The California Coastal Commission has rejected a plan that would have let Hearst Corp. build a 650-room resort on land surrounding Hearst Castle State Park at San Simeon, instead approving a scaled-down 375-room project that the company contends would be economically unfeasible.
The Hearst proposal, for land the company owns, was part of a broader coastal plan by San Luis Obispo County that the commission unanimously rejected late Thursday. That plan now goes back to the county, which has six months to respond, and Hearst has vowed to fight on for a the bigger project.
Environmental groups were bitterly opposed to the Hearst plan, which includes a proposal for a 27-hole golf course and a dude ranch, contending that it would waste scarce water, block ocean views and impede public access to one of the last stretches of undeveloped coastline in the state. Some local groups, including building trades unions, supported the plan as a spur to economic development.
The coastal commission staff had rejected the plan as too big, and after a daylong hearing that drew hundreds of people in San Luis Obispo, the commission agreed by a vote of 9-3 that the project should go forward only if it was greatly scaled down and the golf course eliminated.
If the county and the commission cannot reach agreement on a new coastal plan for the region, the current plan, passed in the early 1980s, remains in effect. That zoning plan would allow for the bigger resort, but commission staff members and environmental groups say that changes in environmental standards and growth in the region since then make it unlikely that Hearst could ever obtain the necessary permits from the commission to build the resort.