How Green Is Clint Eastwood's New Development?

[Aug. 10, 2005 Editor's Note: This post has been modified from the original after a reader (see comments below) sent in a critical correction. In the original post "Tehama By the Sea" was conflated with a proposed development in Pebble Beach, the current post is correct. We sincerely apologize for the error.]

Here's a tough one: Clint Eastwood and a group of investors are planning a development near his Tehama golf course in California. The good news is that sustainable design options are available and "encouraged." Future homeowners are asked to consider "material palettes which come from sustainable means, such as using native stone which originates on site, or FSC wood, which is lumber certified to have been harvested from sustainable methods." In addition, the website for the Tehama by the Sea states that the development will "strongly encourage" sustainable design principles "… utilizing renewable energy systems such as photovoltaic, passive solar energy opportunities, native and local materials, sustainable construction materials, consideration of porous paving materials, and incorporation of existing site features (e.g. trees and vegetation, slope, and solar and wind orientation) into the overall design." Sounds pretty good, right? So what about the bad news?

In nearby Pebble Beach, Mr. Eastwood is also investing in a highly controversial proposed development in the Del Monte forest near the famous Pebble Beach golf course. Why the controversy?

Well, first of all there is the threat to the endangered species in the area; nineteen different species have habitat in the proposed development. Among these are the California red-legged frog and a wild orchid. Then there are the 17,000 Monterey Pines that would need to be removed from what is currently the world's largest stand of these unique trees. And last but certainly not least is the fact that the development violates the county's own planning regulations and the environmental regulations established by the California Coastal Act.

Eastwood and his co-investors Arnold Palmer and Peter Ueberroth, organizer of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles launched a successful campaign asking Pebble Beach voters to approve changes in the county planning regulations that prevent the development. The campaign's language is steeped in rhetoric about the value of the forests and the investors' commitment to the integrity of the landscape. The ballot issue called "Measure A" passed with the voters, but was not well received by the Coastal Commission. In fact, a letter to the county board from the commission stated that the county's new interpretation of environmental obligations was "contrary to law, common sense, the county's own local coastal program and numerous commission and local government actions in other areas on California's coast".

[Editor's note: Under the erroneous understanding that "Tehama by the Sea" was the same project as the Pebble Beach development described above, the author concluded that the Tehama development was a poor choice for the environment. Unfortunately, there is less information readily available about the environmental impact of Tehama by the Sea so no such conclusion can be drawn. One hopes that the proposed Tehama development will indeed have less of an impact than its cousin project at Pebble Beach. Once again, our sincerest apologies for the error.]

This post came from a great tip from Michele W. who rightly pointed out the eco-benefits of the Tehama development. I welcome comments to help me understand more about the situation. You can read a little more about the issue in this Common Dreams excerpt.