Saturday, November 22, 2008

Baez in Carmel

(Image: This photograph of Joan Baez and friends was taken in the year Baez founded the “Institute For The Study Of Nonviolence” in Carmel Valley. For further information regarding the photo see the original source.) Seeking permission from the owner.)

Joan Baez was a hero of folk music when she moved from Massachusetts to Carmel Highlands in the summer of 1961. She built a house in Carmel Valley three years later and soon tried to start an Institute for the Study of Nonviolence in her home. County planners said zoning wouldn't permit a school in a residence, so she bought a former schoolhouse in a remote area 10 miles away, in the oak-studded hills of the upper valley. The old school had closed in 1950. The whitewashed, adobe building had been a poison oak lab and a shotgun shell plant since. Baez's plan inflamed a couple who lived nearby and they made a fuss about "the lunatic fringe" moving into Carmel Valley and Berkeley-type demonstrations forcing the valley's $40,000 - $50,000 property values to plummet. Their claim that the school would violate zoning prohibiting land use "detrimental to the peace, morality, or general welfare of Monterey County" prompted the county Board of Supervisors to convene a hearing.

For more than five hours in December 1965, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors heard objectors and supporters for a nonviolence school folk singer Joan Baez planned on her property Carmel Valley. Some said bearded peace demonstrators in the valley would destroy property values, while others claimed the county was turning into Nazi Germany. When it was Baez's turn to speak, she said that as an investor in Carmel Valley, she was also concerned about property values. The board permitted the school on a narrow 3-2 vote. An angry neighbor later filed suit in Superior Court, and lost. When the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence opened, 15 students at a time paid $20 a week to sit on the floor and discuss Ghandi, McLuhan and Thoreau. On breaks, they practiced ballet to Beatles records. And for an extra 50 cents a day, they lunched on grilled hot dogs, potato salad and Kool-aid. The students also put a lot of time into responding to one another "with beauty and tenderness."


Pluteus said...

With such early roots in Carmel, why didn't she stay? But opted instead to live in Palo Alto? Do you know? Being from the East coast I don't have a clue about modern day political leaning in Carmel, CA., or Palo Alto for that matter. Palo Alto being in close proximity to Stanford, hmmmmm!

Randi Greene said...

Here is how Joan's life progressed after Carmel in her own words:

BayAreaStephen said...

Carmel's loss was Woodside's gain.
(I studied at the Institute throughout my college years and remember spending Thanksgiving there in 1970 when the Institute was up in the hills above Palo Alta off Pagemill Road. What a wonderful time it was with a bunch of incredible students and staff. While I carry the things I've learned with me, there will always be room for an Institute to study the option of organized nonviolent resistance.