15 years ago, the SR “Vision Interpretive Program Committee” produced a document entitled, “The Sea Ranch: Concept and Covenant.” In their words, the purpose of the committee was to “undertake an educational program to discuss the [SR] concept and the responsibility of members to uphold it.” In this current TSR sales literature (the document is called “VIP Booklet” and offered to potential buyers), the committee attempts to demonstrate an effort to move Sea Ranch away from its “creeping suburbanism.”
At the time, the committee determined the causes of Sea Ranch degradation were “recent demographic changes.” In other words, the new people were the problem, according to this TSRA committee. Currently, however, demographics are not the driving force behind the considerable pressure on SR Nonhuman Residents. The Sea Ranch Association’s landscape management policies and practices are now destroying The Sea Ranch, while they drive out, stress, maim, and kill the nonhuman animals here.
As this committee’s literature points out, “the concept of ‘living lightly on the land’ starts with respect for nature.” It also understands that human habitat at The Sea Ranch is IN nonhuman habitat, not next to it. The other animals’ homes and shelter do not surround SR human habitat. SR humans have moved into other animals’ spaces, and the respect inherent in “Live Lightly on the Land” protects the homes and shelter of SR Nonhuman Residents who live next to human residents here.
The current Sea Ranch design review steps include no consideration of SR Nonhuman Residents:
- PRELIMINARY SITE REVIEW – This first step gives the
owner a chance to explore the unique qualities of
his or her site with a member of the design review
staff. Taking advantage of the preliminary site
review as early as possible can avoid costly plan
changes later in the design process.
2. CONCEPTUAL DESIGN REVIEW – At this stage,
the owner submits to the Design Committee a
general idea of the overall concept, including the
house’s floor plan and elevations, its siting on the
property and its relationship to nearby natural
features and other houses.
3. PRELIMINARY DESIGN REVIEW – The owner
then submits the preliminary design plan – a
comprehensive architectural plan which indicates
all major aspects of the building design and use of
the site. Neighbors are given the chance to review
and comment as part of the process.
4. FINAL DESIGN REVIEW – The final step in the
approval process consists of all the construction
documents required by Sonoma County. This
submittal must also address any conditions that
were part of the Design Committee approval of
the Preliminary Design Review.
As reported in the New York Times, Lisa Dundee, an architect and longtime director of the Sea Ranch Association’s powerful Department of Design, Compliance and Environmental Management, demonstrated how fear is driving TSRA landscape policies: “With Northern California — well, actually all of California — burning up, we’ve really had to challenge ourselves to find alternatives to our traditions.” The preservationist tradition–“Living Lightly on the Land”–is the tradition being annihilated alongside the other animals’ habitats. (The Center’s documentation demonstrates that the majority of cutting decisions are for human architectural enhancement and views, not fire safety.)
From the same sales document: “An early Sea Rancher said, ‘When I first moved to The Sea Ranch I asked this question and I continue to ask it: What is the least impact I need to make on the land? When I first saw The Sea Ranch, I knew others had also asked this.’ If you are asking the same question, Sea Ranch is for you.” The Sea Ranch Association architectural design and landscape management policies and practices contradict this narrative.
Without a vested interest in the safety and lives of SR Nonhuman Residents–one at least as powerful as the SR fascination with human architectural design– the other-than-human animals will always be in the way of human habitat here.
There is no reason why The Sea Ranch can’t become what it claims to be in its literature: a place where humans “Live Lightly on the Land.” TSRA policies and practices can make that happen, just like they’re creating the pressure on SR Nonhuman Residents now.
The Sea Ranch needs a sustainability study, conducted in collaboration with non-Sea Ranch “wildlife” experts who are not distracted by the SR human architectural club. The study should determine: (1) The starting place: What is the current condition of SR Nonhuman Residents and their habitat? (2) What impacts do current TSRA grass cutting, pesticides, and tree removal policies and practices have on nonhuman residents and their habitat? (3) What changes to TSRA landscape management policies and practices would protect the homes, safety, and lives of SR Nonhuman Residents? (4) How might “Live Lightly on the Land” be reclaimed in the name of all SR residents?