Up the Wrong Tree
Pebble Beach fixes botch in proposed fire code.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Pebble Beach Community Service District made a hasty revision to its proposed fire code update after a local environmentalist pointed out an error he feared would force the removal of “possibly a million” native Monterey pines.
After the code’s first reading at the PBCSD board’s October meeting, David Dilworth of Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment took issue with language instructing property owners to remove combustible vegetation “within a minimum of 100 feet [of structures] or to the property line, whichever is greater.” On large parcels, that could mean clearing miles of vegetation; on small parcels, cutting neighbors’ plants.
District Fire Prevention Chief Dennis Carreiro agrees that the original code contained an error: “Whichever is greater” should have read “whichever is less.” “There was a simple word that was typed in wrong,” he says. “That is truly unintentional. No way any of us would try that.”
Dilworth also objects to the code’s directive to keep vegetation no taller than 4 inches, which he interprets as a mandate to cut down trees. He says Monterey pines are protected under the state Coastal Act and the local coastal plan.
Carreiro clarifies that the instruction to keep vegetation short applies to annual grasses. The code directs property owners to limb trees 6 feet up from the ground and around chimneys. “This is not about removing trees,” he says. “This is about making the space defendable.”
In response to Dilworth’s catch, district staff removed the specific language about clearing combustible plants, replacing it with a simple directive to manage vegetation consistent with state fire code, which increases the firebreak from 30 feet to 100 feet by buildings.
Despite the revision, Dilworth still worries that the push to clear more vegetation could impact the endangered Yadon’s piperia, a rare orchid. The district proposes a “negative declaration” that the fire code update will have no significant effect on the environment.
“We are as concerned as before,” Dilworth says, “and we still insist it requires an environmental impact report.”
After a public hearing, the board will consider adopting the negative declaration and the first reading of the revised ordinance on Dec. 7. The second and final hearing is scheduled for Jan. 25.
The hearing will be held 10:15am on Friday, Dec. 7, at 3103 Forest Lake Rd., Pebble Beach. pbcsd.org