XV. TRANSPORTATION/TRAFFIC — Would the project:
a) Cause an increase in traffic which is substantial in relation to the existing traffic load and capacity of the street system (i.e., result in a substantial increase in either the number of vehicle trips, the volume to capacity ratio on roads, or congestion at intersections)?
b) Exceed, either individually or cumulatively, a level of service standard established by the county congestion management agency for designated roads or highways?
c) Result in a change in air traffic patterns, including either an increase in traffic levels or a change in location that results in substantial safety risks? d) Substantially increase hazards due to a design feature (e.g., sharp curves or dangerous intersections) or incompatible uses (e.g., farm equipment)?
e) Result in inadequate emergency access? f) Result in inadequate parking capacity?
The Status Quo and the Draft Ordinance allow unlimited traffic increases. And there is no mitigation offered for the difficult and hazardous conditions at Point Lobos and in Big Sur.
Short-Term renters add to traffic both directly and by taking long-term housing off the market, thereby forcing longer commutes for workers.
Parking on HIghway by visitors to Point Lobos creates a dangerous situation for them and motorists. In many spots people have to walk on Highway 1 because there is limited room for the car to park, leaving no room to walk off the Highway.
Big Sur is experiencing daily traffic jams, limiting access to the Coast and in direct violation of the Big Sur Land Use Plan.
This a serious wildfire area, and emergency services has expressed major concerns about traffic hindering response times, and not even having turnaround areas when parking is allowed on both sides of Highway 1 near Point Lobos.
The area is already saturated beyond capacity with visitors here to visit our State Parks and other coastal resources. There are no more parking spaces, bathrooms, or other amenities to accommodate an influx of new visitors in Short Term Rentals.
Carmel Area State Parks Concerns
The Carmel Area State Parks recently stated,[i]“The 1979 Point Lobos State Reserve and Carmel River State Beach General Plan recognized that dramatic changes had occurred since the Reserve and State Beach were established as public lands decades earlier. Visitation had grown considerably, risking damage to “one of the most beautiful spots in the world.” Landscapes were shifting with the encroachment of Monterey pine forest into coastal meadows. Parking problems were increasing on the Caltrans highway right-of-way of SR 1 at both Point Lobos State Reserve and Monastery Beach (then called San Jose Creek Beach), causing local traffic congestion and safety issues. At that time, the public expressed the strong desire to protect the native qualities of the coast, including its scenery, habitats, wildlife, and “quietness.”
Dramatic changes affecting the parks have continued since 1979. Visitation to the Reserve, recorded in the 1979 plan as 270,000 people per year, now exceeds 500,000 visitors arriving by auto, plus potentially several hundred thousand additional walk-in visitors. Point Lobos has become popular with both national and international tourists. Carmel River State Beach has become another popular destination, including for special events such as weddings, which take advantage of the spectacular scenery. . . . Public input . . . emphasized the urgent need to address how the unique resources of the parks are being “loved to death.”
While not an issue limited just to CASP as a destination, transportation and parking issues have become more urgent as the popularity of parks, reserves, National Forest lands, other public open space, and tourism in the Monterey-to-Big Sur region has grown. Interrelated issues include traffic congestion, vehicle circulation, parking adequacy, and pedestrian access and safety. Currently, the vast majority of visitors must rely on personal autos as the primary transportation mode to reach CASP units and other similar destinations in the region. SR 1 becomes heavily congested during periods of substantial visitation and peak local commute times, causing mobility problems for local residents and visitors alike. Parking on the highway shoulders within the right- of-way of SR 1 near the Reserve and Coastal Area contributes to traffic congestion, creates pedestrian risks, and adds to excessive uncontrolled walk-in visitation to the Reserve. [iii]
Big Sur/Highway 1 Protections
The Big Sur Coast Highway was declared the first State Scenic Highway in 1965. In 1996 it was designated the first All American Road under the Federal Highway Administration National Scenic Byways Program. Its role in providing affordable, readily available coastal access to millions of annual visitors is recognized in the Big Sur and Carmel Highlands Land Use Plans. The mandate to protect the quality of the recreational driving experience is likewise addressed in the Big Sur and Carmel Highlands Land Use Plans. Management of the use and capacity of Highway I is essential to achieving the goals of the Big Sur and Carmel Highlands Land Use Plans to provide public access to the Big Sur Coast along this scenic route and the protection of the environment and quality of the visitor experience.
The Big Sur Coast Highway is required by the California Coastal Act to be maintained as a scenic two-lane road in rural areas (south of the Carmel River). As a state and federal scenic road, the Big Sur LUP addresses vehicular capacity of the highway and public access to protect environmental quality and visitor experience. Similarly, the Carmel Highlands-Riviera Master Plan seeks to preserve the scenic, rural character of that community through the use of scenic easements, retention of native vegetation, and maintenance of Highway 1 as a scenic two-lane road. However, vehicular capacities are already being exceeded on Highway 1, and visitor damage to roadside habitat is routinely reported in the press.
Carmel Valley Area Plan:
[i]Carmel Valley Policy #14 – Traffic Triggers If and when any segment of Carmel Valley Road degrades to LOS D, there shall be a freeze on all new development in Carmel Valley. Carmel Valley Planning Area/Monterey County Community General Plan https://preservemontereyneighborhoods.community/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/community-general-plan-area-plans-e28093-carmel-valley.pdf also http://www.landwatch.org/pages/pubs05/cgp/pdfs/20CarmelValleyAreaPlan.pdf
Also e) Also at five year intervals the County shall examine the degree to which estimates of changes in Levels of Service (“LOS”) in the Carmel Valley Master Plan Area may be occurring earlier than predicted in the General Plan Environmental Impact Report. If the examination indicates that LOS are likely to fall to a lower letter grade than predicted for 2030, then the County shall consider adjustments to the cap on new residential units established in Policy CV-1.6 and/or the cap on new visitor serving units established in Policy CV-1.15 or other measures that may reduce the impacts, including, but not limited to, deferral of development that would seriously impact traffic conditions . . . Monterey County General Plan Carmel Valley Master Plan October 26, 2010 – Amended as of February 12, 2013 Page, CVMP-1
Point Lobos Area
Park It! is making significant progress towards a long term solution. On the question of funding – the initial funding for Park It! comes from 5 groups – The Point Lobos Foundation, The Big Sur Land Trust, the Big Sur Marathon Foundation, California State Parks and the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District. On our behalf, MST has applied to the Air Resources District for a nearly $400,000 grant to set up a shuttle system next summer as a demonstration project that will lead to a long term solution. We are optimistic the grant will be approved. Regarding parking offsite, Marathon Flats the area currently used for Christmas trees and pumpkins, is owned by State Parks. That site can handle around 100 cars. We are looking to secure one or two other sites for another 150+ cars. We are also working hard to convince Cal Trans, the County and the Coastal Commission that the no parking area on the East side of Highway 1 near Point Lobos should remain permanent instead of just until the climbing lane project is finished. It really helps ! We greatly appreciate the support of the Carmel Highlands community. The Park It Team
Monterey-Salinas Transit has submitted a grant application to the Monterey Bay Air Resources District for the Park It! Point Lobos Area Shuttle. The shuttle service is a key element of the summer 2019 Demonstration Project. Other elements of the project include offsite parking north of the Carmel River, a reservation system, and elimination of Highway parking in the vicinity of Point Lobos. We are thankful that MST is leading the effort to provide shuttle service during the demonstration.
Park It! is most appreciative of your overwhelming support of the shuttle grant application. We understand that many of your respective organizations have already expressed your support to the Air Resources District, including:
Big Sur Land Trust
Big Sur Marathon Foundation
Carmel Chamber of Commerce
Carmel Highlands Association
Carmel Meadows Homeowners Association
Carmel River Watershed Conservancy
Carmel Valley Association
Central Coast Lighthouse Keepers
Coast Property Owners Association
LandWatch Monterey County
Lobos Ridge Road Association
Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Point Lobos Foundation
Ventana Wildlife Association
To better understand the visitation pattern and numbers to Point Lobos State Reserve, our partner Point Lobos Foundation is commissioning a traffic and visitation study at the park. The study is scheduled to begin in August. Data from the study will be used for the planning of offsite parking capacity, requirements for the reservation system, and impact of eliminating parking along the Highway.
While we are planning for the demonstration project and what might make sense for subsequent phases, the east side of Highway I around Point Lobos is actually closed to parking during the construction of the Highway 1 Climbing Lane Project. We have all noticed a distinct improvement in traffic safety, a reduction in parking-related traffic congestion, and better emergency vehicle access to communities south of the park. It adds to our confidence that the Demonstration Project will work well. In fact, some of you have suggested maintaining the current “No Parking” zone while we work on a more comprehensive, longer term solution. We want to hear from you about your experience, and what you think would make good sense in the near and longer terms.
Big Sur – Pfeiffer Beach
Pfeiffer Beach shuttle experiment to start Memorial Day weekend
By CHRIS COUNTS
IN AN effort to relieve heavy summer traffic along Syc- amore Canyon Road in Big Sur, a shuttle will travel from Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to Pfeiffer Beach between Memo- rial Day and Labor Day.
The shuttle will be operated by Sur Transportation, the same local company that provided shuttle service last summer during the Pfeiffer Creek Bridge replacement project.
According to Butch Kronlund, president of the Big Sur Property Owners Association, something needed to be done to alleviate the traffic problems that have plagued Sycamore
Canyon Road for years, and have recently become much worse.
Pfeiffer Beach has become so popular that when its park- ing lot fills up, many people park along Highway 1 — where they block the bicycle lane — and walk two miles down the middle of Sycamore Canyon Road to get to the beach. Some even carry coolers or push baby strollers. But the road is nar- row, winding and dangerous, and many residents use it to get to their homes.
Kronlund said he hopes the shuttle will be able to help ad- dress what has become “a critical health and safety issue.” He said elected officials and public agencies have signed off on
the plan, including Congressman Jimmy Panetta, Supervisor Mary Adams, the California Highway Patrol and the United States Forest Service, which owns the beach.
Those using the shuttle will be able to leave their vehicles in a parking lot at the Big Sur Multi Agency Facility that is typically used by backpackers. The shuttle will pick up pas- sengers in the parking lot and return every hour. A fee for the service hasn’t yet been set.
While Kronlund said he’s hopeful the shuttle will have a positive impact, he said there are still many details to work out. “This is an interim step toward a more permanent solu- tion,” he added.