Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Historic Ruts

The debates in today's Carmel may pale in comparison to one of the formative battles on whether to smooth Ocean Avenue all the way to the beach. It was in 1921 when the fabled artists in the colony fought to keep deep ruts in the street, dust piles that obscured them and huge pine roots as an effective way to discourage tourists. Developers and businesses owners in the two-block commercial district wanted smoother routes and fewer toll gates to attract customers. The entrenched conflict drew impressive coverage in the Los Angeles Times, which ran a lengthy story on the "protective" ruts versus "safe" roads. It began: "The idiosyncrasies of artists have not succeeded in establishing about Carmel-by-the-Sea a barrier so impenetrable as to exclude the 'idle rich.' But they have, to date, been successful in checkmating the influx of the 'tourist horde' by the simple expedient of thwarting any move made by the 'capitalists' of Carmel toward street improvement." The next year, however, the city decided to pave Ocean Avenue and bought the sand dunes at the foot of it.

(Photo: Ocean Avenue in Carmel courtesy of Ned Raggett)

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