The following letter was sent to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors among others concerning the need to address the growing impacts, from ever increasing visitation, to the environment, resources and community of Big Sur.
You may download a PDF version of the letter HERE (PDF, 2 pages, 103KB).
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
168 W. Alisal St.
Salinas, CA 93901
Subject: Urgent need to address Big Sur visitor impacts in 2018-2019 Budget
Dear Chair Alejo and Honorable Supervisors,
The Board of Directors of the Coast Property Owners Association (CPOA) respectfully and urgently asks that your Board adopt a Monterey County budget for 2018-2019 which includes funding sufficient to address the growing public health and safety issues caused by an unprecedented increase in the number of visitors to Big Sur.
Visitors arrive in Big Sur and are met with traffic jams that can trap them for hours, trash, toilet paper and human waste lining the roads and turnouts, automobile break ins, theft and vandalism, and in general completely inadequate facilities and services to address the obvious needs of the traveling public. In previous letters to the Board, CPOA has described these issues at great length. We will not repeat all of the disturbing impacts in detail here. Please be assured that conditions have not improved noticeably to date.
We recognize and appreciate the efforts of Supervisor Adams and her staff to work with stakeholders to address these issues and we are prepared to continue work with the County and other agencies to find and implement solutions.
We are, however, in the unfortunate situation of again reminding the Board that existing facilities and services – many provided by resident volunteers – are dangerously overwhelmed throughout Big Sur and the South Coast, and the summer visitor season is just starting. Unless you take immediate action, everyone’s safety, quality of life, the natural environment, and the world-class visitor experience that helps support Monterey County’s economy will continue to degrade rapidly. Nobody wants this.
Specifically, the CPOA board is requesting that funding be provided to ensure adequate law enforcement and emergency response including ambulance coverage. As the number of visitors increases to more than fill the capacity of roadways, turnouts, parking areas and public facilities there is a corresponding increase in the number of accidents and road hazards. Emergency response times increase as well since already stretched law enforcement and first responders are hampered by traffic conditions and cannot timely reach incident sites. Even a small delay can turn one minor incident into several more severe accidents before help can arrive and should an incident spark a wildfire the situation becomes even more dire. More Sheriff officers on duty are desperately needed, especially during heavy visitor use periods that can be expected during this upcoming summer and fall, and providing timely emergency medical response and ambulance is equally vital.
Additionally, we are asking for immediate funding to regularly clean up human waste and trash currently lining the roadsides including at some of our most important viewing areas. At a minimum, please provide funding for the installation and maintenance of temporary toilets. These temporary facilities to remain in place until such time permanent facilities are operational.
If enough properly serviced toilets are not possible (we note that the Big Sur International Marathon provided over 500 portable toilets for that event alone), we ask that the County provide hazardous waste cleanup crews who can regularly remove human waste and trash from roadsides including in turnouts and private driveway access points and dispose of it safely. Our visitors come from all over the world, and we believe that preventing residents, visitors and our natural environment from contacting or spreading pathogens transmitted in human waste is critical.
As we have stated in the past, we believe that while funding is very short, existing funds can be used to address these critical needs. One option is to use a portion of Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) funds generated by overnight stays in Big Sur and elsewhere by overnight visitors many of whom visit Big Sur during their stay.
As the County budget document points out on Page 600, the precise purpose of TOT is to“offset the jurisdiction’s general fund expenses for public safety, street cleaning, street maintenance, etc. that are, to a limited degree, consumed and utilized by visitors and transient occupants. This is exactly what we are asking to be done this year. Specifically, we suggest that the county reallocate a portion of the Development Set-Aside (DSA) Program funds. We believe this is a key step in creating a responsible, sustainable visitor economy, and that it is vital to make this investment now so our efforts to attract visitors are not undermined by our failure to address their needs. We estimate that 20% of TOT collected from Big Sur be brought back to Big Sur to address these issues.
We recognize that the County is only one of many governmental entities that have responsibility for the Big Sur area, but the County’s role is central to all the others. We hope the County will continue to take the lead working with everyone involved so that the immediate actions outlined here can lead to a meaningful, long term solution. We at CPOA remain committed to working closely with the County to deal with these issues now and in the future.
Butch Kronlund, President, Coast Property Owners Associatio