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Big Sur Development: Who's in Charge Here? : Sen. Wilson's Bill, U.S. Supreme Court May Upset State Panel's Land-Use Plan

April 20, 1986|ALLAN PARACHINI | Times Staff Writer

"Big Sur is intended (as it is envisioned by the land-use plan) to be a stunning--but brief--experience," said Karin Strasser Kauffman, the county supervisor who represents Big Sur. "That's our hope and the hope of the residents."

In other words, the plan seeks to make it easy to drive through Big Sur, stopping perhaps for lunch at a restaurant or to enjoy a picnic at one of the primitive turnoffs on California 1, but difficult to stay on. Hotel accommodations will be deliberately scarce and there will be little in the way of shopping facilities. No new shopping development is contemplated.

"We don't object to sharing Big Sur," said Josoff of the Friends of the Big Sur Coast. "We consider ourselves the guardians of the coast. We put out the fires the tourists start and we live with the environment year in and year out."

To protect the viewshed from further development, the plan permits a system in which the right to develop a parcel that may not be developed can be transferred to another piece of land where building is permitted. Under this system, if a landowner is precluded from building on one site, he is permitted an extra building permit elsewhere. The transfer development credit right, as it is called, can be sold so a landowner electing not to build at all can still realize gain from his investment.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday April 21, 1986 Home Edition View Part 5 Page 6 Column 4 View Desk 2 inches; 61 words Type of Material: Correction
Due to an inadvertent deletion in the editing process, a story in the Sunday View section may have created the incorrect impression that Jim Hill, owner of the El Sur Ranch in Big Sur, declined to cooperate with The Times in its research of a story on land use planning in the Big Sur area. In fact, Hill instructed his Monterey attorney, Robert Koontz, to conduct a wide-ranging interview on a variety of questions and Koontz cooperated fully.

Under terms of the new plan, a certain number of parcels cannot be developed--estimates hover at about 100 in all of Big Sur--and will not be salable or buildable, Strasser Kauffman noted, and county officials will probably have to buy out the landowners to compensate them for the loss of development rights.

Bill Post, whose family settled here more than 100 years ago, will see the development potential of 720 acres his family owns reduced to as little as three home sites.

"I have to agree with the idea that there should be some legitimate control," Post said. "But I resent being told that I can only do this or that after we've been here since 1860, for crying out loud."

Single-Family Houses

In general, the new standards limit single-family houses to one dwelling for each 40 to 320 acres, depending on location and other factors. Some of the largest Big Sur landowners are also the biggest losers in the plan. Jim Hill, the 29-year-old owner of the 7,200-acre El Sur Ranch, with more than six miles of ocean frontage in the vicinity of the Point Sur lighthouse, probably has only about 54 legal home sites because so much of the ranch is in the viewshed area.

Hill, who inherited the holdings, also had hoped to build a 100-room hotel near Point Sur--a plan that almost certainly is doomed in its original form.

The El Sur Ranch had once been a single Coastal Commission vote away from approval of a plan that would have guaranteed Hill development rights for his property for 25 years, allowing the hotel and as many as 100 home sites as well.

Without enough money to make the system of compensation rights work, Strasser Kauffman and Karas agreed the county may face enormous problems in enforcing the land-use plan, whose rules and regulations still are being drafted by county officials.

It is on the potentially crucial question of money that Wilson rests his hope for eventual local endorsement of his bill. The legislation would recognize a reality Margaret Owings said has proved too easy for local people to ignore: There already is an enormous federal presence in the area because the federal government owns 75,000 acres of Big Sur included in the Los Padres National Forest. The federal government, she said, cannot be kept out.

Wilson's legislation would accept the terms of the land-use plan as they exist--though under certain circumstances the secretary of agriculture could decide, with the assistance of a bipartisan advisory committee, that the county government was moving to permit unacceptable development. At that point, the Department of Agriculture, which operates national forests, could step in and would be empowered--under carefully defined circumstances--to condemn land.

As the legislation is drafted, however, what is now private land would remain that way, and development rights granted by the new land-use plan would survive intact. In all, federal authority of some kind would extend to 145,000 acres.

The bill would prohibit essentially all lumbering, mining, oil drilling and other development of natural resources in Big Sur--though it specifically exempts existing mining claims and, thereby, grants an exception to the Pico Blanco limestone mine.

Most important, perhaps, Wilson's bill provides for establishment of a private foundation that would raise money to buy out landowners who cannot develop their property.

The bill would give the secretary of agriculture potentially wide powers to step in and condemn privately owned land if the Agriculture Department decided unacceptable changes had been made in the county land-use plan.

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