
expansion and development of recreation and visitor-serving facilities in Big Sur shall be of a
scale and nature that is compatible with the natural and cultural character of the area while
offering opportunities for visitors to experience and enjoy the beauty and inspiration that the Big
Sur environment presents. Intensive recreational uses or facilities are not appropriate and shall
not be permitted.
Compatible scale and character shall include limiting the number of visitor accommodation units
as specified in 126.96.36.199 and shall limit such structures to two stories in height, subject to site
constraints. Intensive visitor-serving projects (those over 5 units) will be required to enhance
and/or provide public coastal recreational opportunities consistent with Coastal Act Sections
30212.5 and 30222 and all Plan policies.
The provisions of this policy shall apply to policy 3, below, as well as all other relevant Plan
3. The Soberanes Point, Garrapata Beach, and the Little Sur River areas should be planned for
low-intensity, day-use recreational development with minimal provision of facilities. The scenic
and natural resources of these areas should be preserved in a natural state.
4. Historical resource areas can offer interesting and attractive recreational opportunities for
visitors to Big Sur. These areas shall be preserved for public recreational and educational use.
5. The County encourages expansion and development of public and private recreation and
visitor-serving facilities within existing areas of development. Accordingly, new development, or
expansion of existing recreation and visitor-serving facilities in the Big Sur Valley, and at Lucia,
Gorda, and Pacific Valley is generally acceptable provided resource protection policies can be
6. Undeveloped areas in Big Sur shall be preserved for low intensity recreational use such as
hiking and camping and nature study. Only minimal alterations of Big Sur’s existing natural
environment and recreational character shall be allowed. Development of low intensity
recreation uses and visitor-serving facilities are encouraged on the larger properties where this
will assist in providing economic uses of the land and in meeting Coastal Act objectives for
7. Recreational and visitor-serving facility expansion and development proposals shall be evaluated
on an individual basis. All proposals must demonstrate consistency with the land use plan and
environmental, visual, design and traffic constraints. Visitor-serving facilities may be approved
on any size parcel meeting the standards listed in Table 1 and large enough to allow for the
construction of needed employee housing, provide adequate sewage disposal and parking, and
otherwise, satisfy the policies of this plan. Additional criteria for inn unit development include:
a. Must have direct access to public road (not including Sycamore Canyon or Palo
Colorado Roads), or common driveway with permission of the other owners;
b. Deed restrictions must be recorded to preclude rental or subdivision of the inn units as
separate residential dwelling units.
No portion of acreage necessary for one facility shall be credited to a different facility. For
example, pursuant to Table 1, a 25-acre parcel in a Rural Community Center could have 25 inn
units, or 50 RV campsites or 10 inn units and 30 RV campsites.
Inns shall provide at least one parking space per room. Free-standing restaurants (not part of
an inn) shall provide at least one space per four seats or per 100 sq. ft. of both open and
enclosed dining area, whichever is greater. In addition, adequate and separate employee
parking shall be provided.
New free-standing restaurant development shall be limited to the Rural Community Centers and
the sites specified in Plan policy 5.4.3.E-1. The maximum size for such new restaurant
structures shall be that amount of space needed for a 120-seat enclosed dining room facility.
Elsewhere, restaurants shall not be larger than required to serve the maximum size inn allowed
on the parcel (generally, at the ratio of two seats per inn unit). Expansion of existing restaurant
buildings shall be limited in scale to that which is in character with Big Sur, not to exceed a 10%
expansion in area or an area sufficient for 120 dining room seats, whichever is greater.
8. Projects for new or extensively expanded recreation and visitor-serving facilities shall provide
low-cost recreational facilities as part of the development. The establishment of low-cost
hostels in Big Sur is encouraged as part of a comprehensive hostel system for the California
9. Applicants for commercial developments shall submit a profile of the number of expected
employees. The profile shall indicate, in general ranges, the income of the prospective
employees and other information that would allow for an assessment of the employee housing
needs to be created by the development. An employee housing plan shall be submitted that
indicates how the employer shall, as part of the development or otherwise, satisfy all, or a
substantial portion of, the housing needs of the employees.
10. The County requests that State and Federal agencies prepare long range recreational
development plans for areas under their jurisdiction. The County requests that these plans
contain traffic components describing the portion of Highway 1 capacity required to serve the
proposed recreational development, including public transportation potential. The County will
seek to assure that approval of these plans will be made jointly and on a cooperative basis, by
all agencies involved in the management of Highway 1. Environmental assessments will be
required for all such proposals. Development of public and private recreational facilities will be
phased as part of a recreational growth management program based on available highway
capacity. Development standards for approval of recreational facilities and visitor-serving
facilities on government lands shall be identical to those applied to private developments in Big
D. Recreation Management
1. Management of recreation uses in Big Sur shall emphasize the enjoyment of the natural scenic
environment and shall preserve the rural, wilderness, and inspirational qualities for which the Big
Sur coast is famous. A high standard of resource protection is required to maintain the valuable
resources of the Big Sur coast in perpetuity.
2. Additional funding should be allocated by the State and Federal governments to manage and
maintain existing public recreation areas before more public land is opened to recreational use
by these same agencies.
3. Management policies for Outdoor Recreation areas shall be to limit levels of use in
environmentally sensitive areas and redirect recreational activities to other areas able to support
anticipated use with minimal environmental impacts.
4. Pleasure driving along scenic Highway 1 is a major recreational activity. Public transit service to
the coast should be expanded. Local transit service within Big Sur should be initiated to serve
the visitors of State Parks, Los Padres National Forest facilities, and private recreation and
5. The Department of Parks and Recreation and the Forest Service should reserve a portion of
campground capacity for visitors arriving during non-peak traffic hours in order to distribute
Highway 1 traffic destined for these areas more evenly throughout the day.
6. The County will cooperate with Caltrans, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Forest
Service and San Luis Obispo County in establishing roadside visitor information centers near
each end of the Big Sur coast. These centers will be for the convenience of travelers, will assist
in reducing unnecessary traffic on Highway 1, and will help coordinate operation of private and
public recreational facilities. The determination of appropriate information center sites will be
coordinated with Caltrans as part of the Plan implementation.
7. Caltrans shall provide additional roadside restroom facilities located south of Big Sur Valley to
serve visitors and the traveling public, consistent with viewshed and resource protection criteria.
The determination of appropriate restroom locations will be coordinated with Caltrans as part
of the Plan implementation.
8. Improvements to the Bicentennial Bicycle Path shall be completed where feasible and the route
shall be properly signed and marked to alert drivers and provide bicyclists extra protection.
9. Adequate public access shall be provided to recreational areas but all appropriate management
measures should be used to discourage trespass site design and facility mangement should
discourage trespass onto adjacent property.
10. Surfing and scuba diving are not encouraged due to hazardous conditions. Development of
special facilities for these uses would be inappropriate.
11. The Forest Service may designate appropriate areas in the vicinity of Pacific Valley for hanggliding
and shall provide supervision to discourage hang-gliding in areas that could endanger the
safety of hang-gliders and the public. Hang-gliding from private property shall be allowed only
upon prior approval of the owner.
12. Off-road vehicle recreation its not an appropriate use in the Plan area.
1. Development of new commercial uses serving community and visitor needs be directed to the
existing Rural Community Centers of the Big Sur Valley, Lucia, Gorda, and Pacific Valley.
Several commercial uses including the Rocky Point Restaurant, Big Sur Inn, and Coast Gallery,
are currently found outside the Rural Community Centers designated on the land use map and
these are considered conforming uses under the plan. However, gasoline service stations,
general stores, or similar highway-oriented commercial structures shall not be allowed outside of
the rural community centers.
2. Westmere, well known as the site of a lodge serving visitors to the northern portion of the Big
Sur Coast, may re-establish the historic use as a lodge of 24 units that reflects the historic
character of the site in design and scale. A specific development proposal for Westmere may
request additional units subject to the limitations set forth in this Plan. In order to meet policies
for the protection of the critical viewshed, the new lodge should use the original site which is
hidden from public view. Overall visual restoration of the surrounding area, under the same
ownership, should be carried out as a condition of the development of the lodge and public
access to the beach at Rocky Creek should also be provided.
3. Commercial development shall carry out the rustic character of Big Sur both in size, scale,
activities, and design.
4. Large scale commercial facilities that are unlike the existing character and size of facilities in Big
Sur shall not be permitted.
5. Cottage shop industry, defined as small-scale manufacturing of artistic or craft items, is
encouraged as a traditional activity in the area. It shall be treated as an appropriate home
occupation in any areas where residences are permitted and shall not be restricted to areas
designated for commercial uses.
6. Commercial facilities shall be aimed at serving both local residents and the visiting public.
Businesses intended to serve solely local residents are discouraged. No minimum site standards
are established for commercial uses but adequate physical area to meet parking requirements
and natural resource concerns must be available before existing businesses can be expanded or
new facilities can be approved.
7. Existing commercial facilities are encouraged to expand and improve existing buildings as a
desirable means of meeting growth in demand. Scattered commercial uses not in Rural
Community Centers may expand existing secondary uses provided such expansion is small in
scale and clearly subordinate and incidental to the primary use.
8. Renewal of use permits for existing commercial uses or the establishment of new uses will
require careful consideration of the impact of the use on surrounding land from a good neighbor
point of view. Particularly where commercial activities are in proximity to residences, care must
be taken to ensure that noise or visual modification do not affect the peace and tranquility of
9. New commercial uses or expansion of existing uses will be evaluated for their impact on traffic
safety and highway capacity in the area. Parking shall be screened from public views from
Highway One and should in no event create hazards for motorists or pedestrians.
10. Commercial development which would enhance recreational use of public lands existing nearby
by providing specific physical improvements (e.g. trail links, interpretive facilities) or
management (e.g. ranger, fire control, contribution of funds to a public management agency), or
development which includes specific improvements to public access to the shoreline and the
surrounding lands shall be preferred.
11. Existing and permitted visitor-serving uses will be protected from encroachment by incompatible
uses (such as residences) which might hamper their future ability to expand or improve
consistent with 5.4.3.E-7.
Conversion of existing low cost overnight accommodations to other uses, unless replaced with
comparable facilities, will not be permitted.
1. A range of public and quasi-public services are present in Big Sur and serve both the local
community and visitors. These include, or have included in the past, churches, two elementary
schools, volunteer fire protection, County library, post office, Big Sur Grange Hall, ambulance
service, State Park and Forest Service management facilities, and public agency radio
repeaters, flood monitors and navigational aids. These should continue to be concentrated in
the Big Sur Valley, Pacific Valley, Lucia, and Gorda but should be upgraded based on present
need and future growth.
2. In general, improvements should be made in the level of public services available in Big Sur.
Permanent buildings should be constructed for the U.S. Post Office and the County Branch
Library. Other facilities needed include a fire station to protect against structural fires and to
augment the volunteer companies, a public meeting hall to reduce pressure on the Big Sur
Grange Hall, and an emergency clinic with ambulance service. Where practical, such uses
should be clustered or co-located to minimize impacts.
3. The existing elementary schools in the Big Sur Valley and at Pacific Valley are expected to be
adequate for some time. Increased classroom needs should be accommodated at these
locations rather than new sites.
4. Like other uses, public and quasi-public uses must meet strict resource protection and
environmental criteria. Such facilities shall not be constructed in primary floodplains.
G. Rural Residential
1. Subdivision of large undeveloped or agricultural properties for residential purposes is strongly
discouraged. Clustering of residential units on large undivided properties at this rate is preferred
to subdivision creating separate parcels.
2. Development in designated rural residential areas shall continue to be limited to residential uses
in order to protect residents from unwanted intrusion by other incompatible activities and
because neither available vacant land, water, nor roads are adequate to support more intensive
3. Reconstitution of parcels or mergers may be required for any area of the coast where past land
divisions have resulted in parcels being unusable under current standards or where cumulative
impacts on coastal resources require limitations on further development. Parcel mergers shall be
based on the following criteria:
(a) The minimum buildable parcel shall be one acre;
(b) Each parcel must contain a suitable septic and drainfield location on slopes less than
30%, and must be able to meet Regional Water Quality and County stream setback and
septic system requirements; and
(c) Each parcel must conform to all Plan policies for residential development on existing
4. Merger provisions shall apply to Garrapatos Redwoods Subdivision.
H. Residential Subdivision
1. Subdivision of land for residential use is be preferred in areas which are in proximity to existing
developed areas able to accommodate further development. “Developed areas” shall mean
those areas indicated as such on the land use plan map as Rural Residential or Rural Community
Center. Subdivisions of land not in proximity to existing developed areas should generally be
discouraged until a development pattern for the surrounding area has been established and the
proposed subdivision is shown to be compatible with that development pattern. The County
shall adopt guidelines in the implementation of this plan for determining the relevant surrounding
area of a proposed subdivision and the establishment of a development pattern for the
2. Subdivision layouts shall be encouraged that vary from conventional subdivision standards if the
proposed innovations in design better meet the policies and intent of the Coastal Act and this
3. Density rates, as specified in policy 188.8.131.52 and Table 1 shall not be meant to define the
minimum lot size where clustering is proposed. However, restrictions shall be applied to ensure
that the density rate is not exceeded by additional divisions of the original parcel, and in no event
shall any new parcel be less than one acre in size.
4. Resubdivisions and lot line adjustments are encouraged when no new developable lots are
created and when plan policies are better met by this action.
5. Non-contiguous parcels shall be included within the scope of the resubdivision policy. Lots
served by Highway 1 north of Hurricane Pt. may be retired in favor of increased density south
of the Point.
I. Low and Moderate Income Housing
The County is required by State laws mandating the Housing Element of the General Plan, to provide
programs to increase the availability of low and moderate income housing. The following policies which
are based on the goals of the adopted County Housing Element reflect those actions that will be most
effective for the Big Sur coast.
1. The County shall protect existing affordable housing in the Big Sur coastal area from loss due to
deterioration, conversion or any other reason. The County shall:
a) Require replacement, on a one-for-one basis, of all demolished units which were
affordable to low and moderate income households. However, prior to demolition of
any residence, an historical evaluation shall be made to determine if the structure has
historical significance. Historically significant structures shall not be demolished.
b) Promote rehabilitation and weatherization of housing units owned or rented by low and
moderate income households.
c) Study relaxation of building code requirements and if appropriate adopt minimum
building code regulations for the rehabilitation of older housing units.
d) Replacement affordable housing units shall be retained as low and moderate income
units through deed restrictions or other enforceable mechanisms.
2. The County shall encourage the expansion of housing opportunities for low and moderate
income households. The County shall:
a) Work cooperatively with Big Sur residents desiring to construct hand-made houses of
original design, utilizing native materials. The County encourages this as a contribution
to the coast’s culture and will assist residents in insuring these designs meet minimum
necessary health and safety standards.
b) Require that as a condition of all permits related to additions to existing public or private
visitor facilities or the construction of new facilities that employee housing be
constructed on-site, or in the immediate vicinity, and be made available to low and
moderate income employees in accordance with Policy C-9 of this section. Such
housing must be provided prior to or concurrent with the proposed development, and
must be permanently linked to the visitor-serving use through appropriate binding
guarantees. Maximum size per newly-constructed employee housing unit (other than
dormitories) shall be 850 square feet. The maximum number of such new housing units
shall not exceed one per inn unit or one per six restaurant seats.
c) Encourage the use of caretaker’s accommodations as an appropriate means of
providing affordable housing for caretakers, ranch hands, convalescent help, and
domestic employees. Applicants for detached care takers’ residences shall demonstrate
a need for the unit as part of the development review process. Detached caretaker’s
residences shall not exceed 850 square feet in size. Subdivisions shall not be permitted
to divide a principal residence from a care taker’s residence. Only one caretaker’s unit
shall be allowed on the parcel. All such units shall be considered as part of the
residential buildout allowed by this plan.
A total of 50 such units may be allowed in the area of the Big Sur Land Use Plan.
d) Additional agricultural employee housing is permitted at the rate of one
dormitory/bunkhouse per ranch, consistent with all other Plan policies.
J. Second Structures
1. Detached or attached guest rooms are not to be equipped for permanent living and are not
considered residences. They shall be permitted at the maximum rate of one (either attached or
detached) per parcel or one (either attached or detached) for each principal residence providing
the constraints of the parcel and other plan policies permit. Furthermore, detached guest rooms
shall be located in close proximity to the principal residence, share the same utilities except
where prohibited by public health, contain no kitchen or cooking facilities, and be to 425 square
feet. Conditions shall be implemented by CC & Rs or other legal restrictions, including
revocation provisions for non-conformance. Subdivisions shall not be permitted to divide a
principal residence from a guest room.
2. Studios and other small non-residential and non-commercial accessory structures such as tool
sheds, workshops, or barns may be permitted on any size parcel provided the constraints of the
parcel and other plan policies permit. None of these units shall ever be used for habitation
purposes. For structures whose design does not preclude habitation, legal restrictions shall be
applied in the same manner as described in Policy 5.4.3.J-1 above.
K. Private Roads Outside the Critical Viewshed
1. New private roads may be permitted only where:
a) The proposed new road is appropriate for the establishment, continuation or expansion
of Coastal Act priority use: or
b) The proposed new road is essential for basic residential access, and no reasonable
alternative exists; or
c) The proposed new road provides a superior alternative to an existing road in carrying
out the policies of this Plan.
2. New private roads shall meet the following criteria, in addition to meeting all other resource
protection policies of this Plan:
a) Such roads shall be able to accommodate emergency vehicles, particularly fire
equipment, while permitting residents to evacuate the area.
b) Appropriate planting of exposed slopes and submittal of detailed drainage and erosion
control plans shall be conditions for issuance of a permit for such roads.
c) A qualified biologist shall certify that any environmentally sensitive habitats present will
not be harmed.
d) A qualified engineer shall certify that potential erosion impacts from road construction
shall be adequately mitigated (i.e., the proposed road construction will not induce
landsliding or significant soil creep, nor increase existing erosion rates). Mitigation
measures shall not include massive grading or excavation or the construction of
protective devices that would substantially alter natural landforms.
e) New roads across slopes of 30 percent or greater shall not be allowed unless:
1. No feasible alternative exists;
2. The proposed design of the road on balance better achieves the overall
resource protection objectives of this Plan.
3. The County shall require 12-foot width for roads serving new residential development, including
both minor subdivisions and isolated single-family dwellings. Narrower residential roads should
be allowed only where adequate turnouts are provided at frequent intervals to the satisfaction of
the Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service, where applicable. Greater roadway
widths may be necessary to accommodate clustering of residential units, or where nonresidential
use is permitted, provided that all criteria of Policy 2 above are met. The standards
for private rural roads set forth in the County’s Subdivision Ordinance should serve as guidelines
for road requirements.
L. Big Sur Valley
1. Special attention shall be given to the Big Sur Valley as the community center as well as a center
of recreational activity on the Big Sur coast. Policies of this plan concerning recreation and
commercial development, public and quasi-public uses, hazards, and traffic shall be carefully
considered in all development proposals in the Valley. Of special concern for sites having
highway frontage is whether the highway access is unsafe for the principal use, and for parcels
without frontage, whether the access is unsafe for the principal use and the site is of adequate
size to accommodate a viable principal use.
2. Outdoor Recreation, Recreation and Visitor-Serving Commercial uses, and Public and Quasi-
Public uses, shall be the principal uses in the Valley since the available space for these necessary
activities is very limited. Residential development will be considered appropriate on sites not
suitable for these uses.
3. Offices and related service buildings of the Department of Parks and Recreation and the U. S.
Forest Service shall be grouped together on an integrated site with permanent, aestheticallypleasing
buildings. Parking areas for these facilities, and the existing trailhead parking lot for the
Ventana Wilderness, shall be screened from public view to the maximum possible extent
through careful siting and the use of vegetative screening.
4. Visual emphasis for development in the Big Sur Valley should be on tasteful, rustic design using
natural materials and careful siting of structures to meet scenic protection objectives rather than
the criteria of non-visibility. This policy variation is needed because of the importance of the
area as a recreation destination point and because development is already visible.
5. Traffic congestion, recreational overuse with associated environmental impacts, increased levels
of activity and noise, and limitations on available water to serve new or expanded uses, all point
to the need for special care in planning for the growth of the Big Sur Valley. County policy will
be to avoid construction of sewer systems and treatment plants to serve development in the Big
Sur Valley, unless pollution of the Big Sur River requires this step.
6. The 100-year floodplain of the Big Sur River poses considerable limitations on development in
the Valley. No additional permanent structures shall be permitted to be built in the floodplain.
Campgrounds or similar outdoor recreational uses are most appropriate in this hazardous area.
7. The County encourages both public and private interests to undertake work to restore riparian
vegetation, improve stream channel conditions, and reduce impacts of concentrated use along
the lower Big Sur River. These needs are discussed more fully in the management plan for the
Big Sur River which will serve as an additional guide to development and use of the lower river
area. The management plan for the Big Sur River is on file at the County Planning Department
8. The Big Sur Valley policies apply only in the Rural Community Center and Outdoor Recreation
land use designations.
M. Development of Large Properties and Ranches
1. The development of properties of 320 acres or greater, for uses other than agricultural
structures or a single residence, shall require submittal of an overall development and
management plan for the property. The plan shall indicate all long range uses contemplated on
the property. Areas proposed for development of residences, visitor-serving facilities or low
intensity recreational uses shall be clearly delineated and areas to be retained for grazing, and
open space and habitat protection, and public access shall be indicated. All proposed roads
shall be shown. The plan shall contain a description of how development will be phased over
2. Because agricultural and recreational uses most closely conform to the priorities of the Coastal
Act, the County encourages plans that emphasize these uses. The County will assist private
landowners of large properties in the preparation of development plans that increase the viability
of agricultural and recreational uses and that will help sustain the property in an undivided state
over the long term.
3. Residential subdivision is discouraged in favor of clustering residential uses at locations on the
property that create minimal disruption of existing or potential agricultural uses, and that retain
the balance of the property in an undivided interest between the new owners.
4. Owners of large properties are encouraged to take advantage of tax benefits that can result
through working with non-profit conservation agencies or trusts, such as the Big Sur Land Trust,
the Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Lands, and the California Coastal Conservancy.
The County will assist large property owners in voluntarily securing agricultural, conservation,
and scenic easements on their property to reflect the low intensity development appropriate in
N. Water Resource Study Areas
1. Applications requiring development or intensification of water use shall be permitted in
watershed study areas designated in Section 3.4.3 only as provided by the policies of that
1. The County recognizes that full development of vacant parcels in the rural residential areas may
be undesirable or unfeasible because of various resource limitations. Detailed planning review
of areas with known or anticipated problems should be completed within the next few years in
order to assist residents and property owners in finding acceptable solutions. Master
environmental impact statements are one tool that could be used. In the Sycamore Canyon and
Pfeiffer Ridge areas, for example, studies should be directed to resolving fire protection, water
supply, and traffic congestion issues. Palo Colorado Canyon appears to contain more vacant
parcels than the available water supply can serve.
6. PUBLIC ACCESS
Shoreline accessways and upland trails are essential components of the public access system on the Big
Sur coast. Both are important to the public enjoyment and appreciation of Big Sur’s scenic qualities and
Many of the most suitable locations for physical access are already in public ownership or have been
traditionally used by the public. These areas need to be protected and managed for continued public
use and enjoyment. The lack of adequate management of existing access areas has led to a decline in
the quality of natural resources as well as the visual experience and has created hazards to public safety
and danger of fires. Additionally, increasing incidents of vandalism and damage to resources from public
use have contributed to private landowners’ reluctance to permit public use of trails through their
property. While new locations may be suitable for access and the opportunities for increasing access
must not be lost, provision of adequate management must be a requirement to any additional access.
This plan sets forth policies and actions to protect, provide, and manage public access in order to
enhance the visitor experience while assuring preservation of the coast’s environmental quality. The
intent of these recommendations is to use the existing system as much as possible, and to improve
existing but deteriorated trails, where needed, to provide more evenly distributed access. This approach
minimizes both the visual and environmental impacts associated with construction and use of new trails
and the conflicts involved in providing a new trail access through a multitude of private ownerships.
Cooperation between the County, public management agencies, local landowners, and the community
are essential to the implementation of the Access Element.
The following discussion provides more detailed information on shoreline access and upland trails.
6.1.1 Shoreline Access
The public’s right to shoreline access is ensured by the State Constitution and provisions of the
California Coastal Act. In the past, the County and other public agencies have sought to provide
access, where suitable, along the Big Sur coast. The visual experience has been the most traditional and
most dominant form of access along the coast. Therefore, preservation of visual resources is an
overriding goal in planning for Big Sur.
The spectacular scenic quality of the Big Sur coast is, in large part, due to the rugged topography and
undeveloped nature of the area. Steep cliffs and bluffs lead to rocky shorelines punctuated by seasonal
pocket beaches. A few wide sandy beaches are concentrated in less steep terrain along the coast. In
general, access to most of the shoreline is difficult and hazardous. Access destinations of suitable size,
safety, and distance from sensitive habitats are found irregularly along the coast. Much of the coast is
suitable only for visual rather than physical access.
Approximately half of the shoreline is in public ownership. Presently the following locations in public
ownership provide shoreline access: Andrew J. Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Beach, Partington Cove, J.
P. Burns State Park, Kirk Creek, Mill Creek, Sand Dollar Beach, Jade Cove, Willow Creek, Cape
San Martin, and Alder Creek.
The following sites are in private ownership with existing public use, although the legality of such use is
not always clear: Malpaso Creek, Garrapata Beach, Rocky Point to Rocky Creek, Bixby Creek,
Hurricane Point, Little Sur River, Little Sur to Point Sur, Swiss Canyon, Fuller’s Beach, Big Creek,
Gamboa Point, and Vicente Creek. A private campground is operated at Limekiln Creek, with beach
access available for a fee. The shoreline from Soberanes Point to Garrapata Beach and the Little Sur
River is slated for acquisition by the State Department of Parks and Recreation.
In northern Big Sur, the area between Malpaso Creek and Molera Park experiences heavy visitor use:
the highest incidence of public access over private lands occurs here. In central Big Sur, from Molera
Park to J. P. Burns Park (16 miles), there are four public coastal access points. This area experiences
the greatest concentration of camping and overnight use. The coast between Anderson Canyon and
Limekiln Creek (14 miles) is for the most part privately-owned, and is characterized by extremely steep
topography that limits access. The major portion of the south coast, from Limekiln to the San Luis
Obispo County line (2l miles), is in the National Forest with various improved access points. In general,
unrestricted shoreline access exists on these lands.
Access trails outside of the National Forest tend to be informal and hazardous. Parking lots are
provided at the State Park units and developed Forest Service beaches. Parking is available at two
scenic overlooks, Abalone Cove and Vista Point, both of which are paved turnouts maintained by
Caltrans. At the other shoreline destinations, parking is available only at unpaved pullouts.
Many access sites along the coast have experienced degradation from unmanaged use or overuse.
Unplanned and unmaintained trails have led to trampling of vegetation, soil compaction, and visual
scarring of the bluffs. Problems of litter and sanitation occur at beaches in private ownership with
frequent public use. The impact of all of this is the lessening of the quality of the recreational experience
for the visitors, as well as degradation or the natural resources of the coastline.
Though the County recognizes the increasing public demand for access to the Big Sur coast, it also
recognizes the importance of preserving the fragile natural environment. A range of additional concerns,
including the need to ensure public safety and to protect the rights of residents and landowners must be
resolved. County’s objective then, is to plan for public shoreline access and ensure balance between
The proposals in this chapter are aimed at meeting these many requirements. Combined with an active
implementation program, they should do much to effect an optimum degree of public shoreline access.
Beyond the policies presented here, the Shoreline Access background report makes recommendations
for specific improvements needed at various access locations. These should be used as a guide by the
County and other agencies when actual improvements are initiated.
Trails provide both recreational opportunities for the hiker, equestrian, and bicyclist, as well an
alternative form of transportation to recreational areas. Public access to scenic and remote areas not
served by roads can be obtained sometimes by trail. Most of the trails in Big Sur are located within Los
Padres National Forest. The general policy of the Forest Service is to permit public access throughout
the forest, and there is a network of maintained trails and backpacking camps. Some of the trails and
dirt roads leading into the forest, cross private lands, and do not currently have full public right-of-way
through these sections.
Today there are fewer miles of maintained trails than in former years. Over time, many traditional trails
have been abandoned or closed to public use. Some of the trails in the National Forest are not
maintained because they cross private lands with no legal rights-of-way. Prior to the construction of
Highway 1, a trail existed along the length of the Big Sur coast, along the present alignment of the
highway. The Old Coast Road is part of this early coastal trail.
According to the Big Sur Unit Forest Management Plan, over 100 miles of trails exist within the Big Sur
portion of the Los Padres National Forest. Hiking is the major activity, but hunting, fishing, and
horseback riding are also popular. Portions of the Ventana Wilderness are also located within or
adjacent to the Coastal Zone. The Forest Service is concerned that overuse has damaged wilderness
qualities in portions of the Ventana Wilderness through overuse of existing access along the Big Sur
River. The Forest Service is encouraging the provision of additional access points or trails into the
wilderness to help alleviate this problem.
Andrew Molera, Pfeiffer-Big Sur and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parks contain trails within the park units.
In addition to providing pedestrian circulation within the parks themselves, some of these trails could
assist in providing improved access to public forest lands east of the highway.
In the section of the coast from Malpaso Creek to the Big Sur Valley, the Los Padres National Forest
boundary is several miles east of Highway 1. At present, trail access to the National Forest from the
highway is through private lands. Some trails have informal rights-of-way used by the U.S. Forest
Service and there are a few trails which have historically been used by the public. Access through
private lands is often arranged between the landowners and organized groups, particularly hiking or
nature study clubs.
The idea of a Pacific Coast trail system along the length of the California coast is not new. The State of
California Trails Plan recommended such a trail network, and the Monterey County Trails Plan
proposed this for the Big Sur area. Specific alignments have never been developed. A continuous trail
system in a north-south direction would offer a unique recreational experience for both the coastal
visitor and resident.
The only existing trails paralleling the coast are in Molera State Park, along the beach or adjacent bluffs,
and the Coast Ridge Road. The Coast Ridge Road is a jeep road which begins near Ventana Inn south
of the Big Sur Valley, and extends to the southern boundary of the County with a few interruptions.
Several trails connect Highway 1 to the Coast Ridge Road along its length.
There is an overall need to improve the coastal trail system, including increased trail access to the
National Forest particularly to relieve areas of existing overuse. Where improvements are made, they
should be coupled with a management program to protect affected public and private resources.
The Trails Map illustrates the trails that are recommended to provide major links to public lands. Only
major trails are shown. Other trails exist on private lands but may not provide links to public recreation
areas. In some cases, provision of new trails may pose problems with respect to acquiring rights-ofway
or conflict with private land use. These are not shown on the map.
The corridor concept reflected on the proposed Trail Plan is often used in planning trails in preference to
precise trail alignments. In cases where no trail presently exists, planning for trail corridors preserves
flexibility to determine the most suitable alignments for trail improvements at the time such opportunities
become available. In all cases, including were specific trails already exist, the corridor concept reflects
the need to consider the interrelationship of the trail and its use by the public and adjacent existing or
proposed land uses. By planning for the trail as a corridor the range of possible impacts can be
anticipated and properly considered.
Some public trails exist in Big Sur within the State Parks and National Forest that are not shown here.
These are trails which are not major corridors or do not have trailheads in the coastal zone. They can
be easily found in Park and Forest Service maps, and trails guide for the area.
Trails through future park lands should be provided only after the land is acquired and opened for public
use. For public trails presently crossing private lands, State Parks and Recreation or the Forest Service
should obtain full legal rights-of-way, including management and maintenance arrangements.
Some trails are open to organized groups on a reservation basis only, such as the loop interpretive trail
now owned by the State as part of Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve. The plan proposes that this
practice continue and be expanded as a means of ensuring protection of sensitive natural resources or
avoiding undesirable conflicts with private uses while still accommodating public access. Private trails
can be opened to the public on a fee basis in conjunction with low intensity recreation facilities allowed
on private lands. Trails easements may be required as part of the subdivision or zoning process where
appropriate. In some instances, private trails may be opened to the public through trail easements.
These should be pursued where the trail would be of public benefit.
6.1.3 Key Policy
The rights of access to the shoreline, public lands, and along the coast, and opportunities for recreational
hiking access, shall be protected, encouraged and enhanced.
Yet because preservation of the natural environment is the highest priority, all future access must be
consistent with this objective. Care must be taken that while providing public access, the beauty of the
coast, its tranquility and the health of its environment are not marred by public overuse or carelessness.
The protection of visual access should be emphasized throughout Big Sur as an appropriate response to
the needs of recreationists. Visual access shall be maintained by directing all future development out of
the viewshed. The protection of private property rights must always be of concern.
6.1.4 General Policies
1. Overall, the best locations for public access to the shoreline, public lands and along the coast
are already in use or have been used in the past. Major access areas, whether in public or
private ownership, shall be permanently protected for long term public use. These should be
improved and managed properly by designated public or private agencies before new locations
2. Other areas suitable for public access should also be protected for such use. At such time as
new access is provided, or existing access is formalized or increased, an appropriate public
agency must assume management responsibility for public use, or agreements concerning such
responsibility must be reached with landowners.
3. Access should be discouraged as inappropriate where it would be inconsistent with public
safety, military security or the protection of fragile coastal resources. The County and other
public agencies should cooperate with landowners to develop effective methods to direct access
to appropriate locations.
4. Visual access should be protected for long term public use. The development of scenic
viewpoints in conjunction with accessways or where physical access is not appropriate is
5. Bluff top and lateral access is appropriate in many areas along the coast. These opportunities
shall be protected for long term public use, subject to adequate management programs, the
development of which is an implementation activity.
6. Trails should be located in areas able to sustain public use without damage to natural resources
or other conflicts. Therefore, new and existing trails should be sited or rerouted to avoid safety
hazards, sensitive habitats, and incompatible land uses.
7. The provision of new access or formalization of existing access is to be guided by detailed
management plans, including implementation responsibilities. These should include community
ideas and desires to guarantee quality land preservation, be consistent with Coastal Act policies,
and must attempt to positively resolve access conflicts with residential land uses. It is the
County’s policy to work closely with local citizen advisors and public agencies in planning for
access and management.
8. Access for scientific study of the shoreline or upland areas should also be made available, and
the County encourages private landowners to permit such access if requested. Scientific use of
public or private lands, particularly where specimen collecting is intended, should be in conformance
with policies in Section 3.3 of this plan. Where appropriate, scientific access
easements will be required for new developments in areas needing study as defined by the
Environmentally Sensitive Habitat section of the Plan.
9. In providing for access, the County seeks to ensure that the rights of residents and property
owners, including their peace, privacy, safety, health, and property are not jeopardized by
unmanaged, inappropriate (as defined in policy 184.108.40.206), or irresponsible public access.
6.1.5 Specific Policies
A. Shoreline Access Priorities
1. The first priority shoreline access locations are those major access areas presently in active use.
These areas should be retained for long term public use. They should be improved and
managed properly consistent with an approved management plan before new locations are
opened to formal public access by their owners. Priority 1 areas are: Doud Acquisition, Little
Sur Beach, Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Beach, Partington Canyon and McWay Canyon in Julia
Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Limekiln Creek, Kirk Creek, Mill Creek, Pacific Valley (B), Sand
Dollar, Jade Cove, Willow Cove, Alder Creek and Villa Creek.
2. The second priority for improvement of public accessways should be placed on areas that have
ample beaches, minimal public safety hazards, and either absence of sensitive habitats or
habitats that can be protected from adverse impacts. Priority 2 areas are: Kasler Point, Rocky
Point (B)*, Palo Colorado (B), Bixby Creek, Point Sur, False Sur – Swiss Canyon, and
3. The third priority for improvement of public accessways should be placed on areas that have
attractive destinations where safety hazards or resource conflicts can be mitigated, and with
potential for improved parking. Priority 3 access areas are: Otter Cove, south Palo Colorado
area shoreline (B), Rocky Creek, Hurricane Point (B), Castro-Grimes, Anderson Landing area
(including John Little State Reserve), Dolan Creek area, Big Creek beach, Lopez Point (B),
Lucia and Wild Cattle Creek.
* (B): Bluff top access only.
4. Some areas of the Big Sur coast are not appropriate (as defined in policy 220.127.116.11) for
formalized public access. Until further studies justify the need and suitability for access to the
shoreline at Wreck Beach, Coastlands, Grimes-Partington, Dolan Creek canyon, Vista Point,
Vicente Creek, and Salmon Creek, such access should be discouraged.
B. Providing and Managing Shoreline Access
1. The County will work with appropriate agencies toward acquisition or other methods to secure
legal access to those areas identified as priorities 1, 2 or 3 which do not have formal access
2. The County will require provision of shoreline access, where appropriate, as part of
development applications. Permit conditions will include either dedication of accessways
through the donation of land, easements, or the payment of in-lieu fees.
Dedications of access easements or offers thereof to an appropriate public agency or private
foundation will be required in all locations fronting the shoreline as a condition of new
development (except those developments listed in Section 30212(b) of the Coastal Act) unless
vertical or lateral access is found to be inappropriate due to conflicts with fragile coastal
resources, military security, or public safety or adequate access exists nearby or agriculture
would be adversely affected. Trail easements and offers shall be as specified by Policy 18.104.22.168
or where a specific location is known, no less than 10 feet in width. On dry sand and rocky
beaches, lateral access easements or offers to dedicate such easements shall be required over
the entire beach area to the toe of the coastal bluff, or absent such bluff, to the first line of
terrestrial vegetation. Easements or dedications shall be free of prior liens or encumbrances,
except for tax liens. All such dedications or offers shall be subject to review by County Counsel
prior to recording. Only those forms of shoreline access (vertical, lateral, blufftop, visual) which
are suitable for the site need be required. Suitable forms of access for the most prominent
locations along the Big Sur shoreline are listed in Table 2 of this Plan. Offers must be for a
period of 25 years, but access will be developed and opened to public use only in accordance
with Plan policies.
3. Where access is inappropriate as defined by the Plan policies, the County will use all available
means to discourage use of these areas and direct public access to other areas.
4. Siting and design of development proposals which protect shoreline access will be required in
the permit process. Modification to a project may be required if access cannot be otherwise
protected. Accessways themselves may have to be rerouted or improved when formally
dedicated in order to avoid hazards or to protect resource areas.
5. Where the County is advised that an accessway is being closed by property owners, a
determination will be made whether the accessway is identified in the access plan. If the access
if found appropriate, the County will work with the parties concerned in an effort to maintain
the access in public use.
Under State law, development cannot interfere with the public’s right of access to the sea where
acquired through historical use or legislative authorization, including but not limited to the use of
dry sand and rocky coastal beaches to the first line of terrestrial vegetation. Where such public
rights will be preserved through dedication of an alternative access route, the substituted
location must be at least equivalent in usefulness and area served as the original routing.
6. The County will work with local, state, and federal management agencies landowners to ensure
that accessways obtained through acquisition, dedications, and permit conditions are adequately
managed and maintained. A management program will be required before accessways are
opened to the public. The County will encourage such programs to be sponsored through
private as well as public means.
C. Providing and Managing Trails
1. Trail corridors shown in the Trails Plan Map are recommended as public access routes to public
lands or other destinations. Where trails already exist, alignments should remain the same,
except where rerouting would be feasible to reduce adverse environmental or visual impacts.
The siting of new trails shall require field inspection and environmental review.
2. The Trails Plan Map recommends a continuous trail system along the Big Sur coast. In
developing this trail, lands already in public ownership or proposed for public acquisition should
be used wherever possible in preference to private property. The shoulders public roads should
be used where essential to bridge gaps where a trail elsewhere is not feasible because of
hazardous conditions, terrain, or existing concentrations of development. This occurs along
sections of Highway 1, the Old Coast Road, and Sycamore Canyon Road. In general, sections
of the trail along the Highway should be kept to a minimum to ensure the safety of pedestrians
Southward from Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park, the through coastal trail corridor along the existing
Coast Ridge Road, as shown on Figure 3, shall be considered as an interim location. A more
favorable route, seaward of Coast Ridge Road on U.S. Forest Service and State Park lands,
and entirely within the Coastal Zone boundary should be identified. Such revised location
should parallel the shoreline as nearly as feasible on existing public lands, considering the natural
contour of the land and the objective of connecting existing public trail segments; and shall be
subject to the individual approval of each landowner/management agency on the revised route.
3. The County shall require trail easements to be granted through private land in accordance with
the Trails Map as a condition to issuance of development permits, approval of land divisions, or
other approvals required from the County. The County encourages voluntary dedication of trail
easements on private lands. In general, the County will seek to arrange that such dedications are
made from the property owner to the State Department of Parks and Recreation or to the
Forest Service because these agencies are envisioned to have primary responsibility for
improving and managing the trails. Trail easements secured through Coastal Commission
permits and other locations should be used where appropriate as part of the system.
4. Where specific trail alignments have not been identified but where the property of concern is
within a trail corridor, a general offer of dedication will be required consistent with the standards
for trail corridors in the area. Precise trail alignments will be agreed upon at a future time
through cooperation between the landowner and the public agencies with responsibility for
constructing and maintaining the trail.
5. The County encourages the State Department of Parks and Recreation and the U. S. Forest
Service to acquire full legal rights-of-way across private lands in accordance with the Trail Map
where such rights do not presently exist.
6. The State Department of Parks and Recreation and the U. S. Forest Service are the primary
agencies responsible for trail planning, construction, restoration, maintenance, management and
liability. These agencies have a special responsibility to coordinate and assure continuity to and
through State and Federal lands. The County’s role will generally be confined to assisting in the
provision of access easements, and in the review and guidance of plans related to trails
construction and use management.
7. Except as necessary for shoreline access or for the trail corridor system (see Figures 2 and 3),
trails through future park lands should be constructed after the land is acquired and opened for
public use and not while still in private ownership. For public trails presently crossing private
lands, the County requests the California Department of Parks and Recreation or the U.S.
Forest Service to obtain full legal rights-of-way including management and maintenance
8. Caltrans should directly participate in any detailed trails planning that will require construction of
trailhead parking areas within the State highway rights-of-way.
9. Plans for new trail locations and plans to intensify use of existing trails shall be submitted for
review by the State Department of Fish and Game in order to assess the potential impact of
such use on sensitive habitats. The Department of Fish and Game is requested to participate
with other agencies in determining the most appropriate alignments for new trails and all provide
management guide lines where needed to minimize impacts to habitats.
10. Other agencies should review the plans for new trails or increased use of existing trails to
provide guidance concerning fire hazard, water supply protection and other considerations.
11. The practice of opening private trails to organized groups on a reservation basis is encouraged
in order to reduce conflicts between private and public use. Private trails can be opened to the
public on a fee basis in conjunction with low intensity recreation facilities allowed on private
lands. In some instances, private trails may be opened to the public through easements,
provided maintenance by a public agency were assured. Management and easement
arrangements should be pursued where the trail would be of public benefit.
12. The California Coastal Conservancy is encouraged to participate in trails planning and to
provide financing and general assistance to the agencies involved.
D. Public Safety Criteria
1. Public safety should be ensured wherever shoreline access is provided. In some locations the
presence of unavoidable hazards will preclude access from being provided. In other locations,
hand rails, stairways, bridges, warning signs, and other improvements should be used to reduce
risks. Closure of access areas during periods of extreme fire hazard or high seas may also be
2. In extremely hazardous areas where safe access to the shoreline is not feasible, existing trails
should be closed. In these areas, establishment and maintenance of visual access should be
emphasized as an appropriate response to the needs of the public.
E. Habitat and Resource Protection Criteria
1. In areas where habitat and resource protection is a major concern, studies should be conducted
to determine maximum acceptable levels of public use and methods by which resource values
can best be protected. The conclusions of these studies should be a basis for management
plans for each access location.
2. In locations of sensitive plant or wildlife habitats, access may be entirely inappropriate.
3. Private water supplies shall be protected by locating public access at an appropriate distance
from surface, spring, and well water sources.
F. Visual Resources Criteria
1. Future land use planning shall be compatible with the goal of providing visual access. To this
end, all new structures and ancillary facilities should be located outside of the public viewshed as
defined in Chapter 3.
2. Trails and access improvements including stairs, ramps, railings, restrooms and parking facilities
should be sited and designed in a manner compatible with the goal of strict viewshed protection.
In some circumstances, this may limit the establishment of access improvements.
G. Land Use Compatibility Criteria
1. New development shall not encroach on well-established accessways nor preclude future
provision of access.
2. Shoreline access shall be provided through or adjacent to existing or new residential areas upon
completion of a management plan that adequately resolves problems of noise, visual buffering,
trespass, general maintenance, minimization of fire hazards, protection of private water supplies,
parking and liability.
Development applications which contain required access shall have management plans
developed and approved as part of the permit process. Management plans may allow
measures such as the following to reduce access/residential conflicts:
a. minimum distance of 10 feet between an accessway and an existing or proposed
b. allow the use of fences or berms between accessways and residences or agricultural
c. limiting access to daylight hours; and
d. limiting activity to pedestrian or passive recreational uses.
3. Where accessways are proposed through or adjacent to land in agricultural uses, these uses
should be fully protected from disturbance. A full range of mitigation measures should be used
including buffer strips, berms, fences, controlled burning, and periodic closures.
4. Access to the shoreline shall be provided, improved, and managed at military and government
facilities where there are suitable destination areas except in those cases where maximum
military security is required. When high security requirements cease, access shall then be
provided. Before any area adjacent to the Point Sur Naval facility is opened to unescorted
public access, the Commanding Officer shall be consulted to insure that provisions to protect
military security are satisfactory.
6.1.6 Standards and Guidelines for Improvements to Accessways
The following standards for the location and design of accessways are meant to carry out access
policies through more detailed specifications. These apply to both public and private developments and
are based on the goals of providing access, consistent with protection of Big Sur’s unique visual and
natural resources. Criteria for the location, distribution and size of accessways shall require that they be
consistent with the need to preserve fragile coastal resources, military security and public safety, and be
appropriate for the site and intended use.
1. Management – Public or private agencies responsible for managing coastal accessways should
develop management programs before accessways are opened. Such programs should be
coordinated with the management of recreational destination points. Management of access
trails should address:
a) the need for seasonal restrictions, if any;
b) the improvements needed for trails, including stairs or ramps;
c) the proposed location, capacity, and construction of parking facilities if needed.
Existing and future access dedications shall be mapped and related management
recommendations listed as part of the implementation of the Plan.
2. Visual Appearance – Structural improvements to accessways should be kept to a minimum to
reduce impacts to viewshed and should be allowed only for safety purposes, or where essential
for protection of agriculture, fragile natural habitats, archaeologic sites, military security or
Stairways, ramps, and signs should be constructed of natural materials, or metal where
vandalism is a threat. Paint should be avoided to reduce maintenance problems.
Wherever possible, trails (except for trailhead signs) should be screened from the road to
minimize visual intrusion. Where natural topography requires that trail heads be located within
view of the road, methods such as berms planted with native vegetation should be used.
Grading or cuts required for safety or resource protection should conform to the natural
topography. Parking and other facilities such as restrooms should be sited or screened to
reduce visual impacts.
3. Trails – The width of trail corridors should be variable based on localized conditions of
topography, vegetation, wildlife habitats, scenic concerns, proximity to water supplies or
developed land uses. Corridors should generally be in the range of 50 to 100 feet in width but
should not be narrower than is reasonable to protect both public and private resource and uses
adjacent to the trail as well as protect local residents’ privacy and the public’s interest in a quiet
and scenic hiking experience.
All plans to improve existing trails or create new ones should ensure that environmentally
sensitive habitats are protected from overuse. Measures to prevent or reduce impacts should
be used, including:
a) non-improvement or elimination of access to remote fragile areas;
b) routing or re-routing of trails to avoid habitats;
c) design features to screen or separate trails and destination points from sensitive
d) revegetation projects, sediment basins, and other site features; and
e) restriction or redistribution of the number of access points into an area.
New trails should not be sited through or directly adjacent to wetlands. If any access is
provided, wood boardwalks or similar structures that minimize impacts to wetland vegetation
should be used.
Trails along stream corridors should be sited and designed to avoid impacts to riparian
vegetation, wildlife, and water quality. Measures include, but are not limited to, controlling
runoff and erosion, contouring and siting trails to conform to the natural topography, and
separating and screening from important riparian habitat areas.
Access trails to intertidal areas should be sited to spread the zone of public use rather than
concentrate it in a small area.
4. Parking and Facilities – Emphasis should be given to improving access on the east side of
Highway 1 suitable for parking near accessways or trailheads and, where feasible, pedestrian
access to the west side of the highway shall be provided. Such areas should be effectively
screened from the road through the location of site features, construction of berms, or planting
of vegetation screens.
The number of parking spaces provided should not exceed the capacity of the shoreline
destination as determined by its size, sensitivity of the resources, and the type and intensity of
use appropriate for the area.
Parking areas and turnouts should be designed and constructed in a manner which would not
contribute to slope failure or excessive erosion, and would prevent runoff and degradation of
water quality. Where feasible, porous surfacing materials which allow drainage should be used.
In areas where the public must cross traffic on a curve to reach a parking area, appropriate
warning signs should be posted. Grade separations should be considered, where needed for
safety and construction is feasible. If road width permits, consideration should be given to
installation of left turn lanes into parking areas.
Table 2: Site Specific Recommendations for Shoreline Access.
Figure 2: Shoreline Access Plan.
Figure 3: Trails Plan.
7. ADMINISTRATION AND IMPLEMENTATION
7.1 PLAN ADMINISTRATION
This plan is designed to implement the California Coastal Act. It is a local plan which shall direct Monterey County in making land use decisions in the Big Sur area. The advice of local residents shall be routinely sought in the administration of this plan. The County shall work with other levels of government to secure their compliance with this plan; conformance by all public agencies, including
Federal agencies, is needed for this Plan to work as intended. Other levels of government shall be
consulted by the County regarding help, guidance, and resources to implement this plan. However, the
County shall have the primary responsibility for implementing the Big Sur Coast Land Use Plan and the
efforts of other State and local agencies shall be consistent with this plan and coordinated with the
efforts of the County. This plan will also provide guidance to the California Coastal Commission in its
review of Federal projects pursuant to the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act.
The County shall develop the structure necessary to establish a permanent and authoritative voice for
the residents of the community of the Big Sur coast, which shall ensure community participation in the
coordination and implementation activities necessary to carry out the mandates of the LCP.
7.1.1 Development Permit Process
Coastal Development Permits will be required from the County for development proposed on private or
public lands (except excluded Federal lands). To be approved, permit applicants will be required to
demonstrate conformance to the plan.
1. The proposal must be in conformance with the kinds of uses and use intensities permitted for the
specific geophysical area concerned. If a proposal does not meet this basic requirement, it will
not be processed further.
2. The second area of review, concerns conformance to the policies of the plan contained in the
Resource Management and Land Use and Development sections, and, if applicable, the Public
Access and Highway One/County Roads sections. In particular, the proposed project must fully
meet the objectives, policies, and standards for each applicable section of the Plan. If the
proposal is not consistent with these policies, it shall not be approved even though it may be
consistent with land use designations for the area. For example, applications for residential
development in an area designated for this use will not be approved if the parcel is entirely
within a 100 year floodplain or if inadequate water supply is shown to exist.
3. All proposals must fully meet any specific zoning provisions adopted to implement the plan.
4. All proposals must fully comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and meet the
environmental standards of this plan.
Applicants are responsible for providing all necessary information to support proposals as described in
the policies concerning development and resources. Where information is questioned or contested by
the County, the burden of proof rests with the applicant. Where additional information is requested by
the County, applicants are required to provide such information before further consideration by the
County will be given to the proposal.
The County will make a good faith effort to work cooperatively with landowners in the evaluation and
processing of development applications as expeditiously as possible. County staff will provide advice
and guidance to the public concerning interpretation of provisions of the plan. County staff will prepare
written reports supporting all permit recommendations. These reports will summarize the development
proposal, pertinent issues and information, and will describe how the proposal meets or does not meet
relevant provisions of the plan. The report will contain recommendations on whether the proposal
should be approved, approved with conditions, or denied. Permit reports shall be made a permanent
part of the record and copies shall be available for public review prior to formal consideration of the
7.1.2 Plan Revisions
The Local Coastal Program will be updated over time as need dictates. Formal amendment procedures
will be used to accomplish changes to the plan or its implementation ordinances. Because the plan is a
Local Coastal Program prepared under the California Coastal Act, any changes made must be
consistent with the Act. The California Coastal Commission must approve future changes or
amendments to the plan. This plan shall be automatically reviewed after three years of utilization to
determine the effectiveness of the implementation procedures.
Appeals to the Coastal Commission may be made, consistent with provisions of the Coastal Act, when
individual or group believes the County is not acting in conformance with the plan. The appeals
procedure is described in the California Coastal Act.
7.1.4 Public and Agency Participation and Coordination
The County will cooperate with all other government agencies on matters of mutual interest concerning
the Big Sur coast. The format for coordination is described in the implementation section. The County
will provide technical or policy advice to other agencies as requested and will seek advice on technical
or policy matters from appropriate agencies as the need arises.
The County will provide a mechanism for advice and comment from appointed community
representatives on permit matters and on all long-range decisions affecting planning and management of
the coast. The general public is encouraged to attend and participate in County public meetings and
hearings concerning administration of the plan or processing of development applications.
Implementation of the Plan will require the County, and in some cases, other jurisdictions, to develop
and adopt ordinances, procedures, or agreements in addition to the Land Use Plan in order to carry out
the Land Use Plan map and policies. The major implementation measures that the County should adopt
are described here.
7.2.1 Zoning Ordinance Changes
Rezoning of the Big Sur coast will be necessary to reflect the land use plan. In accordance with State
laws, the uses, densities and locations of zoning revisions must be consistent with the Land Use Plan
Map and policies. Zoning should be adequately flexible to permit the range of uses and densities
provided for in the plan.
The Monterey County Zoning Ordinance (Ordinance No. 911) should be amended to delete use of the
combining Coastal Zone (CZ) district, and to add general coastal zone regulations and separate coastal
zone districts as set out above. The general regulations will incorporate and refer to Coastal Act (Public
Resources Code Section 30000 et seq.) policies. They will also incorporate provisions of the
Monterey County Zoning Ordinance for Design Control districts (Section 25) and Scenic Conservation
Districts (Section 23,3c), for appeal (Section 32), and enforcement (Section 35), and provisions of the
Subdivision Ordinance (Ordinance No. 1713) for appeal and for enforcement (Section 10).
Some suggested zoning districts include:
CZ-WSC Coastal Zone Watershed and Scenic Conservation District: Includes residential
development, low intensity recreation, agriculture, and forest and watershed
CZ-OR Coastal Zone-Outdoor Recreation District: Includes moderate use
CZ-RCC Coastal Zone-Rural Community Center District: Includes residential
development, visitor-serving and recreation support areas, and quasi-public
B. Development Permits
All development in the coastal zone will be required to obtain a development permit from the County
that will be approved based on demonstrated compliance with the plan and all its provisions. Some
forms of development, similar to that exempted in the Coastal Act, may also be exempted from
obtaining a coastal permit from the County. Final action on coastal permits will be taken by the Board of
Supervisors for standard subdivisions; all other development will be considered by the Planning
Commission subject to Board appeals.
C. Site Plan Review
Projects applying for a coastal permit will undergo a comprehensive site plan review to determine the
consistency of the proposed project with the plan. The applicant will be permitted flexibility to develop
in any manner which is consistent with any of the variety of uses and densities included in the particular
zoning district, and which meets the performance standards set forth in the land use plan.
D. Performance Standards
Environmental performance standards are incorporated in the Big Sur Land Use Plan in the form of
specific policies designed to protect riparian and forest areas, wildlife habitats, and other sensitive
environmental concerns. As the carrying capacity of the coastal areas are determined through
improvements in the data base and available information, the policies will be refined to include quantified
E. Minimum Size of Parcels
The minimum size of parcels permitted in land subdivision will be based upon the necessity to prevent
harm to the existing natural uses of the land.
The Watershed and Scenic Conservation District will permit subdivision at a density rate of 40 acres or
more per parcel as a means of deterring further development from harming the rural character of the
land. Larger minimum parcel sizes will apply on steeper lands. In addition to one residential unit
permitted on such parcels, certain other coastal priority uses will be permitted in accordance with the
land use plan.
Existing legal lots of record which are smaller than the stated optimum size in the new zoning district will
be permitted to develop in a use consistent with those included in the new zoning district as long as the
proposed project meets the performance standards of the Land Use Plan.
Parcels will be permitted to be subdivided on the basis of density standards of the plan. A review of the
land according to local coastal program performance standards may demonstrate that a lesser intensity
of development is appropriate. If such review demonstrates that the particular parcel will support a
higher intensity of use, the applicant may develop at the higher density upon purchase of development
credits from other parcels in the viewshed.
7.2.2 Government Coordination and Local Participation Framework
A framework or structure for improved coordination between the numerous government agencies
involved on the Big Sur coast should be developed to resolve issues of mutual concern. For example,
careful planning and usage of the Big Sur coast due to the limitation of highway capacity is a
responsibility shared by Monterey County and San Luis Obispo County. Assurances are needed that
development contemplated for the San Simeon coastal area does not adversely affect access to the Big
Sur region as a whole. A means of providing continuing and enhanced participation in decisions about
the coast’s future is also needed and should be made available to the residents of the area. The County
should take a lead role in developing these structures.
One alternative is a joint powers agreement entered into by the U. S. Forest Service, the Coastal
Commission, the State Departments of Fish and Game and Parks and Recreation, Caltrans, Monterey
and San Luis Obispo Counties, and other entities as deemed necessary, in order to form a Big Sur
Council with the power to plan and coordinate implementation activities, and to acquire land and funds.
This may be a workable approach to government coordination, although it has two drawbacks: there
are no assurances that the various entities would agree to the purposes to such an agreement; and there
may be lack of funds available to support acquisition and management. In view of acquisition needs
along the coast, this is a serious deficiency.
The Memorandum of Understanding is another possible agreement which can bring the various entities
together to coordinate planning and implementation efforts. If no joint acquisition effort is planned, the
memorandum of understanding may be more desirable than the joint powers agreement because it does
not mandate the financial responsibility legislatively required in the joint powers agreement.
Because the U.S. Forest Service owns 75,000 acres in the Big Sur Coast Planning Unit–roughly one
half the total area–and because the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 excludes all lands
subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction from the California coastal zone, special means should be
developed to assure that the planning and management of these federal lands is coordinated effectively
with the implementation of the Big Sur Coast Local Coastal Program. The memoranda of
understanding and joint powers agreements, referred to above, are not likely to be a sufficient means to
accomplish this coordination because the U. S. Forest Service’s discretion is tightly circumscribed by
federal statute. The County, therefore, requests its representatives in the United States Congress to
explore the need for federal legislative authorizations and mandates to the U. S. Forest Service to assure
that its management and administration of Los Padres National Forest lands is effectively coordinated
with the implementation of the Local Coastal Program on private lands and lands owned by the State
7.2.3 Big Sur Coast Data Base
Following adoption of the plan the County will use all available information about the natural and cultural
resources of the Big Sur coast developed in the planning process in its review of development
applications and in other actions relating to the management of the coast. This body of information will
be supplemented or updated from time to time as new information is available to the County.
The background reports and written responses to them are the foundation of the data base. This can be
supplemented by information provided by property owners during the course of development
applications or by other agencies in their individual activities. The information will be maintained in the
County Planning Department and as far as possible in the County Branch library in Big Sur. Maintained
as a collection of information in a central location, the data will be readily available to the public, other
agencies, and County officials. During review of any projects or activities on the Big Sur coast, the
County Staff is required to review available and pertinent information and include it in recommendations
about projects or activities in the area.
All existing information will be integrated with the Planning Department’s present data base and included
in the department’s information. At least once a year the County staff shall prepare a summary and
bibliography of new information received during the preceding year.
Merger of contiguous substandard size lots held by the same owner is an appropriate mechanism in
areas designated as restoration areas in which development of individual legal lots of record would harm
the existing natural uses. The County should create a combining zone which, when applied to the
selected areas, will cause such undersized lots, when contiguous and held by the same owner, to merge
to the minimum size permitted by the existent zoning.
7.2.5 Transfer of Development Credits (TDC)
TDC’s comprise a system that will assist the owners of lots restricted in their residential development
potential by viewshed policies contained within the plan. They provide an economic/planning incentive
under which density credits can be reallocated within certain boundaries. Additionally, the use of this
technique is intended to encourage the transfer of residential development potential from large ranch
parcels in order to maintain the viability and stability of agricultural operations.
7.2.5.A Key Policies
1. To provide owners of “critical viewshed lots” fair and real opportunities to build in Big Sur.
2. To provide incentives for preservation of large ranches in agricultural operations, and
permanently protect their viewshed.
3. To provide economic compensation in the form of density credits for lots rendered unbuildable
due exclusively to LUP Viewshed policies.
7.2.5.B General Policies
1. Any non-critical viewshed parcel in Big Sur is a potential “receiver” site provided development
proposed for it meets the LUP’s development and siting standards and the TDC program rules
for obtaining additional density.
2. “Critical viewshed lot” owners would have the right to transfer residential development potential
from such restricted parcels and to build two units elsewhere in Big Sur or transfer two
development for each lot retired subject to the criteria of LUP policy 22.214.171.124.
3. Large ranches would have the option to cluster their credits to non-critical viewshed sites east of
Highway One, to apply for development within the rules specified in the LUP, transfer density
credits to their property, or any combination of these alternatives.
7.2.6 Conservation Easements
Conservation and Scenic Easements and Williamson Act Contracts provide tax benefits when such
enforceable restrictions on the use of land limit the amount of development on a parcel.
While Conservation and Scenic Easements are in use now in the County to mitigate adverse
environmental impacts, the County should adopt a clear policy directing the requirement of these
easements for the varied resource protection uses encouraged in the plan. County land use regulations
such as zoning and subdivision ordinances should contain these requirements as well as others
authorized by State legislation, such as restrictions on future use, and length of the term (at least 10
years) with automatic renewal. Each deed dedicating open space should include the particular findings
upon which the open space easement is based.
The County should also consider having the Coastal Conservancy, because of its legislated resource
protection role on the coast, named as grantee of the open space easement. Alternatives could include
continuing the County as grantee but contracting out enforcement to a nonprofit agency such as the
Coastal Conservancy, or giving the grantor a choice of grantees from a list of appropriate nonprofit
State legislation permits Williamson Act Contracts to be executed for reasons very similar to the ones
for which Conservation and Scenic Easements are permitted. While it is generally thought that property
tax advantages of Williamson Act contracts have been lost in the passage of Proposition 13, the
contracts remain a viable enforceable restriction along with open space easements. Consideration
should be given to decreasing both the present minimum acreage requirement from 40 acres to 20 acres
and the length of such contracts from the present 20-year term to 10 years.
Conservation and Scenic Easements are the appropriate vehicle which could be made available for
coastal resource protection. They are different from Williamson Act Contracts in that they must be in
perpetuity. Conservation easements should be included as a requirement in coastal permit applications
in areas containing wildlife habitats, wetlands, and other resource areas and particularly in scenic areas.
Restoration projects refer to those activities that the County, in cooperation with coastal residents and
other agencies, can undertake in an effort to mitigate undesirable impacts of existing development or
commitment to development on the quality of the coastal environment and its resources. Examples of
areas that require restoration in order to meet the environmental standards of this plan have been
described in various sections of the plan. For instance, some areas of the coast committed to
development – by virtue of the existence of many small undeveloped parcels created for residential
purposes – appear to lack adequate water to serve continued development without entailing extremely
adverse impacts on the natural environment. There are also isolated examples where natural
ecosystems have been impacted, frequently from recreational overuse. Portions of the lower Big Sur
River riparian area have been seriously degraded and need restoration work. In other areas, past
development has resulted in structures or buildings that are highly visible and obtrusive to the quality of
the natural environment. In some cases, road construction has left highly visible scars. Installation of
utility poles has also resulted in the erosion of the visual quality of Big Sur. Perhaps most serious, are
the undesirable impacts on the beauty of the coast resulting from continued residential buildout in certain
areas having numerous small, vacant parcels. Finally, even natural events, such as landslides, mudslides,
or lightning caused fires, result in changes or damage to the landscape and its resources. Such events
may necessitate remedial action if environmental quality or scenic beauty is to be restored.
A variety of restoration techniques are available, and the County should support and encourage these.
A. Private Voluntary Action
Individual landowners are encouraged to voluntarily undertake those activities on their property which
can help mitigate the types of environmental or visual problems discussed in this plan. In many cases,
simple landscape screening or repainting of a structure would do much to restore scenic beauty in highly
visible areas. Screening of private roads as needed would also be beneficial. Private work, in some
cases, is needed in riparian areas to alleviate impacts to streams. In other areas, improved control of
erosion or soil loss from sites during rain storms would help protect water quality in coastal streams.
B. Action by Other Government Agencies
All other government agencies are requested to undertake needed coastal restoration work in their
areas of jurisdiction in order to realize the objectives of this plan. State Parks and Recreation, Caltrans,
and the U. S. Navy, in particular, are requested to work toward the restoration of environmental and
scenic qualities of lands they manage.
C. Site Planning
The County can achieve necessary restoration on private and State lands by requiring such work as a
condition of permit approval. This technique should be used within reason whenever possible.
D. Transfer of Development Credits (TDC
TDC’s should be encouraged to avoid new development on critical viewshed lots and on large ranches.
Acquisition by a public agency of privately-held land may be beneficial as a restoration project where it
reduces the commitment to development created by the presence of many small undeveloped parcels.
In certain instances, acquisition may be the only reasonably effective tool for avoiding problems relating
to viewshed development. This plan proposes that acquisition be used as a means of avoiding
development on highly scenic viewshed parcels for which no other planning remedy can be found.
Acquisition can be carried out by Monterey County, by various State agencies, such as Parks and
Recreation or the California Coastal Conservancy. The County should take a favorable posture toward
acquisition of undeveloped viewshed parcels that are totally within the viewshed. The County should
invite purchase of these parcels by State agencies and, in particular, should support the assistance of the
Federal Government through the U. S. Forest Service in acquiring such parcels within their boundaries
either in fee or simply through the purchase of development rights or easements.
Because the County lacks sufficient funds to compensate landowners for not developing undeveloped
parcels in the critical viewshed and because the County lacks funds to acquire scenic easements over
large parcels, it hereby requests its representatives in the California State Legislature and the United
States Congress to seek state and federal funds to assist the County and be administered by the County
in the implementation of the Local Coastal Program and, where necessary, to compensate landowners
for protecting the agricultural and scenic resources of the Big Sur Coast.
The County shall seek necessary acquisition funds through the Land and Water Conservation fund or its
successor agency, by making every effort to ensure that the implementation of the Big Sur L.U.P. is
placed high on the list of priorities of the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).
F. Coastal Conservancy Projects
The Coastal Conservancy has been established with a broad range of powers and capabilities, all aimed
at the conservation of important coastal resources. The Conservancy can perform planning studies,
purchase land for various purposes, consolidate small parcels into larger more desirable parcels, and
can resell them on the private market to “rollover” and regain its capital outlay. The result of this
process is to overcome the environmental concerns resulting from poor lot configuration or excessive
numbers of parcels in important restoration areas. The Conservancy should work cooperatively with
the County on restoration programs by nomination of potential Conservancy projects and participating
in the development of the project.
G. Nonprofit Private and Public Conservancy Foundations
Private organizations should assist in the conservation of important natural and cultural values. These
organizations can purchase land in fee or simply acquire easements to avoid development in sensitive
areas. Monterey County should support and encourage the activities of these organizations in Big Sur.
7.2.8 Enforcement Program
Monterey County’s Local Coastal Program will be only as effective as its enforcement. Several
recommendations for a more effective enforcement program will follow.
All County departments engaged in activities in the coastal area should be informed about the Local
Coastal Program and should refer any possible violations to the Planning Department for investigation.
Planning staff should be increased in order to provide more onsite review of proposed development and
more explanation to applicants about permit restrictions. Extra planning staff is also needed to perform
regular inspection of continuing coastal permit conditions.
Because of the County Counsel’s role as advisor in planning matters, violations of the subdivision or
planning ordinances will be referred to the County Counsel’s Office rather than to that of the District
Attorney when such follow-up is deemed necessary by the Planning Department. In addition, land use
violations in the coastal areas should be punished by imposition of civil penalties provided for in the
Coastal Act, rather than by current misdemeanor prosecution.
The County also has a duty to pursue legal remedies against persons who illegally use open space or
similar easements granted to the County. The County must not only enjoin such misuse, but must also
seek recovery of damages for such misuse.
Jurisdiction problems which may arise when the County attempts to enforce the Local Coastal Program
on State lands can be precluded by requiring State consent to County inspection as a condition of
approval for coastal permits granted to State agencies. Federal agencies will be requested to submit an
enforcement program as part of a Memorandum of Understanding among agencies involved in the Big
Sur Local Coastal Area.
DEVELOPMENT: Except where specifically specified otherwise in this Plan, shall be as defined by
Section 30106 of the California Coastal Act.
EXISTING DEVELOPMENT: Means all projects legally developed as of December 31, 1976, or
later if approved under a coastal development permit where such permit is required under the law.
EXISTING PARCEL: Means a separate legal parcel recorded as of December 31, 1976, or later if
approved under a coastal development permit. Does not include parcels recorded without benefit of
coastal development permit where such permit was required by law prior to 1977. Parcels crossed by
public road or highway rights-of-way will not be considered to have been “subdivided” by such a road
or highway. Except where a legal determination by the County (or by the Commission on appeal of a
permit application) concludes otherwise for a particular ownership, contiguous U.S. Lots which have
been patented or aggregated under a single ownership will be considered as a single parcel for
Subdivision Map Act purposes.
FRAGILE COASTAL RESOURCES: Means in the Big Sur Coast area, exposed cliff faces, all
environmentally sensitive habitats, and significant archaeological and paleontological resources which
would likely be exposed to vandalism.
NATURE ENVIRONMENT: As used in the Public Access Key Policy (Section 6.1.3) is
synonymous with “fragile coastal resources.”
If any provision of the Plan is held by a court of
competent jurisdiction to be invalid, void, or
unenforceable, the remaining provisions shall
remain in full force and effect.