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.

8 thoughts on “Short term rental meeting

  1. Good morning Big Sur Friends;

    I’m curious about this debate and from a distance it matters to me too.

    I’m not one of the lucky folks who get to call Big Sur home, I just get to dream from Chicago and jump on a plane 10 or more times a year for an extended weekend in a couple Big Sur weekend rentals I rotate between or stay at the Monastery when available.

    Truth is, I see both sides of this issue for you– while I am one of the “renters” I come so often that it feels like my home too– I know the back roads, the details, many of you personally and I find myself avoiding tourist weekends and commerce when possible. I know what you are often subject to….

    My love for Big Sur is so big that I would rather be limited in my abiltiy to stay than to see it swallowed by main stream culture. What you all have is unlike anywhere in the world– not just the beauty, but the spirit and collective conciousness of the place– it’s pure and holy and something to revere.

    I believe you are the stewards, the gate keepers… and in a way have an obligation to protect the spirit. While I can imagine the economics and emotions on all sides of the issue the one thing that is certain is that you will find ways to work together, to find common ground, to create new solutions that haven’t yet been revealed. Your history, your track record of coming together and finding the MIDDLE PATH is certain to solve these complex issues.

    What I love the most about all of you is that while the issues get hot, while the differences can be wide, at the end of the day I’ve always found you to choose kindness above all else and I am certain this will be no different.

    THANK YOU for all your efforts, on both sides and I believe in your ability to do right, be kind and find common ground!

    GO PEOPLE GO! The world needs you!

  2. This was a great read, but you skirt the insider story with which I am unfamiliar and you are writing of course to familiars, and I am just over a year out of Big Sur. I could not agree more that the acceptance and intrusion of government agencies is going to hurt like hell. That camp closure because of water imperfections is a good example, a starter, a classic ‘for the public good’. Of all places on earth, Big Sur outsiders must not be making behavior and geographical decisions for who lives there — to tidy up the local setup, the residents.

    Santa Cruz is currently voting on a radical community plan for soviet-style bundling of residential housing, severe restrictions on public access to once public land and ocean fronts. It is an extension of UN planners.

    80 % of Americans live in cities. There’s still a lot of open land, wild land, free places which need protecting with the same ferocity and determination of Muir and Teddy Roosevelt, and will be met by just as many now who saw no need for the big fuss then.

    The fuss is to protect the unchartered mind.

    Some people get anxious looking at land devoid of fences, markers, instructions and regulations. They can’t imagine anyone living up unpaved roads without PG&E, their own wells, without recycle boxes at the curb, lawns, cameras along Highway 1, and the population organized into orderly convention. They think you need to be re-educated into such thinking so that you are not a threat to the common good, nor a burden on services, nor a danger to yourselves. These dangerous people will organize Big Sur properly if allowed. I like your protest, the fight in you we all count on, and pray it will be rallied to and precious land and way of life defeended.

  3. Thank you, Kate, for a reminder of that important life lesson!
    I wish you and your neighbors well as you work through a resolution of the issue of the day.

  4. We appreciate your good summary. This is a unique opportunity for our community and we are truly glad to be working on it with friends and neighbors. Whatever the outcome we will support it. I’m sure the community will work through this together to come to a conclusion that will work for each of us and the community as a whole. Anne

  5. A thoughtful report Kate, thank you.

    I work on very large computer systems. I usually come to a diagnosis by focusing intently on the details. So let me start by focusing on Lower Pfeiffer Road… the dirt road end. There are 10 livable residences here. Right now there are 6 owners that do not reside here. One of the remaining 4 is actively working to sell and leave. Two others would leave in the next 1-3 years if the hand of county government comes down to insist. I know the last one pretty well but not his/her plans.

    There are few jobs that can pay enough to support living here. I won’t go into details that we all know. So the actual consequence of a failure to reach an agreement is very clear to me. Three full time owners drop to one on ten residences. [I ignore the one on the way out.]

    When the recent land use plan was made law in the late 1990s, there was a strong impulse to curb growth and it worked very well. That plan did not mention a sustainable local community. The actual consequences were that housing prices rose amazingly. Big Sur is a world famous beautiful location. I can look across to Pear Valley and see a tiny pseudo Tuscan villa, 3+ out-buildings and a small vineyard. I am told that is the project of a wealthy Italian. Near the end of Pfieffer Ridge Road there is a concrete masterpiece being constructed. I bet you will be able to see it from space.

    In this environment, houses with elevated values get sold to very wealthy individuals as a second or third home. The end stage is pretty clear – to me anyway: a Big Sur full of expensive homes used a couple times a year. That is not a hard thing to imagine. We are well along that path today.

    I know we can find a different path and keep a Big Sur community going. Let us all think about the actual consequences and not dream of wild speculations.

    John Alvord

  6. Two thoughts, maybe three:

    1. What John Alvord says about few jobs upon which to make a living and the nouveau expensive homes being built by those with enough money to build these 2nd homes.

    2. I don’t overnight in the Sur as the lodging has become cost-prohibitive. The VRBOs have even increased rates from the affordable alternative that they used to provide.

    3. What it boils down to is a loss of community. Or rather a change in the community structure. Folks used to meet the steamship delivering supplies, camp out, BBQ, and dance together. Folks would let a passer-by sleep in their barn or bunkhouse, but an exchange of chores in trade for the bunk, had to be made. Full time residents could rely on each other for fire prevention/clearing land, emergency aid, and for picking up a thing or two on a run to town.

    If more residences are short term rentals or 2nd homes, who do the full time neighbors call for help?

  7. A quick data point. The STRs I personally know in my area are hosted guests, not rental houses. Those are quite different in character and impact – as I hope everyone would agree with. I keep hoping that there are some points of agreement!

    john alvord

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