Anne Harvey, the soft-spoken and insistent conscience for open space preservation and sound urban planning, retired from the Carmel Valley Planning Board April 28, ending decades of official service to Carmel Valley, Torrey Hills, Del Mar Mesa, Pacific Highlands Ranch and Del Mar Mesa.
Few can claim as much impact on the shape of these communities. Her passionate resistance to the destruction of open space habitat inspired successful efforts to protect Carmel Mountain and Del Mar Mesa Preserves, essential parts of the connected ecosystems that include Torrey Pines State Park and Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve.
I first met Anne and her sister Lee, a documentary filmmaker, one rainy December morning in the early 1990’s sipping strong coffee at a table outside the Highlands Starbucks.
They made a compelling case for preserving what was then bureaucratically called Neighborhood 8A, 450 acres of endangered habitat. The politically connected behemoth Pardee Homes was revving up the bulldozers to clear the way for1500 homes and a shopping center.
Thanks to the Harvey chutzpah that coalesced a determined movement of environmentalists, Carmel Valley residents, and community planners, property owners and developers eventually came to the table.
Today, Carmel Mountain Preserve is protected for all to enjoy and Pacific Highlands Ranch is a thriving planned community.
But none of those successes could have happened with passion alone. It also took Anne’s grasp of public policy and the intricacies of development and planning regulations that she generously shared over the decades with the Planning Boards she served on.
I would challenge any on the City’s Planning Commission to rival her ability to sort out the issues from dense environmental studies and to draw reasoned conclusions.
Anne ‘s quiet demeanor combined with an uncanny ability to colorfully articulate the issues made a powerful presence at the countless and often numbing City Council and Planning Commission hearings she testified at on behalf of neighborhood and environmental interests.
For those who hike, bike and ride the trails of Los Penasquitos Canyon, Del Mar Mesa and Carmel Mountain Preserves, Gonzalez Canyon, the CVRP path south of SR56, just to name a few, there should be markers along their way thanking Anne Harvey.
There are more battles ahead as new development pressures threaten treasured open spaces and trails. Hopefully, Anne will still be on the front lines with her characteristic style, talking softly, but carrying a giant stick.