Big Sur group wants temporary stop to new building along scenic stretch of California coast

A Big Sur nonprofit is asking Monterey County planners to temporarily stop approving any new lodging developments in the area to prevent “irreversible traffic and land use impacts to this internationally renowned destination.”

Keep Big Sur Wild is asking the Monterey County Planning commission to consider putting a moratorium in place on new visitor serving units while it considers proposed updates to the Big Sur Area Land Use Plan.

“Big Sur’s natural beauty is such a compelling draw that unfortunately it has caused the area to become overrun with too many people, similar to destinations like Yosemite, Tahoe, Yellowstone and Zion National Park,” Tim Green of Keep Big Sur Wild said in a news release. “One way to set visitor limits is to simply freeze the number of lodging units at the existing level.”

High-season travel along Highway 1 packs many Big Sur areas, such as Bixby Bridge, where illegal parking and heavy traffic clog the two-lane highway that’s considered to be a crown jewel in the America’s Scenic Byways program thanks to its Pacific coastline views, steep cliffs, deep canyons and rugged landscapes.

Even a prolonged closure of the highway — like the one that’s been in place for more than a year due to rain-caused landslides — doesn’t prevent overcrowding on the narrow, twisting and often steep roadway, the group said.

Tourists pose for photographs at Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California.
Tourists pose for photographs at Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California.

The area already has several premium lodgings and many others, including campsites, reservations for which often fill up months in advance.

Big Sur’s 1986 land use plan dictates how many additional lodging units could be supported within the 90-mile stretch without damaging the landscape, natural resource and access for the public.

The county has been in the process of updating its plan since 2021 to address changes to issues such as fire safety, housing, highway capacity, visitor accommodations and more.

“It will take the county and the (California Coastal Commission) months, if not years, to finalize its work” on the plan updates,” the nonprofit’s release continued. The group wants a moratorium in place until that work is done and the new plan is in place.

Read the letter to Monterey County from Keep Big Sur Wild’s at