Tourist Tuesday — Bixby July 4th weekend

Tim Huntington took a video on July 4th, 2019 to show the line of cars waiting to approach Bixby — they were lined up going south well past Palo Colorado Canyon or 2.75 miles. You can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/346274911

Also, on Saturday, someone hung this banner up, which was removed that same morning by MCSO Jesse Villaseñor, I am told. I do not advocate doing this, although, I must admit it did amuse me.

Finally, for those who think putting in parking lots might be the answer, consider that the parking lot will be full immediately, adding to the congestion and traffic problems, not alleviating them, and then shall we make it bigger or add more? I suggest we take a lesson from Horseshoe Bend, and Page, AZ regarding the problems that creates and some of the potential solutions they have come up with — just like on Kauai, a shuttle is one of the answers, but parking lots themselves may not be, at least near the IG selfie destination:

Horseshoe Bend 4th of July traffic management plan Jun 24, 2019,

From the Lake Powell News Network: https://www.lakepowellnews.com/single-post/2…

This year, the Page Police Department and the City of Page will be implementing traffic changes from July 4 through July 7 to help address and improve public safety.

Here are some of the temporary changes you will encounter at Horseshoe Bend over the 4th of July weekend:

* There will be multiple electronic signs in both directions providing you with up-to-date traffic and parking information

* Making a left turn into Horseshoe Bend from Northbound 89 will not be allowed; access will be blocked. You will have to drive down toward Wal-Mart and go around the roundabout (traffic circle) to make a right-hand turn into the parking lot

* Speeds in the area may be reduced

* Police officers will be directing traffic starting at 7am and continuing until 7pm or later if necessary

* Oversized vehicles such as RVs and vehicles with trailers will not be allowed into the parking lot. Commercial tour buses and shuttles will be allowed access.

No matter the time of year you are not allowed to park along Highway 89, however this does still occur. To prevent this, the Page Police Department and the City of Page will be placing barricades along the shoulders.

For those who would prefer not to deal with the traffic congestion and potential parking problems, alternate ways of seeing Horseshoe Bend are: 

Helicopter flights: https:/…

Fixed-wing airplane flights: https:/…

Horseback rides: http://www.horseshoebendtrailrides.com

Shuttle service from Page, AZ, to a private entrance on Navajo Tribal Land: http://www.horseshoebendtours.com

But before, during, and after all this, as Martha Diehl keeps reminding us, we need real data. “I think we need to have actual numbers esp on peaks & velleys. A continuous count @ both ends & Naci would be a start. Then we can map the choke points in time & space, maybe work on a slate of specific measures to alleviate….”

Tourist Tuesday — Big Sur can take a lesson from Kauai

“The idea is to create a better experience for the residents and the visitors and then lessen the impact on the place,” said Joel Guy, executive director of The Hanalei Initiative, a nonprofit launching the North Shore Shuttle. “I think it’s a pretty unique model that can hopefully be used in other places.”

June 20, 2019, 2:31 AM PDT By Michelle Broder Van Dyke

HĀʻENA, Hawaii — To reach the northeastern corner of the island of Kauai requires driving or biking on a winding two-lane highway flanked by the mountains and the sea, where rocky outposts are interlaced with strips of sandy beach protected by fringe reefs.

A two-mile stretch of Kūhiō Highway reopened this week after being closed since April 2018 because of landslides triggered by record-breaking rainfall. Now, parts of the mountainside are held back with wire mesh that climbs 40 feet in a highway repair project estimated to cost at least $85 million. Three narrow bridges built in 1912 were wiped out and only one has been completely repaired; the other two are partially complete, with makeshift wooden guardrails and cones blocking cars from crashing into the Pacific Ocean.

Without tourists to disturb the wildlife, native plants and animals rebounded, and even the local community grew stronger. The highway leads to Hāʻena State Park, which once drew more than 2,000 visitors a day. Although tourism is the main economic driver in Hawaii, officials are reconsidering its position as host to nearly 10 million tourists a year across the six islands accessible to visitors. To maintain its unique natural and cultural resources, Hawaii is attempting to shift from encouraging to limiting tourists. With the reopening of Kūhiō Highway, new regulations will aim to cut the park’s number of visitors in half, a goal some locals say is not enough.

See the rest of this article here: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/after-year-without-tourists-kauai-s-rugged-coast-reopens-n1019551

“A popular sentiment among born-and-raised locals is that the flood was a divine declaration from Mother Nature that she had had enough.” 

From another article on what it is like since it reopened with some controls over tourist numbers in place:

Kauai’s Newly Reopened Park Is A Case Study In Controlling Tourism

“There are people who have been born and raised there and all they know is crowds of people,” said Curt Cottrell, the administrator of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks. “And then … they looked up and saw their community as it once was 70 years ago. Even the fish started looking up and recognizing that there was room now for them to come back and swim.”

For the rest of this wonderful article see: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/06/kauis-newly-reopened-park-is-a-case-study-in-controlling-tourism/

As Lisa Kleissner says, ”What will our story be?”

Untourist movement in Amsterdam

I love this idea! Bless the Dutch.

“Tourists visiting the Dutch capital are being invited to marry an Amsterdammer for the day as part of a new initiative to improve relations between locals and visitors.

Nuptials will take place in the city’s vibrant “Latin Quarter” – De Pijp – where happy couples will be kitted out in second-hand wedding clobber. Plastic flowers will add to the ersatz sense of occasion.

And the honeymoon? A day spent skipping around Amsterdam, exploring the hidden nooks that pass most visitors by, sharing ideas and cultures (and possibly other things if the one-day marriage goes well).

The Marry an Amsterdammer initiative, which launches next week, is part of a wider movement to engage more visitors in the Dutch capital proper, steering them away from the tourist trail and hooking them up with local people who are trying to make the city – and the world – a better place….

The Untourist Movement was founded to counter the negativity surrounding tourism in Amsterdam, where 800,000 inhabitants are swamped by around eight million overnight visitors annually.

‘It’s a new way of thinking about tourism that can be helpful in Amsterdam and other cities struggling with this problem,’ explained Simons.”

These are three of the untourist activities:

1. Plastic fishing in canals

2. Feed the Dutch picnic

3. Laughing with Locals

For the rest of this article, see: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/netherlands/amsterdam/articles/a-very-dutch-response-to-overtourism/

 

 

Tourist Tuesday – Letters to the Board of Supervisors, 6/4/19

The Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce sent the following letter to our Board of Supervisors asking them to not cut funding to Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau (MCCVB) in the 2019-2020 budget. The majority of the money that goes to MCCVB, that does not go for salaries, goes toward advertising to attract tourists and/or conventions to the area, capitalizing on the selling power of Big Sur.

Big Sur sells itself and, of course, so does Big Little Lies (tongue in cheek here). The expenditure of money for advertising to bring in more tourists, when there is no money for the infrastructure to support increased visitation, is irresponsible and reckless. Given the budget constraints the County of Monterey has, cutting the funding of MCCVB is a wise choice.

MCCVB just spearheaded through the City of Monterey, rather than through the County of Monterey, a Tourist Improvement District (TID) tax last year which resulted in an increased revenue for MCCVB. This TID now comprises 57% of MCCVB’s budget. (I wrote about this last year, see for example: https://bigsurkate.blog/2018/09/12/public-hearing-re-tid-to-fund-mccvb/) Further, I provided a copy of the bureau’s budget for 2018-2019 here: https://Bigsurkate.blog/2018/09/11/tourism-in-moco/ While the TOT collected has been increasing, how can it be determined that this is due to the efforts of MCCVB rather than the popularity of Big Little Lies? Even MCCVB capitalizes on this trend by promoting a “Big Little Moments” Campaign (see: https://www.seemonterey.com/big-little-lies/) which I covered on 5/30/19 here: https://bigsurkate.blog/2019/05/30/tourist-thursday-5-30-19-big-little-moments-campaign/

Consider contacting our Board of Supervisors representative, Mary Adams’s office, and making your voice heard if you have an opinion on this issue. Continuing to push a goal of increased visitation is no longer sustaining nor is it a model to follow. Some things — like the beauty of Big Sur — are more precious than money. Here is the letter in jpg format.

Also, if you are interested, MCCVB and the Monterey Chamber of Commerce asked the City of Monterey to increase its funding to MCCVB at the May 29th meeting. Monterey video tapes all the City Council meetings and has them available here: https://www.monterey.org/City-Hall/The-Monterey-Channel/Council-Meetings-Video-on-Demand 5/29 Council mtg, afternoon session, starting at 1:17:15 (Clyde’s intro to public comments, then the public comments) (Thanks to Mari Lynch of Bicycle Monterey for alerting me to this event.)

Tourist Thursday, 5/30/19 – “Big Little Moments” Campaign

As if we don’t have enough tourists in Big Sur, MCCVB came out with a new “Moments” ad campaign yesterday: (https://www.seemonterey.com/big-little-lies/

BIG LITTLE MOMENTS

IN MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA

Just as the ladies of “Big Little Lies,” raved about their hometown in the show, people all over the world are falling head-over-heels for the show’s big star – the gorgeous scenery of Monterey County! The epic backdrops and awe-inspiring picture perfect coastline probably have you day-dreaming about a California getaway.

Located on the stunning central coast of California, Monterey County is brimming with iconic adventures and a coastline that spans the scenic views of Big SurPebble Beach, Pacific Grove, Carmel-by-the-Sea and more. With the bounty of the Salinas Valley, the dunes of Marina State Beach, Santa Lucia Highlands wineries, iconic Pinnacles National Park and award-winning restaurants, Monterey County is the quintessential California destination. It’s no wonder why A-Listers are escaping to this seaside paradise!

 

Tourist Tuesday, Bixby Bridge Memorial Day weekend

Most of you have heard, by now, of the fiasco that was Bixby Bridge this weekend. This was Saturday, by Adam Slawter. At 6:30 pm, it was backed up from Bixby to Palo by cars going south. That is 2.2 miles of idling vehicles.

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This is the video taken by Tim Huntington on Saturday at 2 pm of the cars headed south, as he was heading north: https://vimeo.com/338490145

This was what it looked like early – as in 9 am – on Sunday, in the rain. Martha Diehl took these photos. Note the door opening into traffic immediately before another vehicle in the last photo.

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Imagine that there is an emergency, which is much more likely with the influx of clueless people from out of the area. What happens then? How do emergency vehicles navigate through this quagmire? They can’t. How are the Cal Fire engines and others supposed to get to us when there is a fire this summer? Or cliff rescue, or serious injuries? This is a life-threatening situation that must be resolved.

Monday, a temporary solution presented itself. MCSO stationed THREE officers here at Bixby and they managed to keep traffic moving, at least until early afternoon, one source told me. So we need to pressure the County to assign 3 officers every weekend and holiday to manage the traffic at this bottleneck.

On the brighter side, CABS was there educating and interacting with the tourists on Monday morning, raising the awareness of our visitors to treat Big Sur with respect.

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(Photo by Patte Kronlund)

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(Photo by Lisa Kleissner)

Let us start preppering our Supes to take action, now! We don’t need to come up with a “perfect” solution, I don’t have one. But we could try a variety of things to see what will work, short of painting the bridge puke green. We could experiment with running shuttles, or the current MST buses, allowing only them to park, or to drop off and pick up visitors to the bridge from a staged area north and south. The County of Monterey could pass an ordinance, for health & safety reasons, prohibiting parking on both eastern and western sides and OCR, assess BIG fines, and enforce it! If you have another idea, I am all ears. Toss those ideas out there, no matter how crazy they seem. It might just give someone else the inspiration they need to find a solution that will work.

 

Tourist Tuesday, 5/21 – Another approach

I lucked upon this site this past weekend, and wanted to bring it here, even though I am taking most of the week off to spend time with some girl friends that I cherish and only get to see once or twice a year, but this is important.

“SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. (PRWEB) MAY 18, 2019

Prontopia’s vision for responsible travel and sustainable cities centers on a community model of people helping people. The company’s innovative app provides on-demand help to travelers in walkable cities, when and where they need it. Prontopia’s innovative platform offers an unprecedented opportunity to raise awareness about the local problems of overtourism and support grassroots solutions among travelers and residents.

In honor of World Oceans Day on June 8, California travel tech startup Prontopia will join forces with local non-profit organizations and other partners in hospitality to coordinate teams of volunteers to clean the Venice lagoon, the banks of the Arno in Florence, the Tiber river in Rome, and the beaches of Santa Barbara, California in a “Plastic Free” awareness event.

According to the Institute of Marine Science – National Council of Research, “Recent studies have highlighted that there is a massive spread of trash in all world seas, especially of plastic, which is 70% of it.” Generating awareness of ocean conservation in high-traffic tourist areas like Venice, Italy, is of paramount importance to implementing sustainable solutions. Prontopia is working together with the nascent organization Plastic Free Venice Lagoon as well as citizen groups and environmental organizations in each city to create an event that brings together residents, travelers, and international organizations in recognition of the need for positive action toward systemic change to combat the negative effects of overtourism and its consequences, such as pollution in waterways.

“A cleaner community is a happier community and we should all take pride in the places we live.” Davide Poletto, General Coordinator of the event “Plastic Free Venice Lagoon,” notes that the, “Venice lagoon, for its conformation, nature and specially for the high impact human activities coming from massive tourism and in its continuous growth, is specifically exposed to the diffusion of plastic trash and relative micro-plastics.”

The Prontopia app provides a safe and simple way for travelers to get in-person help easily with getting around the city. This model also provides the company with valuable feet-on-the-street networks for sharing information from among the locals about their viewpoints on what is needed for better quality of life in Venice, Florence, and Rome in the management of high-volume tourist traffic. The diffusion of plastic trash in these cities poses a risk to both the local environment, and the escalating global problem. The goal of the event is to show the power of unity in numbers in social action, across multiple cities at the same time.

In Prontopia’s California headquarter city of Santa Barbara, Prontopia and strategic partner Maps.com in consultation with clean water watchdog organization Channel Keepers (https://www.sbck.org) are mobilizing local team members to not only clean the creeks and beaches, but also to contribute to Channel Keepers’ research by documenting the trash that volunteers collect to help with their mission to monitor water systems and engage citizens in implementing solutions to water pollution. Channel Keepers is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a coalition of 200 grassroots groups on six continents collectively patrolling and protecting over 1.5 million square miles of watersheds and defending local communities’ right to clean water. John Glanville, CEO of Maps.com emphasizes that, “Data collection and access to maps is an essential part of protecting habitat, understanding climate change, and adapting green alternatives for your community, for your home, and while traveling the globe.”

In Venice, Florence, and Rome, Prontopia engages with local organizations and businesses in proactive change efforts to ensure the city remains a living city for residents, creating measurable solutions to the problems of overtourism. “We knew that by providing these local connections in the service, we would have a golden opportunity to also provide a model for corporate responsibility,” said Prontopia founder and CEO, Shannon Kenny. “When travelers connect to locals in a way in which they are oriented toward respect – extending a hand to say ‘Welcome to the city, I live here,’ – that is the first step toward global citizenship, and caring about the place.”

For the rest of the article see: https://www.prweb.com/releases/travel_tech_startup_prontopia_puts_its_platform_to_good_use_with_world_oceans_day_cleanup_of_oceans_and_rivers_in_venice_rome_florence_and_california/prweb16317057.htm

Vacation Rentals, Tourism, and Big Sur

With the Herald article I published Tuesday, and with the public comment period underway for STRs (Short Term Rentals), this seemed like an appropriate topic for today’s post. There is a conflux of issues with the STRs and overtourism here in Big Sur. It is one reason this post is WAY longer than I usually post. There just seemed to be so much to cover in this battle to save our community.

One concern, of course, is that as tourism increases, the spending at our local establishments does not keep pace, this is one of the factors in the equation that must be considered. People who are staying at STRs – Airbnb, etc. – are not staying in our local hotels and motels, which then takes away more business from the establishments when the hotel/motel guests would normally patronize their restaurants and stores and are not doing so. Additionally, local businesses have difficulty finding employees And often must provide housing, if they can, or hire people who have long commutes just to get to work in the service industry. Imagine a Big Sur with no Nepenthe or River Inn or Fernwood or Deetjen’s or all the other local businesses.

STRs take housing away from locals so that the owners of the property can support their inflated purchase prices, or simply make money, and then the businesses have trouble getting and keeping employees. No where is this more apparent to me than down here on the South Coast because it is the area with which I am most familiar.

Staffing for the local school has always been a challenge. Some staff must commute all the way from Cambria, which is especially difficult during road closures.  Others live in trailers on the school property. In speaking with USFS staff at the Big Sur Fire open house, and then Tuesday with the District Ranger, Tim Short, I discovered that  staff housing for the USFS Pacific Valley Station has created a dangerous situation. It does not have the staff  it needs to provide an Engine to this community for fire season. It is hoping to rectify this before fire season completely kicks off, but at this time, there is a housing shortage for any future staff.

Other popular tourist destinations are finding that the Airbnb or other STRs are modifying the nature of the community and in many instances, destroying it.

“The plight of Barcelona shows the damage Airbnb can do, exacerbating urban inequality and freezing out young locals.” (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/31/airbnb-sharing-economy-cities-barcelona-inequality-locals)

“Airbnb rentals reduce the supply of long-term rentals in communities, creating economic costs that outweigh the benefits, according to research presented by Economic Policy Institute Research Director Josh Bivens in a new paper. Local policymakers should pay heed, says Bivens, and certainly not change local regulations and tax structures to benefit Airbnb.” https://www.realtrends.com/blog/economist-warns-airbnb-rentals-impact-housing-crisis/

Airbnb and Miami Beach Are at War. Travelers Are Caught in the Crossfire.” ““You get to a point where you feel like you’re living in a hotel room,” said Kathaleen Smarsh, a resident of Flamingo Park. “You don’t know who is coming and going at all hours.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/09/travel/airbnb-miami-beach-war.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

For me, personally, I am saddened to watch the loss of community that is experienced with the growth of STRs. People bought homes that were zoned residential for the community. Instead, they find themselves grappling with living in a hotel-like area.
Therefore, I wanted to post a reminder to concerned folks to send comments about the STR ordinance in Big Sur.  This post gives everyone time to check out the drafts etc from county. Last day of comments is May 24.
Pertinent links & submission addresses are below:
 
Vacation Rental Draft Ordinances and associated environmental analysis are available for public view at the following link:
In the link above you will find the following:
  • Notice of Public Availability of Proposed Vacation Rental Regulations [PDF]
  • Draft Ordinance Amending Title 20 (Coastal Zoning) Relating to Vacation Rentals [PDF]
  • Draft Ordinance Amending Title 21 (Non-Coastal Zoning) Relating to Vacation Rentals [PDF]
  • Draft Ordinance Amending Section 7.02.060 and Adding Chapter 7.110 Relating to Vacation Rental Activities [PDF]
  • Environmental Analysis
 
Vacation Rental (Aka Short-Term Rental) Ordinances (Coastal – REF130043 & Inland – REF100042) 
 
TO SUBMIT COMMENTS: We welcome your comments on this matter.
To submit your comments by e-mail, please send a complete document including all attachments to: 
 
To submit your comments in hard copy, please send a complete document including all attachments to the name and address below. FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION CONTACT: Melanie Beretti, Property Administration/Special Programs Manager Monterey County Resource 

 

And finally, a Big Sur resident’s perspective from the North Coast:

“Continued [from the comments made on my Tourist Tuesday post] – One of the many reasons why none of the 3 categories of Vacation Rentals should be allowed in Big Sur, and why the County should continue to prohibit them is … See TITLE 20 – Definitions – Section 20.06.360 … the short version “Dwellings …. occupied exclusively for non-transient residential purposes.”

We all know why the two categories of “Vacation Rentals” categorized as Short-Term Rentals (STRs) are bad for our small community … its because they both eliminate whole houses, therefore taking away valuable employee housing options.
The Vacation Rental categorized as a Homestay can be rented out by the Night. A revolving door of transient strangers 365 Nights a year. It will also remove employee options. How you ask? Well many of our Big Sur community folk can’t afford to purchase a home, nor can they afford to LTR a whole house, but they can afford to LTR a room in a neighbors or friends home (Not to be confused with a boarding or rooming house). This too is a time-honored way for communities like ours to continue to survive and thrive, a win, win you could say!
So I very much have to disagree with the County. 1st – a Homestay is for transient use, and our dwellings or residential homes are not. They are for residents to LIVE in, not for visiting tourist to VACATION in. 2nd – Homestays are NOT a residential use like some folk would like us to believe, and they too remove housing options in our community.
In the past 6+ years I have reached out to Mayors, Supervisors, Commissioners, Councilman/women and Enforcement Officers in some of our local cities and counties, and as far away as Marin, Sausalito, New York, and a little rural town in Colorado. What I’ve learned along the way is that a lot of areas wish they had never opened the doors to Vacation Rentals! Also that the Majority of Vacation Rentals are in cities, or urban areas where you might be able to enforce a Vacation Rental Ordinance because all the tourist rentals are located on city or county streets (public streets), where they “might” be easily enforced (if you had the means to enforce).
Whereas the Vacation Rentals in Big Sur are on private and shared rds. and usually set back so far that it would make enforcement difficult or more then likely impossible. I mean if PG is struggling with the enforcement of only say 200 or so Vacation Rentals located on city streets within 2 square miles. How will or how can the County Enforce a Vacation Rental Ordinance for the unincorporated county when there are approximately 2,750 sq. land miles (water & city square miles deducted), and a unknown number of Vacation Rentals
 And why would anyone that is already illegally renting out to the transient tourist go out and apply for a Limited STR or Commercial STR License when they can easily apply for a Homestay License, and save money!
janet”

 

If you made it to the end, I would like to thank you for caring, and hopefully, you can now visit the links above and craft a meaningful comment to be considered on Monterey County’s draft STR ordinance.

 

Tourist Tuesday, 5/13/19

From our own Monterey Herald, about the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau on their plans for promoting our area:

http://www.montereyherald.com/2018-travel-impacts-report-monterey-county-visitor-spending-up-5-8-to-3b

I would like to point out a few important take-always from this article:

2018 Travel Impacts report: Monterey County visitor spending up 5.8% to $3B

Tourism jobs up 2.8%, total tax contributions up 8.2%, local tax money up 8% over 2017

“The plan for increasing tourism to Monterey County is two-tiered – one, increasing the number of travelers, and two, increasing visitor spending.

“We are focused on both levels – more travelers which will drive up hotel occupancy, which is essential. But we are intensifying our focus on higher-value travelers who stay longer, do more and spend more,” said O’Keefe. “These are typically people who are traveling from further away … and meetings/conference travelers who are very high value.”

The MCCVB marketing officer said a focus on the drive market – those who travel here by car – will be maintained and will never change.”

”According to the report, the county receives the lion’s share of travel impacts in the region with 33%, followed closely by Monterey with 30%, Salinas with 14%, Carmel with 8%, Seaside (including Sand City and Del Rey Oaks) with 7%, Pacific Grove with 5%, and Marina with 4%.”

How much of this income is brought in BECAUSE of Big Sur? I am willing to bet that the majority of it is. How much does Big Sur receive in infrastructure and/or law enforcement to handle it? Very little, is my bet on this end of the equation.

And one thing MCCVB will be concentrating on is bringing in more visitors on the off season, so we can expect summer-like traffic all year.