Power, Politics And Pebble Beach It took a decade of debate to get a new golf course project off the ground on the Monterey Peninsula

June 25, 2000

On June 6, Clint Eastwood stepped to the microphone at a
Monterey County Board of Supervisors meeting and gave one of the
great performances of his career. His audience was suspicious,
and rightly so, because Eastwood's soliloquy this evening was
intended to convince them that what Pebble Beach needed to
preserve its world-renowned beauty was a new golf course, an
additional 150 to 160 hotel rooms and 60 houses. One of four
managing partners of the Pebble Beach Company--the privately
held interest that owns the 5,300-acre Del Monte Forest and
counts Pebble Beach Golf Links and the Lodge at Pebble Beach
among its glittering holdings--Eastwood was appearing in front
of the supervisors to seek approval for the latest version of a
proposed development within the forest, a project that has been
a political football for much of the last decade on the Monterey
Peninsula, where the issue of golf course development versus the
environment is always high drama.

A few breaths into Eastwood's spiel, something funny happened:
The screen icon was rudely interrupted as the sonorous sounds of
a Massachusetts accent filled the board chamber. "Sir, will you
please state your name for the record," said Dave Potter,
Monterey County's fifth-district supervisor. This elicited
spasms of laughter from the sparse crowd and a broad grin from
Eastwood, who gamely complied with the request before plowing on
with his remarks.

Eastwood's presentation capped years of extraordinary backroom
maneuvering, and the plan he put forward represented a
compromise that will in all likelihood finally bring a new
championship course, among other accoutrements, to Pebble Beach.
The plotline is chock-full of juicy political intrigue, dazzling
amounts of money and bitter rhetoric. In other words, it would
make a great movie.

Most of the action rests on two leading men--Eastwood and
Potter--who, having staked out opposite sides of the land-use
debate, are not as chummy as their little exchange might
suggest. Locally, Eastwood is as well-known for being an
unstoppable political force as he is for being a movie star. The
onetime mayor of Carmel has morphed into a land baron whose
blockbuster development ventures make Hollywood budgets look
small. Potter, 50, is a no-growth Democrat with an
environmentalist bent, and he considers Monterey pines and other
precious coastal resources to be immovable objects. A stalwart
on the board of supervisors as well as three other key
government regulatory agencies, Potter is the most powerful man
in Pebble Beach, and yet even he was dazzled by Eastwood's
performance. "It was an Academy Award-winning presentation,"
Potter says. "Having Clint show up demonstrated a seriousness of
intent and a personal commitment that can only help this project
on its long journey through the regulatory process."

How long a journey? It has already spanned eight years, four
Pebble Beach ownership groups and countless migraines. The
original application to build was submitted by the Pebble Beach
Company in 1992, for a Tom Fazio-designed course to be placed in
Pescadero Canyon, a densely wooded area just below the Highway 1
gate that serves as the primary portal to 17-Mile Drive. That
proposal also included 16 subdivisions with 403 residential lots
spread over 686 acres. Over the next four years a battery of
environmental impact studies all but ruled out the plan.

In 1996 the company reapplied for building permits with an
entirely new project, the Revised Alternative 2 (RALT 2). The
course, again designed by Fazio, was moved clear across the
forest, beginning at what is now the equestrian center adjacent
to the Pebble Beach Golf Links driving range. The course would
meander through dense stands of Monterey pine in the direction
of Spyglass Hill before plunging towards the coast, offering
sweeping vistas of the ocean and, notably, the 5th and 6th holes
of the exclusive Cypress Point Club. In an effort to get the
project approved, the Pebble Beach Company scaled back the
number of homesites to 316 and reconfigured the subdivisions to
avoid the most sensitive habitat areas. In January 1999, after
more than two years and another barrage of studies, the Monterey
County Planning and Building Department signed off on RALT 2,
the first step toward an eventual vote by the county board of
supervisors.

However, the project's momentum quickly evaporated a few months
later when the owners of the Pebble Beach Company--a consortium
of Japanese companies--were compelled to unload the company due
to financial pressures back home. Throughout the spring and
summer of '99, RALT 2 was put on hold as high-stakes
negotiations were secretly held with a bevy of suitors. In July
a group of 132 private investors kicked down $820 million to
purchase the company. The group was led by the so-called Dream
Team of Eastwood; Dick Ferris, the onetime CEO of United
Airlines and currently the chairman of the PGA Tour's policy
board; Arnold Palmer; and former major league baseball
commissioner Peter Ueberroth. This famous foursome is said to
have ponied up $100 million of its own money, grabbing a
majority of the seats on the company's seven-man board of
directors.

At the time of the Pebble purchase Eastwood was still strutting,
having recently prevailed in a bloody battle to put 88 homes and
a private golf club on a 2,010-acre parcel atop a series of
ridges above Carmel Valley. This development, Canada Woods, had
been approved by the board of supervisors in December 1996 just
three weeks before Potter's fifth-district predecessor, Sam
Karas, retired from office. A longtime friend of Eastwood's,
Karas had had a speaking role as Thirsty Thurston in Eastwood's
1992 Oscar-winning film Unforgiven, and voted in favor of the
project.

Potter swept into office on the first Tuesday of 1997 in the
wake of the Canada Woods vote, taking Karas's vacant seat.
(Potter was reelected in March.) The high-profile machinations
involving the Canada Woods project had only made Potter's
no-growth platform more attractive, and upon taking office he
was quick to draw a line in the sand, pledging that he would
allow no more subdivisions in the fifth district (which
comprises Big Sur, Carmel, Carmel Valley, Monterey, Pacific
Grove and Pebble Beach).

Potter has spent the last 18 years driving an hour and half each
way to San Jose to play in weekly pickup hockey games as a
comically undersized (5'6") defenseman--"the second-to-last guy
the puck gets by," he says. He sees his role in the land-use
process as much the same. "I think we all know this is one of
the truly special places in the world," he says. "So why do we
want to be just another bug on the windshield of development? If
you want urban blight, go to San Jose. Don't bring it into my
district." Surveying, in his mind's eye, Pebble Beach's glorious
coastline and the majestic forest that frames it, Potter adds,
"I'm in charge of making sure none of this ever changes."

For Potter, the personal has become the political. Growing up in
Hingham, Mass., what he calls Kennedy country, left Potter with
certain Camelot-style ideals. The beach in Hingham was
municipally owned, and only residents of his lily-white
community were allowed access. "I get to enjoy the beach, but
some kid from [nearby] Quincy doesn't deserve the privilege?"
Potter asks, incredulous. "Even when I was young, that didn't
seem right to me."

Though he had a strong moral compass, Potter was by his own
admission a wayward youth. Postcollege he was a ski bum in Vail
and in the summer of 1971 decided to road-trip up and down the
California coast. He ran out of gas at the top of Carmel Hill
and coasted into downtown Monterey--and never left. Potter
subsequently married, had a couple of kids and settled into the
construction business, concentrating mainly on single-family
homes. While building his own house in the Skyline Forest
section overlooking Monterey in the early '80s, he became so
infuriated by the bureaucracy at the city's architectural review
board that he got himself appointed to the committee. In 1992 he
was, he claims, "talked into running" for the Monterey city
council, and he quickly developed a taste for the battle. "It's
eye-opening when you get to see all the dirty laundry hidden
within your own community," Potter says.

After the Dream Team took over the Pebble Beach Company, Potter
wasted no time announcing himself. Amid rumors that the new
ownership was reviving RALT 2, Potter fired off a letter to the
California Fish and Game Commission last September urging that
the Monterey pine be brought under the control of the state's
Endangered Species Act. It was a shot across the bow of the
Pebble Beach Company, which under RALT 2 was calling for the
removal of 278.3 acres of forest habitat and an estimated 33,222
Monterey pines. Since the early '90s the pine--the Del Monte
Forest's most populous tree--has been ravaged by pitch canker, a
fatal fungus spread by insects. At Pebble Beach Golf Links the
canker has already wiped out three Monterey pines that long had
significant strategic import: the tall, skinny tree that guarded
the inside of the dogleg on the 1st hole; the immense, squat
pine that protected the 2nd green; and one of the two trees that
pinched the landing area of the 18th fairway.

Shortly after Potter's letter was made public, he was invited to
lunch by Bill Perocchi, who had been installed by the Dream Team
as CEO of the Pebble Beach Company. Parked at the Stillwater
Cafe, within the Lodge, Potter and Perocchi kicked around the
parameters of the project for a while before Potter made an
intriguing gambit. "Forget the houses and you might get your
golf course," he told Perocchi.

Eliminating the houses would save tens of thousands of Monterey
pines while easing concerns over traffic and water. Of course,
with Silicon Valley funny money seeping southward until recently
at an alarming rate--one Internet venture capitalist paid $15.5
million, a Pebble Beach record, for a house near the Lone
Cypress--giving up the 316 lots would mean kissing off hundreds
of millions of dollars. Nevertheless, Perocchi took the advice
back to the Dream Team. Eastwood brought in Alan Williams of the
Carmel Development Company, the muscle behind Canada Woods, as a
consultant. It didn't take this group long to conclude that
additional rooms at the Lodge and at the Inn at Spanish Bay
would, over time, create more revenue than homesites and that
they would be an easier sell, as hotel rooms use far less water
and create less traffic than houses do.

News of revisions to the project began to break in May. In the
ensuing weeks Potter met with Williams to discuss details, had a
separate dialogue with Perocchi and flew to Sacramento to speak
with Fred Keeley, the Democratic speaker pro tem of the state
assembly and arguably the most powerful environmentalist in
California. All this brokering was done to ensure that the
competing interests of the landowners and conservationists would
be addressed.

Thus the stage was set for Eastwood's dramatic appearance at the
board of supervisors meeting three weeks ago, where the details
of the updated project were laid out: The course would remain in
roughly the same position as it had been in RALT 2, only
reconfigured in spots to avoid particularly sensitive habitats;
24 golf cottages (two-bedroom suites with ocean views) would be
built around the new course's clubhouse; 50 to 60 rooms would be
added to the Lodge and 70 to 80 to the Inn, with the latter also
getting a much-needed driving range; 60 housing units would be
built for Pebble Beach Company employees; and 38 lots of record
(preexisting homesites) would be sold at locations sprinkled
throughout the Del Monte Forest. The proposal came with a number
of carrots: The Pebble Beach Company promises no future
residential developments in the forest; a replacement for the
equestrian center will be built in an old quarry above Spanish
Bay; the occupancy tax revenue from the new rooms--estimated at
$2.5 million a year--could be used to improve roads throughout
the county; and the company will build 54 units of housing for
moderate- to low-income families in Pajaro, a depressed
community in north Monterey County. (This provision was a
holdover from earlier RALT 2 compromises.)

In hopes that it can build public support for the project, the
Pebble Beach Company is gathering signatures to place an
initiative on November's ballot. "We are downsizing ourselves,"
Eastwood told the supervisors, a spin that was widely repeated
in area newspapers. "We want to set a tone for the forest, in
perpetuity."

"What you have to understand," says Williams, "is that the new
ownership did not purchase the Pebble Beach Company so they
could exploit the land and squeeze out every possible dollar.
They bought the company because they love Pebble Beach, love
golf, and want to preserve what we all know is one of the most
special places on earth. This is especially true of Clint, who
lives within the forest."

Not everyone is convinced of the company's benevolence. "If
they're so concerned with protecting the forest, why build
anything at all?" says Mary Ann (Corky) Matthews, the
conservation chair of the local chapter of the California Native
Plant Society. "Neither the Pebble Beach Company nor Clint
Eastwood has a particularly good record when it comes to the
environment, so until proven otherwise the local conservationist
community will remain skeptical, to say the least."

Mark Massara, the director of the Sierra Club's coastal program
(and the founder of the National Association of Surfing
Attorneys) says, "The fight is far from over. One of the few
things we have on our side is the law, in the form of the
Coastal Act, as administered by the Coastal Commission. Without
that, Clint and his buddies at the Pebble Beach Company would be
free to keep plundering the land for their own private kingdoms."

Before the new, improved Pebble Beach project can proceed, it
needs approval from two governmental bodies, the Monterey County
Board of Supervisors and the California Coastal Commission, a
quasijudicial, independent state agency with jurisdiction over
almost the entirety of the state's 1,200 miles of coastline. In
the wake of Eastwood's June 6 pitch, approval by the supervisors
is thought to be a gimme. The Coastal Commission will be a
harder sell. All 12 politically appointed commissioners are
Democrats, a party that, in California at least, is more
sympathetic to the environment than to property rights. Potter
is right in the thick of things. He is the vice chairman of the
Coastal Commission, and with the Pebble Beach project in his own
backyard, he will be the key voice in future discussions. "It's
a little premature for anyone to declare victory yet, but
clearly we've reached a higher ground," he says. "They have
obviously brought forward a superior plan, one that has a little
something for everybody in it. Was it easy getting to this
point? No. It's not supposed to be. This is Pebble Beach we're
talking about."

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEY TERRILL THE MAN A no-growth Democrat who sits on four regulatory committees, Potter was the first to propose the compromise plan. COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK LAY OF THE LAND The new course will sit in the heart of the Del Monte Forest and feature views of the Pacific and Cypress Point. Spanish Bay Cypress Point Spyglass Hill Monterey Bay Poppy Hills Proposed new course Equestrian Center Pebble Beach Monterey
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK BOARD GAME Massara, founder of the Surfing Attorneys, says the Sierra Club won't play along with the Pebble Beach Company. COLOR PHOTO: JOEY TERRILL TREE HUGGER To the Plant Society's Matthews, the forest comes first.

Without the Coastal Act, says Massara, "Clint and his buddies
would be free to keep plundering the land."

"They have obviously brought forward a superior plan,"
says Potter, "one that has a little something for everybody."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)