Dirty Harry Comes Clean


If visitors to Tehama, a 2,000-acre Carmel (Calif.) housing development, are unsure who's behind it, they get a hint from one of its properties: Callahan's snack bar. Yes, that's a nod to Dirty Harry, both the 1971 film of that title and its subsequent sequels, where Clint Eastwood played renegade cop Harry Callahan, dishing out his ruthless brand of justice to San Francisco criminals.

Nowadays, Eastwood, 75, not only acts and directs movies but also finances a number of property development projects around Carmel, where he served as mayor for two years, from 1986 to 1988. Tehama is one. Complete with solar and wind generators, an organic farm, and a native-plants nursery, it's Eastwood's take on a sustainable development.

"MY SANCTUARY." It has another attraction, too: Whoever buys one of the development's 88 lots will have the actor and director for a neighbor. "Some time ago, I picked out the perfect site for a home," Eastwood said recently. "It's high above Carmel Bay, with inspiring views in all directions. The Monterey Peninsula is my sanctuary. It's where I'm the most peaceful." Partly, that's because these are familiar haunts: The Carmel area was a setting for Play Misty For Me, the first feature film Eastwood directed.

The area has also been home to Eastwood's previous land-development projects, some quite controversial. A while back, he purchased 50 acres that he wanted to save from development and turned over to a nonprofit land trust. In the nearby Pebble Beach community, where Eastwood now lives, he was one of four investors who in 1998 purchased a vast tract that was due to be subdivided into 350 homes and a golf course. The investors now plan to build only 33 homes and the golf course, while designating the rest of the land as open space.

Even that scaled-down plan draws fire from Pebble Beach environmentalists, who would prefer the whole parcel be left untouched to preserve the area's pine forest and wildlife. Eastwood's developers disagree. "The formulas that we're using to preserve large, open tracts of open space are unheard of in the development business," says Mike Waxer, vice-president at Carmel Development, which implements Eastwood's development plans.

AMBITIOUS PROJECT. Then, there's Eastwood's well-known Mission Ranch project, which provided one of the first building blocks for Tehama, a development local environmentalists don't oppose. Two decades ago, Eastwood bought a derelict 1950s structure that had served as a local dairy. It was due to be demolished, with the lot slated to be converted into condos. Instead, Eastwood spent millions to save and restore the building.

Now called Mission Ranch Resort, it's a hotel with 31 rooms and a restaurant. Several buildings adjacent to the dairy but dating from the 1940s have been moved to nearby Earthbound Farm, for use as organic produce farm stands. They're among the first outposts of the posh Tehama development, which borders Eastwood's private golf club.

Indeed, Tehama -- a Native American word for "abundance of nature" -- is Eastwood's most ambitious development project to date. About 85% of Tehama's 2,000 acres will remain untouched open space. "I don't believe this was a for-profit venture," says David Steel, an advertising-agency owner who bought a lot at Tehama last year. "I believe it's more of a legacy."

LIMITED IMPACT. The planning for this vast estate -- complete with the private golf course, a fitness center, a native trees nursery, the Earthbound Farm, and the 88 house sites -- began 15 years ago. Following California's notoriously long approval process, the Tehama private golf course was completed in the late 1990s. While half of the residential land parcels, ranging from 5 to 20 acres in size and starting at $2.8 million each, are already sold (much of the other half isn't yet available for sale, as lots are being released in batches), construction on the first homes is just beginning.

Although the lots are huge, their owners are allowed to build on or put a fence around only about two acres of their land. "The human impact [on the environment] is limited," explains Waxer. "We believe it's a formula to equilibrium, everyone is entitled to space." And that means the majority of the land belongs to deer and plant life. Even the roads leading through the development have been mapped to avoid trees already growing on the property.

Lot owners are encouraged to landscape their yards with native grasses and trees, available from a special nursery that's part of the development. Ten years ago, Tehama developers hired this nursery to collect and plant seeds from local Coast Live Oaks and endangered Monterey pines. Now the nursery offers thousands of native trees for Tehama owners to choose from. The idea is to limit the local environment's exposure to diseases that might be carried with plants imported from other parts of the world.

WATER FOR THE GREENS. Developers have also made local, lightweight Carmel stone available, for half the price of stone bought elsewhere, for home facing and fireplaces. Many lot owners have already put their orders in, says Waxer.

The development features an advanced waste-processing system, which allows for water reclamation. While most nearby villages use septic systems -- typically, the raw sewage is put onto leach fields, which can potentially contaminate drinking water -- Tehama will extract water from its waste. How this works: Solid waste will be separated from liquids at the tanks of each house. Then the liquids will travel through narrow pipes to a special waste plant, which will use bacteria to reclaim the water, which will then be used to irrigate the golf course. That way, "we [should be] returning more water to the community than if we weren't there," says Waxer.

The use of alternative energy is a big part of the sustainability effort as well. "We want to be a net exporter of energy into the community," says Waxer. To that end, the development is making ample use of solar panels. The Tehama golf course's roof is equipped with a solar system that can, theoretically, generate enough electricity to run 10 single-family homes. The development's fitness center, due to open next spring, will feature a solar roof as well. And Tehama lot buyers are strongly encouraged to install solar panels.

TAKING HEAT. Next summer, wind generators will be installed in Tehama. Instead of putting up a large wind farm, the developers plan to install a few generators here and there in the windiest parts of the property. The turbines won't be your usual futuristic propellers, either. "We're trying to find something more agricultural-looking," Waxer says.

And the development is also already using a silver-thermal system to run one of its two water-treatment plants. This system collects solar energy using a parabolic-shaped reflective surface. When the sunlight is focused on a tube of special oil, the liquid can heat up to more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit. That heat and energy are then directed through a steam engine, which runs the water plant.

Despite the efforts at sustainability, environmental groups such as the Sierra Club still worry that this luxury neighborhood will make housing in the area less affordable. The Tehama golf course draws fire as well. "Golf courses aren't environmentally friendly, they use pesticides and a lot of water," says Rita Dalessio, chair of the Carmel-based Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club.

But Waxer insists that Eastwood's plans are nothing if not sensitive to environmental concerns. "The whole thing starts with an owner like Mr. Eastwood who has a vision," says Waxer. "It starts with a person who wants to do the best we can do and with the love of the land." It looks like Clint's legacy won't reside exclusively on celluloid.

By Olga Kharif in Portland, Ore.


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