Sunday, November 23, 2008

Border Wars

(Photo: Carmel Gate in 2003, courtesy of Bill and Barbara Windsor, RoundAmerica).

What a difference a little time can make. It was back in 1985 when Carmel officials were talking about closing the Pebble Beach gate. Some worried that new golf courses – Poppy Hills was opening in 1986, Spanish Bay in 1987 – would draw more traffic through Carmel, so they talked about barricading the gate at Carmel Way and 17 Mile Drive to preserve the residential character of the city. "Sure it's drastic, but so is war," said one City Council member. "People didn't come to Carmel to live on a main artery," said another. This is, after all, a city that once debated building a fence around its borders, and once threatened to secede from California. The 1985 border war disappeared the next year after Clint Eastwood was elected mayor and traffic flooded into Carmel by every route available.

A couple of years later Pebble Beach faced another border dispute. Pebble Beach's neighbors on the north and east – Pacific Grove and Monterey – organized a war of protests and lawsuits against the Pebble Beach Co. in 1989 when it cut down 900 trees in a single day. The company was clearing the forest for its 5th gate, off Holman Highway to Congress Road, which had been approved five years earlier as part of the Spanish Bay development. But Pacific Grove had changed its mind since then – and its city councils – and was negotiating with Pebble Beach when the bulldozers and chain saws showed up. The reaction was so bitter that then-Mayor Morris Fisher urged Pagrovians to constrain themselves. "My God, they're our neighbors," he said. "They buy our groceries. They shop in our stores. They make deposits in our banks. They provide jobs for people in our community. They're not somebody from the evil empire." The county and the courts upheld the gate construction, but protests went on for months.

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