CEQA EIR Required? Utilities and Service Systems; Water Use


a) Exceed wastewater treatment requirements of the applicable Regional Water Quality Control Board?

d) Have sufficient water supplies available to serve the project from existing entitlements and resources, or are new or expanded entitlements needed?


Monterey Regional Water Supply Project EIR

Conservation wanes, California water use back to pre-drought levels

Americans are conserving water like never before, according to the latest federal data – The Washing

From Comments by Michael Emmett, President, Mal Paso Property Association

“I . . . highlight the water and septic issues as there is a body of evidence showing environmental concerns under the current land use provisions and “infer” that the addition of STR’s at the level of occupancy being considered will exacerbate an already existing environmental problem. My evidence is in the County’s own documents like the Carmel Highlands Wastewater Management Plan (http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/home/showdocument?id=14904 ) and the CalAm decision of record not to permit new water connections in the Highlands. These environmental impacts have to be based on the assumption of increased occupancy and infrastructure stress, or at least, temporary occupancy beyond the limit of existing infrastructure capacity. I think that the Hwy 1 / Carmel Valley Road traffic issues could also follow the same rationale.

In the Carmel Highlands, there has always been a fairly high number of non-resident property ownership. It has ranged between 20% – 30% over the years with most of these properties having historically been either very occasionally or seasonally used vacation properties for their owners. Therefore, for most of the year these properties used to sit vacant and did not have substantial impacts on the environment or local infrastructure. These are the very properties that we now see being utilized as illegal vacation rentals – therefore, causing a higher level of use than existed before with the consequent increased level of environmental impacts. . .  

The County is using generally accepted HUD Fair Housing Guidelines to inform their two persons per bedroom occupancy standards for the STR ordinance. These are not firm limitations and HUD has decided on many occasions to allow/enforce higher occupancy limits to redress what they determine to be illegal discrimination. One of the few arguments that can be successfully employed to limit occupancy is the lack of basic infrastructure capacity (water, sewer, etc.).

[Editor note: In the Home Stay the owner and his family live there.  Any vacation/short-term renters will be an additional use.  Also the demographic evidence is 3 persons per home avaerage.  Renters would be in addition to that.  It should also be noted that Monterey residents were particularly good at conserving water, especially during the drought.  Tourists from other areas use significantly more water on average.]



  • Claim:  STRs increase water use.  MCVRA Position: STRs reduce water use because vacation rentals sit vacant at times.
  • Claim: STRs cause increased traffic. MCVRA Position: STRs reduce traffic. First, STRs sit vacant at times with no traffic at all. Second, vacation renters arrive with multiple people per vehicle. The same home could be rented on a long-term basis in which case there would likely be one car per adult.

Preserve Monterey Neighborhoods.Community Position:  It is entirely inconsistent to say on the one hand that renting out vacation homes for occupancy an additional 300 days per year will provide additional coastal access, and at the same time to argue that STR’s decrease water use and traffic because they sit vacant part of the year.

MCVRA cannot have it both ways.

In Carmel Highlands a property at 101 Lower Walden, normally occupied by 4 to 6 people, started short-term renting to groups as high as 22 people, with special event rentals bringing in over 200 people.  At first it was once or twice a month, but as with all businesses reservations starting coming in for 3 or 4 weeks out of the month, and special events started getting larger.

STR’s are particularly desired for large groups and often shared by multiple families, particularly those that like to hold extensive and noisy parties.  With no one on site, and no other paying guests to worry about, they can drink and play loud music at levels way over that experienced in a normal residential neighborhood. –  increasing water use and traffic.

In Pacific Grove STR’s have added rooms as fast as they can permit them – increasing water use and traffic.

And they use a lot of water – far more than the families that have lived in them.

The MCVRA position is pure conjecture, and without merit in practice.  It is physically impossible to rent out more rooms than had been utilized; to far more people than had lived there; and, have far more, larger and more boisterous parties than had previously occurred there without increasing water use.

And under the proposed Planning Commission rules a room can be as small as 70 square feet, “Granny” units are being added – not to mention that STR owners have been and continue to flaunt the law all over the world.  Their motto, stated in public has been, “Ask for forgiveness, not permission” perfectly summarizes why STR owners are so prone to using properties much more intensively than they or the neighborhood was designed to handle.

Statement by Former County Supervisor and former member of the California Coastal Commission Lou Calcagno was very clear on this. He said, “There are hundreds of second homes along the California coast sitting vacant over 300 days per year.  All we need to do is let these owners rent their home to offer greater public access to the coast.”

Additional articles:


From Comments to the Planning Commission in 2016:

  1. Using data from around the United States, and local experiences as well, it is reasonable to expect that the number of dwellings that will be part of the Short-Term Rentals industry will exceed 1,000 in the relatively near term, and in the worst case upwards of 2,600 over the longer term, and arguably more.
    1. Each dwelling has an average of four bedrooms.
    2. The Planning Commission Focus Group effort as part of the Committee process appears to favor 2 persons per bedroom plus 2 more, equaling 10 persons per dwelling, although the draft ordinance permits many more.
    3. The Planning Commission Focus Group similarly settled on around 6 cars per dwelling, although the draft ordinance permits many more.

. . .

  1. Ten persons per dwelling will add between 10,000 and 26,000 visitors into an area with already saturated access to the coast.
  2. This is a realistic number. A Short-Term Rental at 101 Lower Walden near my home rented to 22 people one weekend, and had many multi-family and wedding groups with many more than 6 cars for over two years, and despite dozens of complaints by over 17 neighbors within ½ mile from the Short Term Rental.
  3. Each visitor uses between 45 and 101 gallons of water per day, mostly for bathing.
  4. At a minimum Short-Term Rentals will, and probably are already, using 450,000 gallons per day of water, and may use, even in the middle of a drought, and in the face of a cutback order from the State Water Commission, more than 2.6 million gallons per day.
  5. At a 90% occupancy factor annual use is between 147 million and 804 million gallons per year.
  6. There is NO water for the portion of the Coastal Zone served by Cal-Am for Short-Term Rentals. None has ever been requested and none has been allocated.   Required procedures for intensification of residential use for short-term rental purposes have not been initiated, let alone followed.
  7. The Planning and Coastal Commissions do not have the authority to divert up to 2.6 million gallons of water per day from existing homes and businesses in Monterey County. Coastal Commission and Committee positions are in direct conflict with the “Water Availability” provisions of the Carmel Land Use Plan, Local Coastal Plan which states[v]:


New development shall be approved only where it can be demonstrated by the applicant that adequate water is available from a water utility or community system or an acceptable surface water diversion, spring, or well. At the County’s discretion, applicants may be required to submit a hydrologic report certifying sustained yield of the water source to serve new development outside of existing water utility service areas.

As part of the permit process, the applicant must also demonstrate that the proposed new water use or use intensification will not adversely affect both the natural supply necessary to maintain the environment, including wildlife, fish, and plant communities, and the supply available to meet the minimum needs of existing users during the driest year. At the County’s discretion, the applicant may be required to support his application through certification by a consultant deemed qualified by the County to make such determinations. The County will request that the Department of Fish and Game provide a written recommendation on each application

  1. The properties in the Carmel Highlands are largely on septic tank systems that have not been constructed, designed, or maintained for the number of visitors likely to stay in Short-Term Rentals. This poses a real threat to groundwater supplies and coastal ecology.
  2. Allowing Short-Term Rentals in the Coastal Zone is inconsistent with other rulings of the Coastal Commission, is in direct conflict with the Carmel River cutback order of the State Water Board, and the Lead Agency role of the California Public Utilities Commissions conducting the CEQA/Environmental Review of the Regional Desalination Project.
  3. The Regional Desalination Project is designed to create replacement, not additional water to the peninsula, and is crucial to the future of Monterey County. Without it, many businesses may be forced to close and severe water conservation will be required of homeowners. There is no additional water allocated for Short-Term Rentals in the Regional Desalination Project.
  4. For example, according to Monterey County NOW (April 2, 2009)

Sand Castle

Monterey Bay Shores Ecoresort is buried to the neck in drama.

For the past 16 years, Sonoma-based developer Ed Ghandour of Security National Guaranty has poured a fortune into planning, litigation and wheel-greasing in an effort to secure permits for Monterey Bay Shores, a 341-room, $225 million mixed-use resort on a 32-acre former sand mine in Sand City. . . Almost a decade ago, the Monterey Peninsula Regional Water Management District denied Ghandour’s water distribution permit and the California Coastal Commission quashed the coastal development permit. For the next nine years Ghandour fought back with failed appeals and dead-end design revisions. . . . But last May, Ghandour regained his advantage: The appellate court overturned the Coastal Commission’s decision and ordered it to reconsider the development application based on Sand City’s Local Coastal Plan, an easier standard than the state’s. . . . The water board issued Ghandour a setback last month by denying his water distribution permit, questioning the environmental impacts of a water supply delivered by California American Water. . . . “The Coastal Commission has denied any and all new developments using new water in North County for years, based on the fact that that area has an inadequate water supply. Ghandour has a right to use that water, but he can’t do it without an analysis of the impacts of that use


  1. There is essentially no water for the portion of the Coastal Zone served by Cal-Am for short-term rentals. We are operating under a cutback order by the State Water Commission that requires building a Regional Desalination Project, maintaining strict water conservation practices, allows no new water using connections, and just recently lowered the amount of water Monterey can divert from the Carmel River, “arguing that amount represented Cal Am’s six-year pumping average during the entire cutback order period.” Since short-term rentals have been illegal for the whole of that time, there is simply no water at all for new uses that have not previously applied for water now or in the future. No short-term rental groups has ever applied for water with Cal-Am or asked that it be included in the Regional Desalination Project. The Coastal Commission does not have the authority to divert water from the uses it is being built for, and for which many have been waiting decades, to a visitor’s use that will not increase access to the coast (because it is already used beyond capacity by visitors).
  2. The Coastal Commission and Committee positions are in direct conflict with the “Water Availability” provisions of the Carmel Land Use Plan, Local Coastal Plan.[vi]
  3. Some have taken the position that Short-Term Rentals will not increase water use. Short Term Rentals is already increasing water use and this will increase more as occupancy rates in Short Term Rentals go up. Please note the view that water use will not go up is a physical impossibility and will be laughed out of any court. Short Term Rentals visitors will use up to 800 million gallons per year taking it directly and illegally from “supply available to meet the minimum needs of existing users during the driest year.” (Carmel Land Use Plan)
  4. If the Short Term Rental property is owner-occupied, all additional people are additional water users. If the Short Term Rental is not owner-occupied (in other words it is just a plain old hotel), then the owner is off somewhere else consuming water while the guests are consuming water at the Short Term Rental.
  5. The Coastal Commission positions are entirely inconsistent with the Coastal Commission’s positions on the Desalination and other water supply projects going through the permitting process right now, as well as hotel projects that have been proposed for the Monterey area.
  6. Some areas, such as the Mal Paso Creek and parts of the Walden circle area in Carmel Highlands, and many areas of Big  Sur, use well water (and storage is minimal).  In the case of Mal Paso the wells are at or near capacity.  Intensification of water use in these areas has the potential to create serious problems.

Septic Tank Sewage Disposal – Leach Field

Carmel Highlands Onsite Wastewater Study-min

Carmel Highlands Onsite Wastewater Study-min

Carmel Highlands is on the coast of the Monterey Marine Sanctuary, and includes highly precious coastal resources that includes Pont Lobos, and Big Sur.  Most of Carmel Highlands uses septic tanks with leach fields, and does not have sewer service.

Most of the eastern half of Carmel Valley is on septic and truck delivered propane so the issues of intensification of truck traffic and nitrate loading from overworked leach fields extend beyond the Highlands.

Leach fields need to be adequately sized and maintained appropriate to their use.  STR’s in our area have, in the past, and currently advertise the availability of homes that used to have single family use in a normal way – or less because many are used as vacation homes.  The leach fields and their maintenance are normal.  At one nearby STR they started having up to 22 people sleeping there, and parties for over 200 people that went on around the clock.  use of the leach field and septic system is far greater, and the possibility of the leach field overflowing much higher.  Commercial hotels and similar places are required to have much bigger systems.  And they pump them out after periods of high use.

The STR’s in our area were never seen to pump out or maintain their septic system.  This presents danger not just to the neighbors downhill, but also to the coastline as this waste could ooze in to the ocean.


If a CEQA challenge is to be made experts will have to be engaged to study this issue more closely.


  1. Environmental Health recommends to County that any home operating an STR must first have the septic  system inspected by a certified licensed septic system maintainer to verify its condition and that the septic has the capacity to handle the wastewater produced by the number of occupants that STRs  are advertising .

EHB will require a performance evaluation of the existing system to ensure that it is functioning properly.  Any “failed” system components will require repair prior to issuance of an STR permit.  Per Monterey County Code, Chapter 15.20, an OWTS is designed based on the number of bedrooms in the structure but we have no way of determining actual occupancy of a dwelling once it is in use.  Accordingly, we do not intend to assess the capacity of an OWTS based on potential occupancy for either use as an STR or as a primary dwelling.  The existing OWTS that currently serves a primary dwelling will be considered adequate to serve a STR provided a passing performance evaluation is completed.


  1. Recommend to Planning that the information on the STR applicants use of septic is in the form of an  “approved” County Guideline and are posted in each bathroom and kitchen

We have updated our recommendation to reflect that STR applicants be required to provide information related to excess water use and OWTS “no-no’s” to STR occupants by way of the rental agreement and signs posted at all sinks and toilets.  At this time we have not drafted “approved language” but instead provided several sources of information that may be considered by the STR applicant when preparing their rental agreement and signs.


  1. Inspection from Water Resource (Monterey Peninsula Water Management District?) that all fixtures in STRs are water conservation fixtures

This is outside of EHB’s purview and recommend that you present this suggestion to RMA-Planning staff

State Water Resources Control Board cease and desist order is 7 months away (May 22, 2016); fines and rationing.  Required to show progress on water sources, noit adding 500 acre-feet of demand,


‘Current policy prohoibits new hook-ups unless the water is in place.  STR is the equivalent of over 1,000 new hook-ups.  To the extent that water is to be made available, in-fill owners of record, new businesses, and new bathrooms should be able to compete for that water.  Absolutely cannot preferentially make new water supplies available solely to STR.


One of the main uses of houses for STR– is rental as party houses, where dozens of people occupy a home meant for a family of four, stay all night, post lookouts to tell them to quiet down when the police are on the way, and to party on when they leave, bothering neighbors until 3 or 4 in the morning.  Their relative water use has to be astronomical.


And if additional supplies are approved, why should STR’s, party houses and other uses be allowed to come in and snatch that extra water away NEVER HAVING ASKED FOR IT, LOBBIED FOR IT, FOUGHT FOR IT OVER A DECADE, AND NOW THEY WANT TO SCREW ALL THOISE FOLKS WHO HAVE BEEN WAITING ALL THIS TIME?

I notice in the focus group results a consensus that STR will not increase water use. Please note this is a physical impossibility and would be laughed out of any Court.


More people equals more water use.


If the STR is owner-occupied, all additional people are additional water users.


If the STR is not owner-occupied (in other words it is just a plain old hotel), than the owner is off somewhere else consuming water while the guests are consuming water at the STR.

STR water


You need to go get your own water.  There is a water shortage on the Monterey Peninsula.  The Regional Desalination Project is currently being scoped out – in other words, they are still deciding how much water to produce from the desalination project.  And right now thre are two and only two options being considered.  One simply replaces the water being illegally pumped from the Carmel River.  In other words, there is no water for new hotels, no water for STR’s, no water for landowners who have waited decades to build a home on land they bought, no water for another bathtub, or laundry sink, some people again having waited decades for a permit to make their house a little larger or accommodating, no water for agriculture, or businesses, no new water for any of them.  In this scenario, the water simply does not exist for the illegal  STR industry that already exists, let alone the massive legal and illegal expansion of STR that has taken place everywhere it has been legalized.


The second scenario is a larger deslaination plant.  But again, as currently designed and applied for, there is no water for STR. That water is spoken for by long patient landowners wanting to build their home, homeowners who have already applied for another bathroom or such, businesses wanting to expand, etc. The STR industry has never showed up to a scoping meeting, never made a request for water, never made its case, never insisted its use be considered as part of the Environmental Review and permitting process.



And make no mistake, desalinated water is very expensive.  We all pay for it.  So should STR force an even larger Desalination plant, or take the water from legitimate homeowners and businesses, we all pay a price – and it’s a big one.


It would be terrible public policy, at this moment in time, to permit the largest hotel-equivalent project in the history of Monterey with out knowing exactly where the water is going to come from, when, and how much it was going to cost all of us. And it is also terrible public policy to permit illegal uses of water as is occurring right now, which is equally bad to not fixing water leaks in the Cal-Am system – only it’s a much bigger problem, already.


The only way, the only way, for the STR industry to be a good neighbor in this time of water shortage, is to not increase use for a given location over its historical legal uses.  In other words, an absolute limit from documented uses for owner-occupancy, and actual long-term leases if any, but none for illegal STR or other speculative renters.  STR should not be given a pass because it exploits a loophole in water regulation – the fixture limits.  That somewhat bizarre regulatory program doesn’t limit water use – it limits the number of baths, showers, toilets, washing machines and other fixtures through which water passes.  STR gets away with it because they use far more water through the same limited number of fixtures.  We all pay, and pay big, for use of that loophole that was never intended, anywhere, to be used for STR purposes.