Summer 2006 The Big Sur VOICE Architecture
in Big Sur 1
What is the center of Big Sur? 6
Big Sur Vision Project update 11
The High Price of land use planning 12
Has ‘slow growth’ come at a cost? 13
Photo: Michael Standaert
VO LUM E 2 N UM B ER 1 SUMM ER 20 0 6
The Big Sur Voice, by and for the Big Sur community, is a venture of the KL Felicitas Foundation,
a private non-profit foundation dedicated to proactively supporting rural community/environment
initiatives and social entrepreneurship worldwide.
Architecture in Big Sur
For this issue of the Big Sur Voice, we interviewed several architects and designers who
have worked on projects in Big Sur. We explored
the possible existence of a “Big Sur style,” their
philosophy of architecture, how working in Big
Sur has influenced their work, and what they
think is an appropriate type of architecture for
this unique coastal zone.
Photo: Lisa Kleissner
The Big Sur Voice Editor · Lisa Kleissner Writer/Reporter/Photographer · Michael Standaert (unless otherwise noted)
You can contact us by e-mail at: [email protected]
Alternatively, you can call our writer Michael Standaert at 831-227-8363, and faxes can be sent to 831-646-1244. Back
issues of the Big Sur Voice can be found in pdf format at: In September, we will look
at the particular issues businesses face in Big Sur. If you would like to voice your opinion or suggest topics for future
issues, we would love to hear from you.
The Big Sur Voice P. O. Box 218 Big Sur, CA 93920
Is there a Big Sur style?
n one ridge
a house sits
shrouded in
fog. On the
next ridge the
siding of a
home is sun
bleached and
dry as a bone.
In the valley below a dwelling is nestled
in the woods, the surroundings cool,
damp and studded with redwood trees.
Here a point juts out on the west side of
Highway 1 and you see a few windows,
maybe the outline of the sod and vines
creeping along the roof, a home blasted
by wind, salt and surf. A thousand feet
inland stands a shelter in a meadow, the
trees alive with birds, the wildflowers
attended to by bees.
The weather, ecosystems, and
landscape of Big Sur are as various as its
ridges. The mixture of beauty, tranquility,
remoteness and raw natural power draws
thousands of visitors each year. Some of
them stay on to stake their own claim
Continued on page 3 …
The Big Sur VOICE Summer 2006
What does it take to survive as a business
in a remote rural coastal area fraught with road
closures in the winter, volatile seasonal swings in
customer visits, a growing community of part-time
residents, employee retention challenges, restrictive
governmental regulations, and very limited, almost
non-existent affordable housing?
These are the topics we’ll be exploring in our Fall
issue. If you are a business owner with a story to
share, please contact us at [email protected] or
call our writer, Michael Standaert at 831-227-8363.
Kim Theobald, owner of the new ARS art gallery in Big Sur, taking on the Big Sur challenge
Photo: Lisa Kleissner
Summer 2006 The Big Sur VOICE Ned Callihan, Architect
Architecture in Big Sur
Continued from front cover …
on paradise. Others have been here for
generations. All are challenged by the
land, the climate, the community and
the bureaucracy that rules the built
With the ever shrinking amount of
private land available in the area, as
well as the myriad of laws meant to
protect the natural beauty, habitat, and
views for those who live and visit Big
Sur, the ability of architects to create
is heavily influenced by the land, the
ecosystems, and habitat surrounding a
site. While there may be no agreement
on a Big Sur style of architecture, no
obvious overarching philosophy or
ethic that has emerged from speaking
with architects that work in the area,
one thing that all agree on is that the
land itself is the largest influence in any
design, trumping input from any client
or county.
“The place enforces its own rules, or
should anyway,” said Ned Callihan,
who has worked as an architect in Big
Sur for the past several years. “Letting
a design grow out of a site here, I’m
automatically led to green concepts.
Starting from the basis of passive design,
orientation, dealing with wind, sun and rain in
passive ways.
“If you go back far enough, before we had the
power to overcome or fight nature, everything was
‘green’ at that point. Here, the forces of nature are
strong enough, that if you don’t do those things, you
create problems.”
Callihan’s experience as an architect goes
back to when he worked as an urban designer in
Cincinnati, Ohio in the 70s. Tired of the politics in
his work and the lack of government support for
infrastructure projects, Callihan quit his job in the
mid 70s and began traveling the country. Like many
people, when he came here he had his “Big Sur”
epiphany and decided to stay on. From the early 80s
to mid 90s he was a body worker at Esalen, doing
minor architecture and design projects on the side.
Eventually several clients were referred to him from
an overloaded architect, which led to more projects,
which led to restarting his career.
“I love what I do,” he said.
So do the other architects who work in Big Sur.
Mickey Muennig is perhaps the most well-known
of these. Since 1971 he has lived and worked in Big
Sur, creating his own style and one that’s often seen
from the outside as synonymous with Big Sur itself.
He calls himself an organic architect, in the family
of architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Bruce Goff and
Lewis Sullivan. He studied under Goff at Oklahoma
University in the mid 1950s, moving back to his home
state of Missouri after graduating, and after several
years there, found his way to Big Sur. While he has
his own unique style, Muennig has been heavily
influenced by the land in the area.
“I try to merge the vision of the client with the
land,” he said. “I try to merge the land with the client,
that’s basically what I do.”
ne of his latest works is
the Wavecrest Complex,
or the Half Moon Bay
Ecology Center. This
is currently in the
planning phase, and
has yet to be approved
by the California
Coastal Commission or the Half Moon Bay
local government. Looking at the designs of the
Wavecrest Complex, it is hard to fathom how it
would not eventually be approved and built. In
fact, this design could be revolutionary for low
impact coastal building in the future.
The structures of the design are shaped
like waves rising out of the earth in smooth,
integrated building envelopes. From Highway 1
you would not be able to see any “building” at
all, only small hillocks and a walkway passing
between them. The complex aspires to be a place
for high school students to learn about coastal
habitat; complete with 160 dormitory beds, three
learning centers, living space for teachers, an
amphitheater, and a raised walkway over the
habitat. Buildings would be warmed by solar
hot water panels, powered by photovoltaic solar
panels, a wind mill, a biogas generator, with
water supplied through recycled rain water and a
grey water system.
Continued on page 4 …
The Big Sur VOICE Summer 2006
Proposed future
plans for the Wavecrest
Complex, Half Moon Bay.
Provided by Thomas
Architecture in Big Sur
Continued from page 3 …
Thomas Rettenwender, who was
contracted by Muennig to design the
Half Moon Bay Ecology Center, believes
it will be a magical environment for
the Half Moon Bay community. “It
serves as a good model of sustainable
community development that may be an
inspiration for us in Big Sur,” he said.
Wavecrest was designed for the
Open Space Association (OSA) in Half
Moon Bay, said Rettenwender. The
idea was that it would be a way for the
OSA to generate an income to purchase
neighboring land in the area, though it
has been a difficult political process to
do any development there, he said. The
site lies next to the Ritz Carlton Hotel
which has been heavily developed with
housing and a golf course. “So people
don’t want to see any development at
all,” said Rettenwender. “But this is not
your usual development.”
Rettenwender is into unusual
development. He recently created a nonprofit group called Realitree, and hopes
to use the profits made through its
projects to invest back into the Big Sur
community and promote environmental
design and sustainable architecture.
“Realitree was an idea born during
a project we were working on for Save
the Redwoods League,” he said. “The
project was to design a lightweight tree
structure that is fully suspended from
the redwood tree canopy to let visitors
fully experience the world up in the
trees. During that process we were measuring all
the trees and their location and size and we came
up with the idea that trees are so much a part of
our world and survival here that it should be really
incorporated into our idea of reality, which is where
the term Realitree came from.”
As for building and creating, Rettenwender
says it all starts with the design process. “The
integrated design process involves many people
from the very beginning,” he said. “[It’s] the idea
of architecture being a gift, a social process, rather
than a genius idea. It starts in the design process
and in the decisions about use of materials, and
the amount of energy costs that go into producing
materials and getting them to the site. Ideally you
would use materials that are on the site already, as
far as how you actually design the house, taking
into consideration the bioclimatic factors and using
vegetation and landscape to help integrate the
building with the land.”
What is appropriate
architecture for Big Sur?
ll the architects we spoke to
voiced similar responses, whether
discussing how a building is placed
on the site, their devotion to using
and exploring new uses of recycled,
local, ecological, and green
materials and technologies, as
well as being considerate of viewshed and aesthetic
“The Big Sur landscape and attitude of the culture
aligns closely with our beliefs about building design
and technology, meaning buildings that speak to the
land,” said Michelle Kaufmann, who has worked
on many projects in Big Sur and is now working
with the New Camadoli Hermitage on upgrading its
buildings. “This approach of having the buildings
speak to the land is manifested in a number
of ways, such as being thoughtful of how the
buildings are designed and built to use the
least amount of resources from the earth. Also,
designing buildings with roof lines that relate to
the surroundings, either ‘folded’ roofs that blend
with the hillside and mountains or curved roofs
that do the same, making the buildings blend
with the environment as much as possible.”
Using earthy materials that blend with the
environment, from the local environment, is
also an important aspect of her work, explained
“For example, for the New Camaldoli
Hermitage monastery project, we are taking
samples from the earth on the site, to use in
the mixture of the smooth trowel stucco and
sprayed earth facades for the buildings,” she
said. “As the monastery buildings are rebuilt to
be more healthy and more functional than their
current buildings, we are recycling the existing
buildings to become a part of the new project,
using crushed concrete blocks from the existing
buildings to make the walkway areas for the new
buildings, and recycling the wood in the existing
buildings for landscape elements and seating
areas. It is also important that we’re doing as
much of the work off-site as possible, to reduce
the amount of impact on the Big Sur landscape.”
Rob Carver, who has been building in the
area since 1974, has seen many changes, from
booms to busts to the current client base, which
he sees as more sophisticated. “I think the
property values have jumped several times over
the last thirty years,” he said. “There are fewer
people who can afford to live in Big Sur every
Carver is a partner with his wife Mary Ann
Schicketanz in their architecture and design firm.
Schicketanz has been working in Big Sur since
the later part of the 80s.
“We just love working here,” said Carver. “Our
philosophy has always been to be subordinate
to the landscape and to blend in. Not to be a
burden to other people’s views, but to blend in
even when you don’t have to. The first house I
ever did was a sod roof house, with sod on the
third story. It’s the idea of picking up the land
and putting the house under it. You’re replacing
the footprint that you’re disturbing, to where
you’re really not disturbing anything.”
Both of them have been influenced greatly by
being in Big Sur. “I think everybody grows over
their life span and their career,” said Schicketanz.
“Living here and building in this fabulous
landscape influences you. If we were in New
York City or San Francisco it would be different,
so our architecture relates more to the land, is
less urban. Architecture that is subordinate
to its surroundings versus architecture that is
sculptural. Both have their place and are valid,
but we are really trying to be in the category that
it is subordinate to its surroundings. Therefore
you don’t develop a recognizable style. You
don’t open the pages, and say, oh, that’s Richard
Summer 2006 The Big Sur VOICE Meier, he’s a classic example of the
white cubes sitting in the middle of
Midwestern lawns. Or Gehry is the
same, where you have a sculpture
sitting in the middle of the landscape
and it happens to be a house. That’s
definitely not what we are after.”
ubordinating architecture to the
natural landscape, as opposed to
creating works of art that may
not fit in, was a common desire
expressed by all of the designers and
architects we spoke with.
“It’s really all about the site, and
combining the nature of the site with
the needs of the client, that’s what our
mission statement is,” said Carver.
“We’ve lived here long enough and
walked the area enough that we know
the microclimates and how different
each area is, not only in Big Sur, but on
the peninsula too. Just by having been
here and observing, we have a good
sense going in of what is appropriate to
a specific site.”
While this seems easy in theory,
many people who move to Big Sur have
their own ideas of what they want.
Sometimes it just won’t work.
“You have to teach and be diplomatic
and you have to try to bring people
along and open them up to new ideas,”
said Carver. “Most people are very
receptive to that.”
In the end, it is about mixing
diplomacy and educating clients about
what works and what doesn’t, and
blending that vision with the vision a
client has coming into the relationship.
“The concepts of interrelationship
between open plan, simple detailing,
geometric relationships between things, is
what I work with,” said Callihan. “None of
my clients have come and said, do whatever
you want. It would be exciting for me to do
that, but for the client, I like to draw out
what the client wants. The site is essential.
Sometimes a client brings their ideas from
the East coast, or the Midwest, or from
Modesto, and tries to put it here. The best
buildings grow out of where they are, both
from the form of the land, the orientation
of the site, how the weather treats the
place, local materials, local skills, local
craftspeople, and what you can assemble
from around you.”
As far as “green” architecture goes, what
most excites these architects is the increasing
availability of materials which they can draw
from, especially the many recycled materials.
Strides are being made in efficient and
ecologically sustainable materials, many said,
that weren’t mainstreamed until recently.
“The survival of the Western world really
depends on us being efficient and conserving
our resources,” said Rettenwender. “We
Carver Schicketanz Architects
should be moving toward living in
sustainable communities.”
Carver said that he thinks it is only
a matter of time before more and more
sustainable materials are incorporated in
everyday building. “I think in the 70s, there
were a lot of individuals doing things with recycled
That shift has allowed us to have so many more
materials, building houses with bottles, insulating
options. There are so many options it’s really
with old blue jeans and newspapers,” he said. “Now,
hard to categorize and to find out what works,
from a company, you can get old blue jeans that
what doesn’t, in an efficient way, it is almost an
are shredded, sterilized and packaged. Enterprising
overload now. It’s a different kind of problem, but
entrepreneurs have taken the ideas of the 70s and
I think it’s wonderful what’s happening. Fixtures
started companies around them and perfected the
can be both good looking and super efficient.
materials. Now we have this amazing array of
Products made of organic materials that aren’t
materials in our palette to work with. It was a long
harmful to your health are coming on the market.
time coming. In the 70s it was pretty bleak, people
Wall to wall carpet that doesn’t give off toxic
just doing it by hand, little start up cottage industries.
chemicals is a significant development. So are
programs by carpet companies to pick-up and
recycle 100 percent of the old carpets when they
install the new one.”
Some materials are expensive right now,
and costs do fluctuate, especially on ecological
and “green” products that are coming into the
market. Still, according to Carver, the price of
these can raise the up-front cost of a project by
about 5 to 20 percent. He’s hopeful that people
realize the benefits of these products, even if
they are slightly more expensive in the building
stage. “If you make something more efficient, you
may have a higher upfront cost, but you’ll have
a lower cost over the long run – energy savings
can be huge,” said Carver. “You’ll also have the
benefit of things we aren’t really putting dollar
values on now, but should, like are we going to
kill the planet? How can you put a dollar value
on that? I’m not a doomsday guy, but there may
be a tipping point where maybe we can’t turn
things around anymore. More and more people
The integrated design process involves
many people from the very beginning,”
he said. “[It’s] the idea of architecture
being a gift, a social process, rather than
a genius idea.”
Thomas Rettenwender
Continued on page 18 …
The Big Sur VOICE Summer 2006
What is the center of Big Sur?
Envisioning the future of Big Sur
there is one shared déjà vu experience for locals here to single out, it could be the one
where a tourist stops you and asks how far it is to Big Sur.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been here and folks passing through stop to ask
for directions, and they’re wondering if they’ve passed Big Sur, or haven’t yet got to it,”
said Theodore Schink. “So they’re dismayed once they find they are in the heart, that
they are on Main Street.”
So where is the center of Big Sur exactly? Is it next to the Post Office where the large
sign says Center? Or is it in the multitude of other “centers” of the area: Esalen, Nepenthe,
the Big Sur Lodge, the Grange, Loma Vista and the Big Sur Bakery, the five-to-ten mile
long “main street” business district, the Henry Miller Library, Deetjen’s, or even all the way
down in Pacific Valley?
¿Cuál es el centro de Big Sur?
Viendo el futuro de Big Sur
Si existe alguna experiencia de déjà vu que han compartido los vecinos de Big Sur, sería aquella en la que un
turista le detiene y le pregunta cuánto se tarda para llegar
a Big Sur.
“No le podría contar la cantidad de veces que gente pasa
por aquí y pide direcciones, pensando que ya han pasado
Big Sur o que no han llegado aún,” contó Theodore Schink.
“Así que están decepcionados una vez que se enteran que
están en el centro del pueblo, que están en Main Street.
¿Así que dónde exactamente se encuentra el centro de
Big Sur? ¿Está ubicado al lado de la oficina de correos
donde un gran letrero anuncia en inglés “Center.” ¿O se
encuentra entre los diferentes “centros” de la localidad: Esalen, Nepenthe, el Big Sur Lodge, el Grange, Loma Vista
y la Big Sur Bakery, la zona comercial que consta de una
“calle principal” de cinco a diez millas de largo, la biblioteca
Henry Miller, Deetjen, o incluso Pacific Valley?
¿Realmente importa? Desde un punto de vista geográfico, el punto medio de esa extensión litoral de 90 millas
quizás se aproxime más a Lucia que a cualquier otro lugar.
¿Ese es el centro de Big Sur?
Recientemente, la Big Sur Voice (la voz de Big Sur) planteó estas preguntas a cuatro residentes: ¿dónde se ubica el
centro urbano?, ¿y si eso significa algo, qué es?, ¿y por último cómo se vería un centro para la localidad en el futuro?
Does it even matter? Geographically, the mid-point of the 90 mile stretch
of coastline is probably closer to Lucia than anything. Is that the center of Big
The Big Sur Voice recently raised this question to four residents, asking them
where they thought the center of Big Sur is, what that means, if anything, and
how a “center” of Big Sur could be envisioned. This was largely an exercise in
visioning possibilities for the future of Big Sur, something which is being done
at the group level in the Big Sur “Vision Project.” Our intent was to take that
process outside of group discussion which many see bogged down in conflicts
over land use issues, into a more freeform and loose brainstorming of ideas
about what community needs could be fulfilled by either a virtual or actual
“center.” Our four interviewees shared their thoughts about a wide range of
“center” observations and dreams ranging from the spiritual, to the long-term
sustainability of the resident community in Big Sur. Surprisingly, though these
four had not come together to discuss their ideas in depth before, what came
to the surface in each of the conversations was the similar desire to see Big Sur
become a sustainable, affordable and independent community for the residents
who live here, and also, perhaps an example to the world at large.
Esto en gran parte fue un ejercicio de ver posibilidades para
el futuro de Big Sur, algo que se está llevando a cabo a
nivel del grupo con el “Vision Project” (proyecto de visión)
de Big Sur. Nuestra intención fue de sacar el proceso de
los debates del grupo donde muchos lo veían estancado
debido a conflictos de asuntos relacionados con el uso de
la tierra, e incorporarlo en un ámbito más libre y centrado
en buscar ideas sobre qué necesidades de la comunidad podrían ser atendidas a través de un centro virtual o real. Los
cuatro entrevistados compartieron una amplia gama de observaciones acerca de un “centro” y sus sueños, desde lo espiritual hasta cómo hacer que sea sostenible la comunidad
residencial en Big Sur a largo plazo. Sorprendentemente,
aunque estas cuatro personas no se habían reunido anteriormente para hablar más detalladamente de sus ideas, el
fondo de cada conversación revelaba un deseo común de
que Big Sur se convirtiera en una comunidad sostenible,
Continuó página 8 …
Summer 2006 The Big Sur VOICE What came out of all the discussions was
that the community of Big Sur could possibly use a place to call its own, where it could
share best practices, work together to solve
everyday as well as larger systemic problems,
and where it could build community spirit
as well as create a self-sustaining enterprise.
The most concrete idea came from Michael
Gilson, and to a lesser, though similar, extent from Theodore Schink and Jason Fann.
Magnus Toren was less enthusiastic for any
kind of new construction, believing that the
current Big Sur in its multi-centeredness
didn’t need any new structures, though he
did say there was a need for greater cooperation.
hough he has only been a resident
in Big Sur since 2002, Theodore
Schink has been profoundly influenced by the area.
“Big Sur is a blessing and a joy,” Schink
said. “It’s really a wonderful and magical
The 27-year-old currently splits his time
between Big Sur and the Bay Area due to
his work further north with the MERU
Foundation and the Creative Awareness
Project, and involvement in programs related to the exploration of consciousness,
personal development and self-awareness.
Recently much of his time in Big Sur has
been dedicated to helping orchestrate his
local water company on Pfeiffer Ridge and
other volunteer work.
“Perhaps the center of Big Sur is the spiritual heart of Big Sur,” said Schink. “That
lies in each and every one of us. I’m thinking primarily of the residents of Big Sur, but that also extends to those who visit Big Sur. For me, living on
Pfeiffer Ridge, the physical center of Big Sur would
be around Loma Vista, the Big Sur Bakery, and the
whole aggregate of businesses that extend along
this several miles. As a whole, Big Sur is rather diffuse. That’s not to disregard the whole southern aspect of Big Sur. While topographically, geographically, this is perhaps the physical center of Big Sur,
any real center of Big Sur exists for the most part
in what some might call the dream time, to put it
poetically, in the heart, the collective heart of Big
After discussing issues relating to the world
economy, ecological collapse, and several other
dour topics, Schink discussed his hope that Big Sur
could use the assets of the community already in
place, with an increased potential for self-reliance,
self-sufficiency, and turn that into something more
“I think a benefit to the community would be if
we could organize around providing, to a certain
extent, the produce, fruits and vegetables, possibly seafood and meat, the foodstuffs we rely upon,
and produce that locally,” said Schink. “Big Sur
could be, and already is in many ways, a model
community for the world. We have our work cut
out for us, and perhaps a lot of people aren’t interested in participating in it, and that’s fine. But
there does exist a possibility, if we focused on it,
Photo: Michael Standaert
to create a model for the next generation and beyond. Self-reliant, self-sustaining; not cut off from
the rest of the world, but inclusive of the rest of the
world. Whether we want it or not, the main source
of income is tourism. We’re heavily reliant on the
ebb and flow of seasonal tourism. In my heart and
dreams, I can imagine a potential future Big Sur
that met and exceeded all of our wildest dreams.”
ichael Gilson, co-owner of the Big
Sur Bakery has remarkably similar
ideas to those of Schink. Largely
these thoughts centered around the idea of a community garden and possibly a community meeting
“Since I’ve been here, people are always talking about a community center,” said Gilson. “The
overriding problem in creating something like this
is that ultimately the profit motive comes in – just
to pay the bills. It would need to be a space not infected by a profit motive, something to spawn a lot
of great ideas for this community. Begin to address
the inefficiencies of a car based culture in a community like this, and how the community could ultimately move towards a more sustainable solution,
whether or not the road goes down. How do we
make that happen?”
Gilson is interested in finding out what a center
for Big Sur could be, what a future center could
look like. “That raises questions about what is
the soul of Big Sur, and what are the priorities of
the soul of Big Sur,” he said. “Are those, or could
those possibly be reflected in some center of Big
Sur? There’s such an amazing group of rugged individualists out here. What are some of the things
we all agree upon and all need?”
A lot of young people come through the bakery
looking for a job, said Gilson, but what they are
really looking for is a Big Sur experience. These
people, who often have trouble finding places to
live while they are here, could possibly be tapped
for both affordable housing that supports area
businesses, as well as to help tend a community
garden. “They’re looking to be part of the Big Sur
human community for a year or so before going
back to school, whatever it is. I think affordable
housing next to something like this could be important, perhaps crucial, for providing people to
do this type of work.”
Most community meetings, Gilson said, usually
turn into discussions about how the community is
losing Big Sur bit by bit, and he’d like to see something address more the everyday aspect of what it
takes to live here. “It goes on and on,” he said of
those discussions. “I respect it. It’s just that it’s
frustrating. There’s not so much attention on our
day-to-day lives. That is a huge issue, the protection, the preservation. That’s what everyone agrees
upon here. The preservation of this environment is
crucial and so important, and why we’re all here.”
Continued on page 9 …
The Big Sur VOICE Summer 2006
¿Cuál es el centro de Big Sur?
Continado de la página 6 …
asequible e independiente para los residentes, y quizás también en un ejemplo para el mundo entero.
La conclusión que surgió de todas las entrevistas era que
la comunidad de Big Sur podría tener un lugar en donde
compartiría las mejores prácticas, trabajaría unida para resolver problemas cotidianos así como sistémicos, y donde
podría infundir un sentimiento de comunidad y crear una
iniciativa auto sostenible. La idea más concreta vino de Michael Gilson, y aunque de un menor grado, fue similar a la de
Theodore Schink y Jason Fann. Magnus Toren mostró menos entusiasmo hacia cualquier construcción nueva, porque
cree que la actual Big Sur con sus variedad de centros no
necesita una nueva estructura, aunque si reconoció la necesidad de mayor cooperación. A continuación exponemos
algunas de sus ideas.
Aunque Theodore Schink lleva desde 2002 como residente en Big Sur, la localidad lo ha influido profundamente.
“Big Sur es una bendición y una alegría,” expresa Schink.
“Realmente es un lugar mágico y especial.”
Este veintisiete añero actualmente comparte su tiempo
entre Big Sur y la zona de la bahía debido a su trabajo en
el norte con la Fundación MERU y el Creative Awareness
Project\ y su participación en programas relacionados con
la exploración de la consciencia, el desarrollo personal y el
auto conocimiento. Últimamente ha dedicado mucho de su
tiempo ayudando a dirigir su empresa de agua ubicada en
Pfeiffer Ridge además llevar a cabo otras obras voluntarias.
“Quizás el centro de Big Sur sea el seno espiritual de
la localidad,” dijo Schink. “El que se encuentra en todos
nosotros. Me refiero principalmente a los residentes de la localidad pero también se extiende a los que visitan la zona. En
mi opinión, como una persona que vive en Pfeiffer Ridge, el
centro físico de Big Sur se ubica en los alrededores de Loma
Vista, la panadería de Big Sur y el conjunto de negocios a lo
largo de esas millas. En su totalidad, Big Sur es más bien un
lugar extenso sin olvidar toda la parte sur de la localidad.
Aunque desde un punto de vista topográfico, geográfico,
esto quizás sea el centro físico de la zona, cualquier centro
real de Big Sur existe mayormente en lo que algunos llaman
un momento de sueño, para decirlo de una forma poética,
en el corazón, en el corazón colectivo de Big Sur.”
Después de platicar sobre temas relacionados con la
economía mundial, el colapso ecológico y otros temas serios, Schink dijo que esperaba que Big Sur pudiera aprovechar
mejor los recursos de la comunidad ya existentes para conseguir autonomía, auto suficiencia y convertirlo en un lugar
algo más sostenible.
“Creo que si pudiéramos organizarnos para conseguir,
hasta cierto punto, los productos agrícolas, frutas, verduras,
posiblemente mariscos y carne, básicamente los alimentos
de los cuales dependemos, con el fin de producirlos en nuestra localidad, se beneficiaría la comunidad,” contó Schink.
“Big Sur podría ser, y de hecho ya lo es en muchos sentidos,
una comunidad modelo para el mundo. Tenemos mucho
trabajo por delante, y quizás a muchas personas no les interesa participar en la tarea, y eso está bien. Pero sí que es
posible, si nos centráramos en ello para crear un modelo
para la siguiente generación y el futuro lejano. Auto suficiente, sostenible; no desconectado del resto del mundo sino
incluido en el mundo. Que lo queramos aceptar o no, la
realidad es que la mayor fuente de ingresos proviene del turismo. Dependemos en gran parte del la entrada y del flujo de
turismo estacional. En mi corazón y en mis sueños, imagino
un Big Sur en el futuro que alcanza y excede nuestros sueños
más aspirantes.”
Michael Gilson, co propietario de la
panadería de Big Sur, tiene ideas sorprendentemente similares a las de Schink. Estas ideas se
centraban principalmente en un jardín comunitario y posiblemente en un lugar de encuentro para la comunidad.
“La gente lleva hablando de un centro comunitario desde que estoy aquí,” contó Gilson. “El problema primordial a la hora de
crear algo parecido es que al fin y al cabo
siempre surge la cuestión económica para
sacar beneficios simplemente para pagar las
facturas. Tendría que ser un espacio que no
esté contaminado por motivos de ganancias,
un sitio que generaría muchas grandes ideas
para la comunidad. Hay que empezar a abordar las ineficiencias de una cultura basada en
los autos en una comunidad como ésta, y ver
como se podría encontrar una solución más
sostenible para la comunidad con o sin la carretera. ¿Cómo hacemos que se convierta en
Gilson se pregunta cómo podría ser un
centro para Big Sur en el futuro, y a qué se
parecería. “Y eso plantea la cuestión de ¿cuál
es el alma de Big Sur, y asimismo cuáles son
las prioridades de esa alma?” sigue contando. “¿Se reflejan o podrían reflejarse en algún
centro en Big Sur? Aquí existe un grupo tan
asombroso de individualistas fuertes. ¿Cuáles
son esas cosas que todos tenemos en común
y necesitamos?”
Muchos jóvenes vienen a la panadería en
busca de un empleo, cuenta Gilson, pero lo
que realmente buscan es una experiencia en
Big Sur. Se podría aprovechar a estas personas,
que a menudo pasan por grandes dificultades
para encontrar una vivienda cuando están
aquí, para la construcción de viviendas asequibles que apoyan los negocios de la zona así
como para cuidar de un jardín comunitario.
Quieren formar parte de la comunidad humana de Big Sur durante aproximadamente un
año antes de volver a los estudios o seguir con
su vida. Creo que viviendas asequibles cerca
de algo así podría ser importante, quizás esencial, para conseguir personas que pueden
hacer este tipo de trabajo.”
Según Gilson, la mayoría de las reuniones
comunitarias suelen convertirse en una discusión sobre cómo Big Sur se está perdiendo a
cachitos, y le gustaría ver algo que abordara
los aspectos cotidianos que implican vivir en
esta zona. “Siguen y siguen,” dijo hablando
de aquellas discusiones. “Las respeto. Sólo
que es frustrante. Pero no se centran en
nuestras vidas cotidianas. Y esos son temas
importantes: la protección y la conservación.
Este es el punto común para todos aquí. La
conservación de este entorno es crucial y de
suma importancia, y por eso estamos todos
“Aunque somos todos fuertes individualistas,” reconoce Schink, Hay algo que nos une
a todos. Existe algo que nos vincula a Big Sur.
Todos valoramos la privacidad que se disfruta aquí, y hasta cierto punto, la seguridad
que se recibe viviendo en un paisaje apartado,
verde y frondoso con agua que florece de la
tierra en los abundantes manantiales. La inmobiliaria está muy solicitada, y no sólo me
refiero a los altos precios. Escasea el espacio
disponible, y el que existe está muy lejos, y
esta tendencia sigue acentuándose. Queda
muy poco espacio de inmediato disponible a
lo largo de la carretera. Dejando de lado la
preocupación de la gente por el exceso de urbanización, pero sin restarle importancia, podría existir en algún momento en el futuro un
centro real en Big Sur y podría ser una obra
arquitectónica que se concretizara a través
del empleo de una combinación de técnicas
tradicionales de construcción y tecnologías y
diseños de vanguardia y sostenibles.”
Gilson ve como un futuro centro en Big
Sur podría desempeñar varias funciones,
como un jardín comunitario, un centro de
información, un lugar para resolver temas
relacionados con el uso de la tierra, e incluso,
un medio que genera ingresos para conservar
la tierra en Big Sur. “Precisa de un edificio, un
lugar de reunión en donde podemos trabajar
sobre todas estas ideas,” contó. “Un centro
educativo donde la gente puede informarse
sobre todos los temas comunitarios relacionados al uso de la tierra, con el fin de tener
toda la información ahí.”
“Si lo miramos como una situación que
beneficia a todos, acercándonos a prácticas
sostenibles de construcción comunitaria, se
podría enfocar como un ingreso sin ánimo a
lucro que a su vez podría contribuir a una
cuenta bancaria para la comunidad de Big Sur,
que tendría como objetivo final servir como
fondos para un fideicomiso para la tierra que
pertenece a la comunidad. Algo de ese estilo
podría encontrar formas de recaudar fondos
y adquirir propiedades estratégicas, tales
como la del jardín, para empezar a comprar
de nuevo parte de la comunidad y no sentir
la amenaza a largo plazo de perderla. Debe
ser una organización sin ánimo a lucro con
la misión de conservar Big Sur. No creo que
nadie quiera perder más tierra, tierra estratégica. [Necesitamos] guardar terrenos que son
esenciales para la comunidad, como para el
jardín comunitario, el Centro de Salud, viviendas asequibles, por lo menos protegiéndolos a través de alquileres a largo plazo.”
Schink ve para Big Sur un tipo de lugar
central de reuniones, ciber tribu, organizado
en torno a la agricultura de pequeña escala
que tiene como objetivo apoyar y ofrecer información a la comunidad.
“Lo más valioso para nosotros sería un
jardín comunitario, ya sea un terreno de
propiedad privada, o algo fruto de un esContinuó página 15 …
Summer 2006 The Big Sur VOICE What is the center of Big Sur?
Continued from page 7 …
For all that divides those rugged individualists, said
Schink, there is some way in which we are all linked.
“There’s something that binds us to Big Sur,” he said. “We
all value the privacy that we get from living in Big Sur, and
to a certain extent the safety gained from living in a remote,
lush, verdant landscape with water emerging from the earth
in the abundant springs. Real estate is at a premium, and I
don’t just mean the high prices. Available space is few and
far between, and ever increasingly so. There’s very little
room immediately available right off the highway. People’s
concerns about overdevelopment aside, not ignored, there
could exist at some point a real and actual center to Big
Sur, if it existed in architecture, concretized in reality to
make use of a blend of traditional building techniques and
cutting edge, high tech, sustainable technologies and design
Gilson envisions that a center of Big Sur could serve
many functions, from a community garden, to an information center, to helping solve land use issues, to creating
revenue for preserving land in Big Sur. “It has to have a
building, a place, a meeting place where we can work on all
these ideas,” he said. “An educational center where people
can learn about all the community issues about land use, so
we have the information all right there.
“If we look at it as a win-win situation, by working toward sustainable community building practices, that could
be looked at as a not-for profit revenue stream that could
go toward serving a Big Sur community bank account, ultimately geared toward providing seed money that could go
toward forming something like a community
land trust that is owned by the community.
Something like that could find ways to raise
money and acquire strategic properties, such
as the one the garden would be on, to begin
to literally buy back some of this community
and not be threatened long term about losing
it. Ultimately it has to be a non-profit with a
mission of preserving Big Sur. I don’t think
anyone wants to lose any more land, strategic
lands. [We need to] keep pieces of land that
are crucial to the community, like for a community garden, for the Health Center, for
affordable housing, at least protecting them
through long term leases.”
What Schink envisions for Big Sur is a
kind of cyber-tribal, central meeting place,
organized around small scale micro-farming
that focuses on supporting the community
and providing community information.
“Of central value to us would be a community garden, whether a privately owned plot
of land, or a community effort with rented
lots,” said Schink. “A space that would provide gardening and the fruits of that labor to
both individuals as well as the community at
large. What if we as a community could provide guaranteed organic, non-GMO produce
and foodstuffs to the restaurants, or some of
the restaurants, as part of creating a model
community to the rest of the world? It could
be low impact and a high return on invest-
ment. I can’t overstate how that could help
sustain the community. There is a growing
network of people interested in this. I think
it’s in everyone’s best interest, and I think
there is a common dream or goal we could
organize around and serve to influence the
larger community, including, in fact, the
global community.”
For Schink, that collective heart of Big Sur
remains conducive to an increased spiritual
experience, an increased relationship to the
artistic experience.
“In my experience, what I’ve witnessed,
for all those things that seemingly divide every one of us, our own individual identities,
there is something larger that I know exists,
something larger and deeper, though perhaps
ephemeral and subtle, a very real tie that
binds us all together,” said Schink. “There’s
a way we’re inexorably linked as a community. I think those ties are strong and meaningful, though I can’t say for sure if I could
name them. Speaking for myself though, I’m
very aware of that connection, why we are
all here, what led us here and why we all stay
here. I think that’s a very beautiful and meaningful and powerful thing for us to identity
with. In light of the current social-political
situation, globally and nationally, finding
ourselves ever increasingly divided and with
Continued on page 10 …
10 The Big Sur VOICE Summer 2006
What is the center of Big Sur?
Continued from page 9 …
an increasing turning away from community and a sense of
neighborhood, there’s something really special here.”
While Magnus Toren of the Henry Miller Library
stressed that he saw no need for some kind of new “center” for Big Sur, stressing a multi-centered approach that
already exists, he did remark that there was a need for more
cooperation, especially in reducing the amount of traffic on
the roads. With high gas prices and the pollution from the
millions of cars coming up and down Highway 1, he’d like
to see some kind of community organizing around sustainable transportation.
“We need to enhance the use of public transportation
more and more in the future,” he said. “If something, some
kind of organized ride sharing program, was developed in a
user friendly and attractive way, I think it would work.”
Currently, people who use the Monterey Transit system
to get out to Henry Miller Library get a 25% discount on
anything they purchase there, but Toren said there were
only a handful of people each year who took advantage of
this. Another problem is that the bus from Monterey only
operates six months out of the year, from Memorial Day to
Labor Day, and now only two times a day during that period. “Perhaps Monterey County should just bite the bullet
and run a bus down here five times a day and have it come
to all the regular stops,” he said.
Gilson agreed, and said he could envision possibilities
for the area gas stations, where most gasoline is about $5 a
gallon, offering alterative fuels such as bio-diesel and hookups for electric cars. He also believes a community garden
could help cut down on pollution from frequent trips locals
have to take to the north for produce. “I do think that a
key goal that I hope people would want to line up behind,
would to be able to provide more and more information
on how Big Sur could become a zero emission, completely
sustainable model of how to live, creating as little impact
on the environment as much as possible,” he said.
“In a place of such natural wonder as this, most of us are
still living a car culture here,” said Gilson. “You’ve got to
drive forty miles at five dollars a gallon to buy vegetables
and fruits that were grown hundred or thousands of miles
away, often with pesticides. It’s so far away from the quality
of a vegetable that’s grown here in Big Sur, the quality of
the soil being tasted in a carrot from here. Which is kind of
why we’re here, the quality of life this place gives. This goes
into the whole big issue of whether it is realistic for people
to live here if you don’t have a ton of money, and are not
able to afford the vehicles that can withstand the roads, or
the fuel to get around here.”
For Gilson, this raises the question of if there is such
a thing as an affordable lifestyle in Big Sur anymore. “If
there is no affordable way to live here, are we going to lose
the artists, the freethinker community?” he asked. “We’ve
lost a lot already, and will continue to lose more, at least
the ones that don’t have big incomes. One thing we know
is we want to protect this area environmentally, and I think
we need to move toward sustainable, affordable lifestyle. A
community center would help those who don’t have a lot of
money, could help people learn how to live affordably in Big
Sur. A community garden is the perfect metaphor for that,
not just a garden, but a community center meeting space
that’s either in the center of the garden, or at least next to
it. It would reflect the state of the soul of this community,
whether it is providing for itself on that level. If we’re growing food and making it available, it will mean that people
are really working together.”
While a lot of this is all currently just
speculation, one person is creating another
“center” for Big Sur in actuality. Artist, musician and 17-year resident Jason Fann, who
has been the creative director for the Esalen
Arts Festival the past three years, is in the
process of unveiling a “Center for the Arts”
in Big Sur, at Loma Vista where his mother
Rachel has a shop selling art, plants, jewelry
and hipster nick-knacks. Over the next several months, this new arts center will function
as something like a zocolo, Fann says, which
is a Latin American village square or meeting
place, dedicated to art and music.
“It’s a place where people gather,” he said.
“The idea here is to create a space like that.
In Big Sur you have each of these businesses
where people go when they come through
here, but there’s not much of a place for local people or people who are just traveling
through to just come and spend some time in
an environment that’s not a business.” While
there will still be a retail business on the
property selling botanicals, succulents, exotic plants, native drought resistant plants, the
grander function of the site will be as a place
for multicultural programs for the community, including music, theatre, classes, and
art exhibitions. Over the next five months,
Fann will produce something called the Celebrando du Cultura (Celebration of Culture)
which will culminate with a three-day festival on the Day of the Dead, from November
1st to 3rd.
“The idea is to really acknowledge the Latino community here, particularly in light of
everything that’s been happening politically
in the country, and to recognize that every
business in Big Sur is supported by this [Latino] community,” said Fann. “We really don’t
have anything that provides for that community.”
The first aspect of the Celebration of Culture, Fann said, will be a language program
that brings together twelve Spanish-only
speakers from the community with twelve
English-only speakers to teach each other
their languages and about their cultures.
“This will help bring people who normally
wouldn’t be in that environment together,
teaching each other,” Fann said. “You want
to be able to educate people with language,
but in order to look at some of the other cultural and economic issues that face our community, you have to be able to communicate.
We’ll do that through language, arts, and culinary programs.”
t Captain Cooper, the children
will be creating something called
an oferenda, said Fann, an offering, or an alter as a way to pay
homage to their ancestors, to learn about
each other, learn about their own families, to
celebrate their own cultures and the cultures
of others. The Esselen tribal council has been
invited to build an alter dedicated to their
ancestors. The Chinese Cultural Center is
going to create a historical display about the
Chinese community in Big Sur. “As far as I
know, there are no Chinese residents,” said
Fann. “But if you look at the history of Big
Sur, and you look at who built Highway 1
and lived in motel row at Esalen Institute, it
was the Chinese workers. So, these are the
kinds of programs we want to do that weave
all these things together. You have education,
art, bridging communities. There will be an
exhibit in the garden with all of the alters.
We’ll have a mural project that is part of that.
Every month we’ll have a different artist in
the garden teaching people. We will have artists from Mexico coming to stay here.”
Other upcoming pieces of this artistic
mosaic include an exhibition of twelve artists who lost their homes in New Orleans,
visiting artists from the African community
in Brooklyn, New York will display and give
classes, and Tibetan monks will perform a
seven day mandala ceremony. There will be
classes in painting, ceramics, mosaic, African and Brazilian percussion classes. A flamenco dance teacher and a guitarist will be
in residence this September, as well as ongoing exhibits of arts and artists from around
the world.
“A lot of the work I want to do is use art
and culture to bring awareness to different
social issues,” said Fann. “I really want to
provide programs that are educational, so
people can really understand other cultures
and understand who we are as a planet, as a
country and as a Big Sur community.”
Another project which is separate but coexists with the Celebration of Culture project
will be the display of the Hands for Peace
exhibit, which Fann was commissioned to
produce by the mayor of Salinas for the International Peace Summit. “The idea began
as a theme of forgiveness,” he said. “They
brought together rival gang members, school
teachers, police officers. Artists from 20 different countries have contributed to this. Another part of this is to do works of art out
in the greater community that involve artists
from all different cultures. As part of that
there will be a photo exhibit. It will be part of
the Yoga Festival at Esalen, with 1200 prayer
flags added to it and after that it will go on
tour to rock concerts and festivals around
the country.”
Schink reiterated his idea that these are
all simply dreams, and that any center of
Big Sur, he believes, is shared inside each
of its residents. “It’s an underlying foundational dream we all share, and perhaps exists
in the future yet to be discovered,” he said.
“There are certain forces at play in molding
Big Sur, with the intention of preserving the
planet and various locales, potentially at the
expense of people’s livelihood and communities in some instances. There is a merging
of interests, so we need to organize around
our common dream and create a sustainable
vision of Big Sur that we can carry into the
future. It’s a big challenge.” 
Summer 2006 The Big Sur VOICE 11
Big Sur Vision Project update
or well over a year, the Big Sur Vision
Project has met once a month to attempt
to come to a consensus about what the vision should be for the Big Sur community
for the next 50 years. What this entails
is finding out how to preserve the spirit,
environment, culture, economy and community of Big Sur for the future.
For more than half of this time, the group has been
stuck in a discussion over the final three points of the
Vision Mission Statement, largely centered around
whether or not public agencies and NGOs should or
should not be able to continue to acquire private land
in Big Sur. There appears to be a lack of consensus
within the group between those very concerned about
public acquisition of private land, and those who feel
that continued acquisition is not necessarily a detriment to the community.
Attendance has ranged from around 20 to 30
people per meeting during the past few months. Some
Photo: Michael Standaert
members of the group have privately voiced concerns
that up to half of the people attending the meetings
are representatives of public agencies, and therefore
are not members of the Big Sur residential community.
Originally the Vision Project stipulated that people
representing public agencies were not to participate
unless they were there as individual residents of Big
Sur. That changed later when the agency representatives were invited to become involved with the group
in order to help come to consensus about continued
acquisition of private land. This participation led to
a series of meetings where the agencies shared their
goals and philosophies and produced maps and data
of past acquisitions.
The Vision Mission Statement committee requested,
and it was agreed by the group at large, that the mission statement would be sent out to the community in
the form of a survey to solicit feedback. A separate
subcommittee called the Outreach Committee was
formed by co-chairs Alan Perlmutter and Martha
Diehl to determine how best to write
an introduction for this survey and
draft mission statement. This committee could not achieve consensus
on the wording of this introduction
prior to the BSV deadline. The Vision
Group also requested that the drafts of
Vision Statement’s 8, 9 and 10 not be
printed here before this introduction
was released, so we have honored that
request. However, public minutes of
the meetings as well as the draft of the
Vision Mission Statement have been
freely available at the Vision meetings,
and can be obtained by contacting the
co-chairs of the Vision Project, Perlmutter and Diehl.
Steve Schindler, who heads the
subcommittee developing the Vision
Mission Statement, and who presented
the final three points of the statement
at the May meeting, remarked that the
primary controversy over the wording
of Vision Mission Statement Number
8 came from the agencies and not the
residents attending the meeting.
Some participants are concerned
that the guest role of the agencies has
now morphed into their participation
Continued on page 17 …
12 The Big Sur VOICE Summer 2006
Reprinted with permission of the Independent Institute in Oakland, California.
This piece was also reprinted in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The high price of land-use planning
Open Forum
By Randal O’Toole
The Independent Institute
Published May 22, 2006
Most people know that the San Francisco Bay
Area has one of the most expensive housing markets
in the nation. However, not everyone realizes that, as
recently as 1970, Bay Area housing was as affordable as
housing in many other parts of the country.
Data from the 1970 census shows that a median-income Bay Area family could dedicate a quarter of their
income to housing and pay off their mortgage on a median-priced home in just 13 years. By 1980, a family had
to spend 40 percent of their income to pay off a home
mortgage in 30 years; today, it requires 50 percent.
What happened in the 1970s to make Bay Area housing so unaffordable? In a nutshell: land-use planning.
During the 1970s, Bay Area cities and counties imposed
a variety of land-use restrictions intended to make the
region more livable.
These restrictions included urban-growth boundaries, purchases of regional parks and open spaces and
various limits on building permits. These regulations
created artificial land shortages that drove housing
prices to extreme levels. Today, residents of Houston,
Texas, can buy a brand-new four-bedroom, two-andone-half bath home on a quarter-acre lot for
less than $160,000. That same house would cost
you more than five times as much in Marin or
Contra Costa counties, seven times as much
in Alameda County, and eight to nine times as
much in Santa Clara, San Mateo, or San Francisco counties.
In fact, planning-induced housing shortages
added $30 billion to the cost of homes that
Bay Area homebuyers purchased in 2005. This
dwarfs any benefits from land-use restrictions;
after all, how livable is a place if you can’t afford
to live there?
The benefits of protecting open space are
particularly questionable. The 2000 census
found that nearly
95 percent of Californians live in cities and
towns that occupy just 5 percent of its land.
Many San Francisco Bay Area counties have permanently protected more acres as open space
than they have made available for urban development. When such actions make it impossible
for middle-class families, much less low-income
families, to afford their own homes, they represent a sad distortion of social priorities.
Moreover, as in the 1980s, California’s fastrising home prices have attracted speculators
who have created huge bubbles in the state’s
housing markets. Bay Area prices fell by 10 percent in the early 1980s, 20 percent in the early
1990s, and are likely to fall even more as the
bubble deflates in the next few years.
The impacts of high housing prices are also
reverberating throughout the region’s economy.
First, economic growth has slowed as businesses look elsewhere to locate offices and factories.
High housing costs have also increased prices
for food and other consumer goods; retailers
now pay $1 million per acre or more for store
locations. Far from reducing driving as planners
“Homeonwnership is more
than just a dream, it is
a vital part of America’s
economic mobility. Most
small businesses get their
original financing from
a loan secured by the
business owner’s home.
Children in low-income
families who own their
own homes do better on
educational tests than
those who live in rental
housing. Barriers to home
ownership reduce this
mobility and help keep
low-income people poor.”
Randal O’Toole
desire, high housing prices force many
commuters to live farther away from
their jobs, forcing more cars onto the
roads. Ironically, an obsessive focus
on protecting Bay Area “farmlands” (in
fact, mostly marginal pasturelands)
forces people to move inland and
more rapidly develop the highly productive croplands in California’s notyet-so-unaffordable Central Valley.
The people most enthused about
all these planning rules like to call
themselves ‘’progressive.’’ But the effects of planning on home prices are
entirely regressive. Planning-induced
housing shortages place enormous
burdens on low-income families but
create windfall profits for wealthy
homeowners. Does this steal-from-thepoor, give-to-the-rich policy reflect
the Bay Area’s true attitudes?
Homeownership is more than just
a dream, it is a vital part of America’s
economic mobility. Most small businesses get their original financing
from a loan secured by the business
owner’s home. Children in low-income
families who own their own homes do
better on educational tests than those
who live in rental housing. Barriers to
home ownership reduce this mobility and help keep low-income people
Predictably, planners’ solutions to
the housing affordability problem often make the problem worse. Planners
typically require that homebuilders
sell or rent 15 percent of their homes
at below-market rates to low-income
families. The homebuilders simply
pass that cost on to the buyers of the
other 85 percent of the homes they
sell. Existing homeowners, seeing that
new homes suddenly cost more, raise
the price of their homes when they
sell. The result: A few people benefit
and everyone else pays more.
The solution to the Bay Area’s
housing affordability crisis is not a few
units of affordable housing, but widespread land-use deregulation that will
make housing more affordable for
everyone. 
Randal O’Toole ([email protected]) is a research
fellow with the Independent Institute, an
Oakland-based think tank, and director
of the American Dream Coalition ( His recent report,
“The Planning Penalty: How Smart Growth
Makes Housing Unaffordable,” is available
Summer 2006 The Big Sur VOICE 13
Has ‘Slow Growth’ come at a cost in Monterey County as well?
Recently the Big Sur Voice sent an article from the Los Angeles Times to
about 20 residents and asked them to respond in writing, looking at similarities and differences between Monterey County and Santa Barbara
County. The article, “Slow Growth has come at a cost in Santa Barbara” by
Jeffery L. Rabin and Daryl Kelley is dated 3/6/06 and can be read on the L.A.
Times website. In 2005, according to a recent story in the New York Times,
the least affordable place to live in the U.S. is Salinas, measured by percentage of income going toward mortgage payments. Second on the list is the
Santa Cruz-Watsonville area, and eleven of the least affordable metropolitan
areas in the country are in California. You can find it at the New York Times
website under the title: “Least affordable place to live? Try Salinas” (please
see URL’s to both stories at bottom of the following article).
riefly, the Los Angeles Times article addresses
how efforts to institute ‘slow growth’ in Santa
Barbara County have backfired. Housing prices have soared so much that the median price
of a single-family home is now $1.1 million there. Traffic congestion, air pollution and energy consumption
have increased due to the number of commuters who
can’t afford to live near where they work. Big employers have left the county, including half-a-dozen Fortune
500 companies, and businesses and government agen-
cies find it increasingly difficult to recruit and
retain workers due to living costs. Poor families have been forced to double and triple up
in rental housing. Middle class families who
can’t afford to buy homes leave for other areas.
The community has been divided between very
wealthy homeowners and very poor renters,
second home owners and retirees. Other areas
of Santa Barbara County have seen growth
encroaching on farmland as restrictions limit
growth in other areas of the county. Santa Maria
will soon be more populous than Santa Barbara,
though home prices there are now soaring as well.
What are the similarities? In Monterey County,
the median price of a single-family home in February was $700,000, though that has dipped recently
to $670,000.Between 2000 and 2004, the population of Monterey County grew at a rate of 3.2%,
half that of the rate of California as a whole. Yet,
by 2020, it is projected that there will be nearly
100,000 more people living in Monterey County,
comparable to adding
three cities the size of
Monterey to the county.
Due to the amount of
public land in Monterey
County, there is limited
private developable space.
Geographic factors such
as steep slopes, as well
as rich agricultural land,
limit the space even further. What is left remains
mostly in the North
County and the Fort Ord
areas. Traffic congestion,
air pollution and energy
consumption from the
numbers of commuters
is also an obvious problem in Monterey County,
though increases in gas
prices recently have perhaps dampened those
figures. Due to the high
cost of living in Monterey
County it is difficult to
Continued on page 14 …
14 The Big Sur VOICE Summer 2006
Slow growth
Continued from page 13 …
retain and recruit workers due to high rental unit
costs and the high costs of purchasing a home.
This is especially significant in the planning department, where high turnover has added to the
glut of projects that planners have to take on. That
glut snowballs into pushing projects out months or
years, further complicating the already tight housing market for moderate and low income families.
Recently the County posted public review draft
of the Monterey County 21st Century General Plan
Update on its website:
In late May, the Planning Commission established a review schedule for the newest version of
a draft General Plan Update. In mid-July it is expected that a draft environmental impact report
(EIR) will be released and in August the Planning
Commission will start to hold workshops on this
draft of the GPU. In October the final EIR is expected to be ready for formal hearings. Later in the
year, the GPU draft will then go before the Board
of Supervisors for their review.
The following is from the Monterey County 21st
Century General Plan Update, about factors that influence the balance of jobs and housing in the county:
 Silicon Valley workers and telecommuters.
Almost half of new homes purchased in Salinas
are bought by people that work in Silicon Valley.
Housing demand is beginning to exceed supply.
It is anticipated that in the near future, more and
more workers will be willing to tolerate a one and
a half to two hour commute to work in order to
own their own home.
 Job growth in lower end jobs. Monterey
County has traditionally had a relatively small
base of high-paying jobs. In one study, 78 percent
of 1,600 jobs were entry level, paying no more
than $9.99 an hour. By comparison, during the
same period, 69 percent of the jobs in the Bay
Area were entry level. Workers filling these entry
level positions need affordable housing.
Seasonal employment from agriculture.An estimated 39,000 farm workers in Monterey County,
many making between $8,000 to $18,000 a year,
cannot afford most of the housing available in the
Second homes and vacation properties. Although they are counted as residential units, these
houses are not available for workers in the county.
These units account for 30% of homes in Carmel
and are prevalent throughout various other parts
of the county.
Below are the responses of some residents to the
article on Santa Barbara county, comparing it to
the situation in Monterey County, specifically in
regards to Big Sur.
Photos: Michael Standaert
Summer 2006 The Big Sur VOICE 15
From Kenneth Harlan:
“Very interesting article. The comparison between Santa Barbara /Goleta and the Big Sur coast
is difficult. The remote aspect of most of the Big
Sur coast lends itself to a much different type of
permanent resident than would be found around
Santa Barbara. I suspect that not very many Santa Barbara residents would be interested in living
there if they had no electricity and the nearest grocery store was a 50 mile, 1-1/2 hour drive away.
That remoteness has likely been just as significant
in limiting growth on the coast as has the regulations under the Local Coastal Plan (LCP). Those
areas closer to Monterey probably share more development factors with Santa Barbara – primary
that the process is so arduous and expensive that
only very high-end projects make sense.
In general, however, your article speaks to the
larger problem that we seem to be skirting around
throughout this country with regard to housing,
energy, agriculture and manufacturing. We all
want each of these parts of our lives to be readily
available and inexpensive. With regard to energy,
agriculture and manufacturing, we also want them
to be invisible, nonpolluting and in the backyard
of someone else. While I would not support significant changes in the LCP, we must recognize
that a growing population requires resources. It is
not practical to imagine that only the very wealthy
should live in all of the choicest spots and that all
others must commute to serve them. In a world of
rapidly growing competition for energy and resources, something will have to give. It is better
that we should recognize that eventuality and plan
for it, rather than living with a correction that is
forced upon us.”
From Andy Nusbaum:
“In comparing areas, it’s easy to fall into the
trap of lumping a lot of areas together. Monterey
County is pretty diverse. There are obviously some
similarities. What’s happening in Santa Barbara is
similar to what is happening here. The costs have
been driven up to where affordable housing is almost non-existent. Energy costs go up and people
drive more, there’s more energy being used, more
time being spent on the highways, which pollutes
more. People are away from their families more.
There’s sort of a vicious cycle. Well intentioned policies that attract people to a place, creates a situation that makes it harder for people to live in that
place. You kind of end up defeating the purpose of
your initial intentions.
What I’m sort of stuck on is what does that
mean and how do we correct it. How do we slow
that cycle down? One of the subgroups of the Vision group is affordable housing, which is a key issue for Big Sur and Monterey County. There aren’t
a lot of people who work in Big Sur, which depends
on tourism, who can live there. They have to drive
from the north from Salinas or from the south. It’s
not so much the supply and demand, it’s the restrictions. People can’t afford to go through the process
to own their own home because of the roadblocks
that are put in the way.
There are ways to revise the planning. The GPU
is being rewritten and it’s undecided how the Big
Sur Local Coastal Plan will be revised if at all. Be-
cause of the diversity of Monterey County, what
works in the peninsula, and what works in the agricultural areas, doesn’t necessarily work in Big Sur.
To a large extent, the people in Big Sur have a passion for the land, the environment, that is unique.
Because it’s a small population, it’s not often heard.
They can maintain and preserve the area possibly
better than the bureaucrats sitting somewhere else.
The Vision group and the CPOA are valuable tools,
and both of them need to be objective, rational and
The intentions are correct, but over time the intentions grow into this monster of restrictions that
end up backfiring into unintended consequences
that go against what you were trying to do in the
first place.”
From Kenny Camello:
“I just recently retired the Big Sur Volunteer Fire
Brigade after 20 years of service. In my last year of
attending officer’s meetings I brought up the subject of the Brigade going to a paid service. I had
been proud to have been part of the Brigade for
the years I was but I also thought I saw that the
Brigade could not continue, depending on the local population to supply the needs of fire, medical and cliff rescue services to our 100 mile long
response zone. I’m a 35 year resident and I’ve seen
the shrinking of the so-called “middle class” of
Big Sur. I’ve seen the available housing shrink to
maybe half of what it was 20 or so years ago and of
course what housing remains available is so much
Continued on page 20 …
“I’m a 35-year resident and I’ve seen the shrinking of he so-called
‘middle class’ of Big Sur. I’ve seen the available housing shrink to
maybe half of what it was 20 or so years ago and of course what
housing remains available is so much more expensive! Property is
not affordable to my sons on this coast.”
Kenny Camello
16 The Big Sur VOICE Summer 2006
Foto: Michael Standaert
¿Cuál es el centro de Big Sur?
Continado de la página 8 …
fuerzo comunitario con partes alquiladas,” dijo Schink. “Un espacio que
ofrecería la posibilidad de trabajar en
él y de distribuir los frutos del trabajo
a toda la comunidad. ¿Y si nosotros
como comunidad pidiéramos ofrecer
productos agrícolas biológicos sin
organismos genéticamente manipulados y alimentos a los restaurantes
de la zona, o a algunos de los restaurantes como parte de la creación de
un modelo para el resto del mundo?
Podría tener un impacto mínimo y un
alto rendimiento en las inversiones.
Ayudaría enormemente a sostener la
comunidad. A cada vez más personas
les interesan esto. Creo que es para
el bien de todos y creo que existe un
sueño u objetivo común alrededor
del cual nos podemos organizar y que
serviría para influir en el resto de la
comunidad, incluyendo, de hecho, la
comunidad global.”
Para Schink, ese corazón colectivo de Big Sur permanece como algo
propicio a una mayor experiencia
espiritual, una mayor relación a la
experiencia artística.
“Para mi, lo que he visto, entre
todas aquellas cosas que aparentemente nos dividen, nuestras identidades individuales, sé que existe algo
más grande, algo más grande y más
profundo, aunque quizás efímera
y sutil, un vínculo real que nos une
a todos,” dijo Schink. “Estamos de
alguna manera inextricablemente
unidos como comunidad. Creo que
esos vínculos son fuertes y significativos, aunque no sabría con seguridad
lo que son. Pero, hablando por mí,
soy muy consciente de esa conexión,
del motivo por el cual estamos todos
aquí, lo que nos llevó hasta aquí y
porque nos quedamos en este lugar.
Creo que es algo significativo, bello
y poderoso con lo que nos podemos
identificar. En vistas de la situación
sociopolítica actual, a nivel mundial
y nacional, estamos cada vez más divididos y nos alejamos cada vez más
de la comunidad y del sentimiento de
vecindario, hay algo realmente especial aquí.”
Aunque Magnus Toren de la biblioteca Henry Miller destacó que no
veía ninguna necesidad para un nuevo “centro” en Big Sur, fijándose en el
enfoque multi-céntrico que ya existe,
si que reconoció la necesidad de más
cooperación, en particular para disminuir la cantidad de circulación en
las carreteras. Con los elevados precios de gasolina y la contaminación
que generan los millones de autos
que circulan por Highway 1, le gustaría ver algún tipo de organización
comunitaria para conseguir transporte sostenible.
“Debemos mejorar el uso del trans-
porte público más y más en el futuro,”
acierta. “Si algo como un programa
para compartir autos, se desarrollara
para que fuera fácil y atractivo, creo
que funcionaría.”
Actualmente, las personas que
usan el sistema del Monterey Transit
para venir a la biblioteca de Henry
Miller reciben un descuento del 25%
sobre cualquier compra que se efectué aquí, pero según Toren sólo una
decena de personas aprovechan esta
oportunidad al año. Otro problema
es que el autobús de Monterey circula la mitad del año desde el Día
Memorial hasta el Día del Trabajo, y
ahora sólo dos veces al día durante
ese periodo. “Quizás el Condado de
Monterey simplemente debería aceptar el sacrificio y mandar autobuses
hasta aquí que paren en todas las
paradas normales cinco veces al día,”
Gilson estaba de acuerdo con esto
y dijo que vería la posibilidad de que
las gasolineras de la zona que venden gasolina a $5 el galón, ofrecieran
combustibles alternativos como la
bio-diesel y tomas eléctricas para
autos eléctricos. También opina que
un jardín comunitario ayudaría a disminuir la contaminación que producen los vecinos al ir y venir del norte
con el fin de comprar productos agrícolas. “Creo que un objetivo claro
al que espero que se apunte mucha
gente sería ofrecer más información
sobre como Big Sur se puede convertir en una zona libre de emisiones, un
lugar modelo para vivir, teniendo un
impacto cada vez menos importante
en el medio ambiente,” agregó.
“En un lugar tan maravilloso como
este la mayoría de nosotros vivimos
en una cultura basada en el auto,”
admite Gilson. “Para comprar frutas
y verduras que se cultivaron cientos o
incluso miles de millas de aquí, y que
encima suelen tener pesticidas, uno
tiene que conducir 40 millas pagando
$5 el galón de gasolina. La calidad
de verduras no tiene nada que ver
con la de las verduras que cultivamos
aquí, se saborea la calidad de la tierra
en una zanahoria de esta zona. Y en
parte, por eso estamos aquí, por la
calidad de vida que ofrece este lugar.
Esto nos lleva al tema principal que
es si es realista vivir en este sitio si
uno no tiene muchísimo dinero y no
puede permitirse autos que aguanten
las carreteras ni el combustible para
De hecho, Gilson se plantea si
hoy día todavía existe un estilo de
vida asequible en Big Sur. “Si no es
asequible vivir aquí, ¿significa que
vamos a perder a los artistas y la comunidad de pensadores libres?” preguntó. “Ya hemos perdido a muchas
de estas personas, y seguirán yéndose,
por lo menos aquellas que no reciben
altos ingresos económicos. Lo que sí
sabemos es que queremos proteger al
medio ambiente de este entorno y en
mi opinión debemos acercarnos más
a un estilo de vida más asequible y
sostenible. Un centro comunitario
Summer 2006 The Big Sur VOICE 17
ayudaría a aquellos que no disponen
de muchos medios económicos, les
ayudaría a aprender a vivir de una
forma más económica en Big Sur. Y
una metáfora perfecta para esa idea
es un jardín comunitario, no sólo un
jardín, sino un centro comunitario
para reuniones que esté en el centro del jardín o al menos cerca de él.
Reflejaría el estado del alma de esta
comunidad amen de lo que produzca.
Si estamos cultivando alimentos y
facilitando esa tarea, entonces significará que la gente realmente esta trabajando unida.”
Aunque todo esto son simplemente
ideas, una persona está realmente creando otro “centro” para Big Sur. Jason Fann, artista, músico y residente
de Big Sur desde hace 17 años y director creativo del Festival de Arte en Esalen para los últimos tres años, está
en el proceso de presentar el “Center
of the Arts” (centro de las artes) en
Loma Vista donde su madre Rachel
tiene una tienda en donde vende arte,
plantas, joyas y otros recuerdos curiosos. A lo largo de los próximos
meses, este nuevo centro de artes será
como un zócalo, lo cual es una plaza
o lugar de reunión en los pueblos
latinoamericanos, que se empleará
para el arte y la música.
“Es un lugar en donde se reúne la
gente,” explicó. “La idea con este sitio
es crear un espacio similar a eso. En
Big Sur existen muchos comerciales a
donde van los visitantes, pero no hay
un lugar para los vecinos o las personas que pasan por aquí para estar sin
estar en un negocio.” Aunque seguirá
existiendo un negocio de ventas en la
propiedad que venda botánicos, suculentos, plantas exóticas y plantas
autóctonas resistentes a las sequías,
la función principal del lugar será un
para programas multiculturales para
la comunidad, además de música,
teatro, cursos y exposiciones de arte.
En los próximos cinco meses, Fann
creará algo llamado Celebración de
Culturas que culminará con un festival de tres días en el Día de los Muertos, del 1 al 3 de noviembre.
“La idea es de realmente reconocer
la comunidad latina en esta zona, especialmente si tenemos en cuenta todo
lo que ha sucedido a nivel político en
este país, y se trata de reconocer que
todos los negocios aquí en Big Sur lo
apoya esta comunidad [latina],”dijo
Fann. “Realmente no ofrecemos
nada a esa comunidad.”
El primer aspecto de la Celebración de Culturas, contó Fann,
será un programa de idiomas que reunirá a 12 personas que únicamente
hablen español con 12 personas que
únicamente hablen inglés para que se
enseñen sus idiomas y culturas.
“Esto permitirá que se reúna gente
que normalmente no se encontrarían
en ese entorno, y lo harán enseñándose,” explicó Fann. “Por un lado se
trata de que la gente aprenda idiomas,
pero también para poder ver los otros
temas culturales y económicos a los
que se enfrenta nuestra comunidad,
primero debe haber comunicación.
Eso lo haremos a través de programas de idiomas, artes y la cocina.”
En la Escuela Captain Cooper, los
niños van a hacer ofrendas o altares,
cuenta Fann, para reconocer y recordar sus ancestros, para aprender el
uno del otro y de sus familias, para
celebrar sus culturas y las de otros. El
consejo de tribu de Esalen ha sido invitado para hacer su propio altar en
dedicación a sus ancestros. El Centro
Cultural Chino va a crear una exhibición histórica sobre la comunidad
china en Big Sur. “Que sepa yo, no
hay residentes chinos en Big Sur, pero
si uno mira la historia de Big Sur y
averigua quien construyó Highway
1 y vivió en “motel row” en el instituto Esalen, verá que fueron los trabajadores chinos. Así que son estos
los tipos de programas que queremos
llevar a cabo para conectar a todos.
Tenemos educación y arte uniendo
comunidades. Expondremos todos
los altares en el jardín. Y también
habrá un mural que formará parte
de todo esto. Todos los meses tendremos un artista diferente enseñando a
la gente en el jardín. Vendrán artistas
de Mexico.”
Entre otros elementos de este
mosaico artístico se incluyen una
exposición de doce artistas que
perdieron sus casas en Nueva Orleáns, artistas que visitan de la comunidad africana en Brooklyn, Nueva
Cork que expondrán y darán clases,
y monjes tibetanos que celebrarán
una ceremonia mandala de siete dias.
Habrá clases de pintura, cerámica,
mosaico y percusión africano y
brasileño. Habrá un maestro de baile
flamenco y guitarrista en Septiembre,
así como exposiciones continuas de
arte y artistas de todo el mundo.
“Mucho de lo que quiero hacer es
usar el arte y la cultura para concienciar a la gente sobre diferentes asuntos sociales,” contó Fann. “Quiero
ofrecer programas educativos para
que la gente entienda otras culturas
y quienes somos como planeta, como
país y como comunidad de Big Sur.”
Otro proyecto aparte pero coexistente con la Celebración de las Culturas será la exposición de Hands for
Peace (manos para la paz), lo cual el
alcalde de Salinas comisionó a Fann
y que fue decidido en la Cumbre Internacional de la Paz. “La idea surgió
como tema para el perdón,” contó.
Unieron a miembros de bandas rivales, maestros de escuelas, policías
y artistas de 20 países diferentes
que han contribuido a este proyecto.
Otra parte de esto es hacer obras de
arte de todo el mundo e involucrar a
artistas de diferentes culturas. Como
parte de ello habrá una exposición de
fotos. Formará parte del Festival de
Yoga en Esalen, con banderas de oraciones y después ira de gira con grupo
de rock y festivales en todo el país.”
Schink reiteró que estos simplemente eran sueños, y que cualquier
centro en Big Sur, según él, está dentro de cada uno de los residentes.
“Es un sueño subyacente principal
que todos compartimos, y quizás es
algo que queda por descubrir en el
futuro,”explicó. Existen diferentes
fuerzas que moldean Big Sur, con la
intención de conservar el planeta y
los diferentes lugares de la zona, posiblemente a costas de los medios de
vida de las personas y a veces de las
comunidades. Existe una unión de
intereses, así que debemos organizarnos en torno a nuestro sueño común
y crear una visión sostenible de Big
Sur que podemos seguir en el futuro.
Es un gran reto.” 
Vision plan update
Continued from page 11 …
in approval of communication documents distributed to the larger
community and that the original intent of creating a residential
community vision has been sidetracked. “It comes down to the
question of whether we are independent of the agency people, or
whether they are allowed input on that wording,” said Schindler.
Others say they are happy to have the agency representatives
there to discuss these issues since it helps reduce misinformation,
and moves discussions into more in-depth, substantive directions.
Public agency representatives themselves, some who are also
residents of Big Sur, claim they should be part of the discussions
about its future. Some members of the Vision Project say privately
that there has already been a significant change in how agencies
and organizations approach conservation in Big Sur through their
participation in the Vision Project, and that they are open to the
concerns raised by those who oppose continued acquisition.
In terms of subcommittee participation, the subcommittee
tasked with drafting the Mission Statement does not have agency
representatives on it, nor does the Outreach subcommittee. Other
subcommittees looking at issues such as affordable housing,
conservation and the future process of the Vision Project do have
representatives from various agencies and NGOs. 
Vision Project meetings have been regularly scheduled for the 3rd
Friday of each month, usually held at 9:30am at the Grange. The
next Vision Project meeting will be held on Friday August 18th
from 9:30 to12:30 at the Grange. There will be no July meeting.
Schedule changes in the future may involve alternate times and
For those wanting more information about the Vision Project, how
to participate, or past minutes of the meetings, please contact
Martha Diehl.
Martha Diehl
Garrapata Trout Farm
35811 Hwy 1
Monterey, CA 93940
831.625.9621 (voice)
831.625.1468 (fax)
[email protected]
18 The Big Sur VOICE Summer 2006
Carver Schicketanz Architects
Architecture in Big Sur
Continued from page 5 …
are thinking along these lines and are
“Green” Community
Housing Hopes and Dilemmas
One thing all the architects were
interested in doing was finding solutions
for the affordable housing situation in
Big Sur, and doing it in a sustainable
manner that could use many of these
new materials as well as old, simple
design practices that tap into passive
elements, such as sun, wind and rain.
Realitree is hoping it can join forces
with those looking for an affordable
housing solution by providing expertise
on where to get materials for lower cost,
how they can facilitate grants and loans
from environmental organizations to
mitigate higher costs, and to help vision
what a project or series of projects
might look like.
“The goal is to make it affordable to
people who don’t think it is affordable,”
said Laura Doherty, co-founder of
Realitree. “So for us to come in and say,
‘You’re doing this project, how can we
contribute to make this affordable? Can
we get donations, how can we make this
‘green’ housing after all?’ Part of our goal
is to be able to help with that. I think it
requires a lot of working with different
organizations. It’s going to be through
relationships and through people that
want to do it. With the non-profit
status it makes it easier for people to
“There are some [subsidies] out there
for appropriate technology, for solar
and whatnot,” Doherty said. “We need
to really research what is available and
find out what other people are doing
on that and be active in seeing what we can make
available in the future.”
Callihan believes the interest is there to do
something, but now it is about getting the right
people together to come up with a number of ideas,
get the political and government support behind it,
and finding the right piece or pieces of land.
“I think the next step is to get somebody on line to
develop their property that way and begin applying
what the non-profit housing organizations have
offered to do, which is bring together grants and put
together a package which would allow an individual
owner to do a number of things, depending on what
is appropriate on the property,” he said. “You could
develop a cluster, or develop one or two buildings.
There are a number of ways to approach this. There
are larger scale things that could be possible if you
get the right piece of property. It will all require the
approval of authorities, because it would require
A current dilemma is where that land might come
“What it would take down here is a land donation,”
said Schicketanz. “There is no way you can have
affordable housing without either a private party or
the government donating the land, you have to have
free land to get the construction cost to where it needs
to be to be affordable housing.”
Carver sees the need for affordable housing every
day when he drives to work.
“We work at the mouth of the Carmel Valley
because we outgrew our office in Big Sur. We would
love to have it at our house, but the zoning ordinance
limits cottage industries to 2 employees, and we have
20. We see all the traffic of the people who drive
down the coast every day, the same people going to
work, and the people from Palo Colorado going north
to work,” he said. “It obviously makes more sense to
have people living closer to where they work. There
are a lot of people who live in cars, which is a real
problem. We see an opportunity for combining the
affordable with the sustainable. Get rid of the stigma
of sustainable being more expensive. I think you
can do it with good design to where it is not more
expensive, especially in the long run, and lessens
energy costs over time.”
There are a number of issues which contribute
to the lack of housing in Big Sur for working
people, as well as a variety of debates over which
issues factor in the most. Obviously limited
availability of land is one. However, nation-wide,
most affordable housing projects take place on
government land and 70% of Big Sur is owned
by either the State or the Federal Government.
Zoning is another – the current land use plan
does not allow affordable housing. Any project
would require rezoning. And there is the push
back that will inevitably come from some
members of the community who do not want to
see this type of development in their backyard,
something both South County Housing and
CHISPA, affordable housing non-profits working
in Monterey County, say they run into all the
“It’s clear to me that this community wants
to find a solution,” said Doherty. “I think they
need a couple people who are in charge. I think
if there was a committee that was formed [BSV:
The Big Sur Vision Group has a committee for
those interested in joining this discussion] and
that was their job, and maybe somehow the
community contributed toward that. I think if Big
Sur has one voice, then we can go out and do this.
I completely believe we can do that, but without
the one voice it can’t be done.
“The idea of putting communities together
that are sustainable, that’s really what our main
intention is,” she said. “Also to educate people.
We’ll be a resource for people if they want to
do these things, and we’d be able to supply
them with resources and people to help do their
projects. Just to get people involved. To me the
big dream would be to see the housing solution in
Big Sur and for us to be a part of that.”
Summer 2006 The Big Sur VOICE 19
Another issue is that there may actually
be a lot of housing out there that could
fit the needs for workers; be it rentals
on private property, or caretaker units.
Currently there are some illegal units on
properties that are being rented out, often
with high rents, though there are also those
who have taken their units off the market
for fear of being red-tagged. Then there is
the perception that more and more people,
especially new second home owners, are
not employing caretakers like they used to,
thereby taking existing caretaking units out
of the market. To complicate this, it is illegal
to have a caretaker unit for someone who is
not a full-time caretaker. Callihan wonders
if something can be done, similar to the
amnesty program in Pacific Grove, where
private property owners who have illegal
rentals turn them over as long as they agree
to use the rental for affordable housing. A
big problem with this though, is that what
might work in Big Sur (and for some, that
means the backseat of a car), often does not
meet code for the County.
“The problem is that most of it doesn’t
meet building code or health code
standards, so you might have someone who
might want to legitimize what they’ve got,
but it might cost them $100,000 or more
to bring it up,” said Callihan. “So we need
to find some way to fund that, whether it
is through loans, grants or ways to make it
Callihan said recent developments as
far as red-tagging illegal rental units are
causing concern. He told of a situation
where the county assessor’s office sent an
appraiser out to a property where the previous
owner had been red-tagged for a housing
violation. The assessor’s office believes the
property may have had illegal rental units on it
for decades, meaning the office would have the
right to go back and reassess the property. Illegal
rentals are taxable even though they are illegal.
“It’s like not paying your income tax, so they
could go back and assess, charge seventy percent
of the market rental value, and charge interest,”
said Callihan.
“There are a lot of present owners, particularly
long term community people, who may have
inherited their property, may have been here
three generations, and may have had rentals
forever on their property, but don’t declare
[rental units] because they’re illegal,” he said.
“It’s scary that they could begin to harass people
on that level, about something that is so essential
to the community, and literally threaten people’s
ability to keep their property. I know another
owner who was approached similarly. Luckily he
didn’t have anything he was hiding. The County
is seeking it out.”
In Monterey County, another contribution to
the lack of housing is a bureaucratic juggernaut
in the Planning Department, where planners quit
with alarming frequency. This often means an
individual planner has dozens of cases to work
on, a workload added to every time a planner
Carver Schicketanz Architects
quits, and building projects take months and
more often years to move through the planning
process. Also, the high cost of permitting and
the cumbersome approval process, that treats
all projects alike regardless of size, keeps many
projects like caretaker units from ever seeing
the light of day as owners bail from the process
out of frustration. There are currently over
25 governmental agencies that may have say
over any given project. Additionally, neighbor
opposition to projects is all too common resulting
in additional burdens for the planner who must
respond and the owner who must defend his
After the recent departure of the planning
director Scott Hennessey and the publishing
of a scathing grand jury investigation (there
have been 15 grand jury investigations of the
Monterey County Planning Department in the
past 29 years), the Board of Supervisors formed
a subcommittee comprised of architects from
all over Monterey County to work together on
Continued on page 20 …
Carver Schicketanz Architects
20 The Big Sur VOICE Summer 2006
Slow growth
Continued from page 15 …
more expensive!! Property is not affordable to my
sons on this coast. But that is reality!! It’s hard to
find an honorable job in the Big Sur for many! But
what is the answer?
More and more it is the ones who own the
property and those who work for them, again, the
“middle class” of Big Sur are an endangered species!
Big Sur is going to be affected even more so because
of its remoteness. In a perfect world the building
and health people would make allowances for our
remoteness and allow sub-standard housing to exist because it was necessary. In fact, that is what
has been happening anyway. To sanction what is
already a reality is not likely though. I can only
foresee that many compromises must be made in
the next 50 and 100 years for us to exist and not
become outlaws of one sort or another. Because
the more blanket rules and laws that we make will
only create more people, that for one reason or another have to break them!!” 
Stories mentioned in this article:
“Slow growth has come at a cost in Santa Barbara”
Carver Schicketanz Architects
”Least affordable place to live? Try Salinas.”
Architecture in Big Sur
Continued from page 19 …
finding solutions to inefficiencies in the
planning department and create best
practices that might eventually lead,
they hope, to Monterey County being
a showcase for planning. As of early
May, the Planning Department had just
over 200 projects it was reviewing and
processing, as well as around 250 active
subdivision applications.
Regardless of all the pressures,
uncertainties and roadblocks,
architects and concerned members of
the Big Sur community have begun
to join forces and find solutions to
community housing challenges as well
as development issues in general. Can
the Big Sur community, through a
grassroots effort, define and live a “Big
Sur ethic” that sets an example to
other communities? If the community
unites to achieve this, the architects and
designers who work in Big Sur believe
that an informal “Big Sur ethic” which
incorporates sustainable, affordable,
and “green” practices is possible. 
For further information, contact
these architects directly at:
Callihan Ned
Village Shops
Big Sur, CA 93920
(831) 667-2890
Mickey Muennig 92
Big Sur, CA 93920
[email protected]
Thomas Rettenwender
P.O. Box 92,
Big Sur, CA 93920
[email protected]
Michelle Kaufmann
Michelle Kaufmann Designs
Carver & Schicketanz Architects
P.O. Box 2684
Carmel, CA 93921
(831) 624-2304
It is also worth mentioning here that Martha
Diehl, co-chair of the Big Sur Vision Group
and Planning Commissioner, has finished her
Master’s Thesis for the Leon Panetta Institute at
CSUMB, called, “Land Use in Big Sur: In search of
Sustainable Balance between Community Needs
and Resource Protection.”
It can be found here in pdf, and is 70 pages
long (as a warning to those on dial-up): http://
The abstract reads as follows:
“The Big Sur Local Coastal Plan (LCP) was
certified in 1986 by the California Coastal
Commission to implement of the 1972 federal
Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). The LCP
was intended to provide comprehensive policy
guidance to balance the development needs of
area property owners and the local community
with resource protection and public recreation
over time. This study examines the observable
results of twenty years experience with these
policies in terms of stakeholder concerns
about population, housing, community and
civic activities, economics, land use, aesthetics,
recreation, biodiversity and natural systems, and
evaluates the potential effects of changing or
updating the LCP.”

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