The Cambrian

Viewpoint: Like Laguna Beach? That's comparing apples-to-Orange County

Jeff Hellman’s Viewpoint (June 24, “How do you value Cambria? — or, Value and values”) attempts to exploit irrational fears to convince people to oppose the proposed desalination project. I suspect he would be making the same arguments if it was a pipeline, a reservoir, or any other means of lifting the moratorium. Mr. Hellman seems to be trying to convince us that if the project is built, Cambria will suffer from overcrowding, gridlock, congestion, crime, and filth — just like Carmel, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Laguna Beach, Bolinas and Oceanside do.

I’m surprised he didn’t include Playa del Rey. You never know when some evil developer will come along and throw in a huge international airport next door.

The truth is that each of the listed communities has its own unique set of growth drivers that make it very different from Cambria. Santa Cruz, Laguna Beach, and Oceanside are all within 40 miles of a major employment center and served by major highways, so they are suburbs, not “isolated.” Carmel, Monterey, and Bolinas are all within 75 miles of major population centers, making them each an easy daytrip for thousands of tourists, weekend outdoors enthusiasts and shoppers.

Carmel/Monterey has the Pebble Beach resort and other world class golf resorts and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (Cambria’s merchants wish they had some of those problems.) If Bolinas is filthy, it’s due to the economic malaise as a result of a 30-year building moratorium.

One thing all these communities have in common, though, is their age: They became what they are prior to the passage of the California Coastal Act.

Cambria, on the other hand, is 185 miles from the nearest major employment center. It’s only served by three small roads, one of which does not support commercial traffic. Virtually all land surrounding Cambria for miles is permanently protected by conservation easements, or in public ownership. Cambria has Hearst Castle, which draws a lot less people than the Monterey Peninsula attractions. Cambria’s development is and will continue to be restricted by the Coastal Commission.

Carmel has a population density of 3,753 people per square mile and its population has actually declined over the last 40 years. Cambria’s present density is 725, and its projected density under the proposed buildout cap is about 900, which places it right about where Bolinas is. That’s nothing like Carmel.

Cambria can actually be compared more accurately with a place like Ft. Bragg. At 165 miles from San Francisco, Ft. Bragg is actually not as remote as Cambria in terms of distance from major employers. Ft. Bragg’s density is 2,577 and it has grown 1.2 percent annually over the last 40 years.

There are far too many insurmountable constraints for Cambria to ever be like the towns that Hellman so maligns, even if there was plenty of water. These are all well documented by CCSD and the county and do not need to be repeated here. And, with job scarcity, there’s no demand or economic basis for that kind of growth.

Cambria is not Big Sur. It’s been a large subdivision for a century. If it was Big Sur, I suspect Jeff Hellman and his like-minded neighbors would not be able to live there. It seems Mr. Hellman loves Cambria as a subdivision just large enough for himself, but not large enough for me. That’s quite convenient for him, especially since I’m helping pay for it.

The other inconvenient truth for Mr. Hellman is that the population of the state, nation, and world keeps growing and there’s no way to stop it. That population must be absorbed by existing communities. Cambria is an existing community that’s already subdivided and enjoys an extremely low density. How can Cambria and Hellman claim such exclusivity as to be set apart from what everyone else is expected to accept?

Mr. Hellman correctly points out that owners of Cambria lots will see their property values increase if they get water meters. Conversely, existing homeowners will see their property values increase if they control all the vacant land without paying for it. Is one fairer than the other?

Deryl Robinson is president of United Lot Owners of Cambria.