Memorial Day Week-end started this Morning

It is the opening bell of summer tourist season, and it was nuts out there. I plan to hide out, personally, until Tuesday. Traffic is horrific, the Valley is full … Rooms, restaurants, bars, roads … all full. Even here, on the South Coast, the campgrounds are full. Even the currently divisive STRs (short-term rentals) are reportedly full. We do have a big celebrity wedding in town, bringing international attention, lots of guests, and much media. (I saw 2 stopping traffic this afternoon. Google Napster, Sean Parker, Big Sur Wedding, and you will see what I mean.)

It is weekends like this one that make me glad the USFS hasn’t graded my road. This may be the biggest argument against short-term rentals yet, and one which is not being made. When is it too much? How many is too much? Do we overload our resources when we, potentially, ALL engage in providing ways for more and more people to be here? If we fill every private property with all the visitors it can hold, do we change the nature of Big Sur?

I’ve always thought that Big Sur was able to protect herself. She is so rugged and tough, only those who are like her survive here. But now, we are encouraging more and more people to come here who are not as rugged and tough as she is. How will that impact her? Are we trying to “soften” her? To bend her to our will? If so, will she bend, or will she break? If either, what remains of the Big Sur we know and love?

When I moved to Orange County a century ago, it was all strawberry fields and Orange Groves. It was rural. Then it became the bedroom community of Los Angeles. Then it became Los Angeles. Big Sur will not support the build out that happened down south, there simply isn’t enough private land. BUT, we ARE being squeezed between LA and SF. there will be more and more demand for temporary housing here, i.e. STRs or VRBOs. Each private property owner will be encouraged by peer pressure, neighbors, financial considerations, and general population demographics, to make sure they have those three allowable buildings, and maybe even a few illegal ones.

Businesses are loving the increased level of tourism. I don’t blame them. Lots of revenue. Making money to put away to get through the next rough winter and potential road closures. I get that, and know those challenges. However, I moved here to get away from the kind of madness that puts making money so one can stay here, play here, grow here, or die here, above the insidious encroachment of mankind on Mother Nature. I saw it down south. I see it again here, just taking a slightly different form.

Everyone wants to get away from urban sprawl, traffic, density, at some point, for some period of time, but at what point do our guests start bringing it with them due to the shear numbers? Fortunately, I am still able to remove myself from this influence. I knew we would be squeezed, and my best possible chance of avoiding another Orange County was to move to the Wilderness, on a large tract of land, surrounded by National Forest. In Orange County when I moved to the country with a natural creek only 5 doors down and an orange grove across the street, others wanted to join me, and both were soon gone. So Cal mentality is encroaching. I know. I grew up there. I am watching it happen. I hope It doesn’t. It is my hope that we choose to let Big Sur be who she really is, and not not try to change her by our inadvertence. The unintended consequences of our current actions may come back to bite our children and grandchildren in the ass, not too mention taming a land which has always refused to be tamed. Are we going to be known as the generation who does that? That is certainly not the legacy I want to leave behind.

So Memorial Day is upon us, our numbers have tripled or quadrupled, in some cases, and the pressure of that sudden population explosion has come to my home, the love of my life, Big Sur. bear with me. I’ll get over it, at least by next winter!

Short term rental meeting

It was 14 years ago when we last visited this issue. I was not involved, I was transistioning in my own life, and wasn’t focused outward as much as I am at this moment.

After the BSMAAC meeting on Friday, May 17th, reported here, we had a working group meeting on Wednesday the 22nd in Salinas. The issue is short term rentals and events, although events is not getting much “air time” at the moment.

There were a lot of good comments on all sides about this issue. However, I was a bit saddened to see the acrimonious behavior of several community members at this meeting. Very disappointed if we allow this conversation to devolve into emotional attacks on one another. Both sides allowed that to happen. I don’t think one person is responsible. How we react is just as important as how we act.

Hopefully each Big Sur resident can assist in keeping this issue organic and not divisive. Lets all try to see the concerns of one another. There are more than just two sides – there are as many “sides” as there are residents of Big Sur.

One thing we all need to look at is the long-term effects of any decision we make today. That is what I have seen time and time again with various laws we have enacted. We haven’t seen beyond the immediate personal desires to the ultimate consequences of our actions. I used as an example what I know – criminal law. We react to a situation, enact laws that don’t take into account the ultimate consequences – such as the three strikes law, which imprisoned people for life when the third strike was a $25 petty theft of DVDs. Eventually, we woke up to the fact that we didn’t want to support these people for life, provide them with their basic needs and better medical care than some of us can afford, because once we, as a society, take over responsibility for these individuals, we must, legally and morally, take care of them humanely. So, once we realized what we had done, and the consequences of our actions, we woke up and changed the law. I have dozens and dozens of example where we were governed by principles of short-sightedness. Let that not rule us here. We need to look first at the larger picture … Our vision of and with Big Sur, THEN take a look at the specific problems and potential solutions.

Let us not start from a place of sleep, but of wakefulness. Rentals in Big Sur, whether long-term or short term, will affect our community. The questions become … How do we want them to affect this beautiful place we call home? What is our vision for this place? Lets start with the big questions, the overall goals we share. Big Sur WILL change. It has changed, it will continue to change. Can we, as a community direct this change? Can we work together, or will we let personal fears and concerns dictate our actions and reactions.

Most of us, after 9/11 were more than happy to give up freedom for personal security. I thought it was an error then, and I watch us, as a nation, proceed further down this path. We let our government dictate what is best for us. That has never been Big Sur.

I have only lived here for just under 30 years. I wasn’t born here, I was born in SF. I wasn’t raised here, I was raised in So Cal. I’ve watched my home state change a lot in my 64 years. I’ve watched Big Sur change a lot in 30 years. One thing about us as a community that I have always loved and respected is our independence and non-reliance on government entities to solve our problems. We solve them ourselves. We fight it out, work together, find solutions and compromise. That has always been who we are. Now we are bringing in government entities, in the form of County Planning, County Health Department, County Law Enforcement, and County Counsel to solve an issue which is ours. Lets find ways to solve this ourselves.

I do not have a pony in this show, I have very dear friends that I deeply care about on all sides of this issue. My main concerns are that we keep this process fair, representative, balanced, and respectful. If living here in Big Sur has taught us anything, She has taught us the need for this. Big Sur is the epitome of Mother Nature. She teaches fairness, balance, and respect, or, as we all know, she spits us out.

I find it absolutely ironic that I am writing this blog post while I am watching the news of follow-up reports on the devastation in the OK tornadoes where 1300 homes were lost, not even considering the children and lives lost. Do you see the irony?

Tomorrow, I will post a potion of the 1982 Big Sur Land Use Plan that details residences and where we were then. We then can see where we are now, and where we want to go in the next 30 years. Please be a part of the conversation, no matter where you stand. Just remember who we are and what we stand for – Big Sur – respect, balance, and beauty.