David Howerton first began work on what is now the Santa Lucia Preserve in 1987. His first task was in helping the Oppenheimer family plan the optimum transition for a 20,000-acre ranch that had been held in the family trusts for 50 years. Pacific Union acquired the ranch in 1990 and retained Dave and his firm, Hart Howerton, as master planners of The Preserve, and as architects and landscape architects of its facilities, which included establishing the Design Guidelines for all new construction, restoring the Hacienda, and building the Gatehouse, the Golf Clubhouse, and the Sports Center. Unsurprisingly, Dave became an owner and member at The Preserve, and his firm has designed many of the homes here.
ML: What were the governing principles and considerations in creating the concept of a ‘Community Preserve’ and for generating the master plan for the Santa Lucia Preserve?
From the beginning, we believed that the extraordinary value of this 20,000-acre property lies in the beauty, vast-ness and richness of its landscape. Placing the land in the care of a group of like-minded owners and structuring the means to protect its vitality and beauty were fundamental in the planning. We did this in several ways. First, by placing 18,000 acres in a preserve of open spaces and wildlands, we anchored its underlying value. Second, by establishing an adequately funded Conservancy, we guaranteed the protection and experience of this natural coastal setting for future generations. Third, by committing that anything built or managed on the land would be subordinate to the natural wildness of this superb big-scale landscape. These principles apply to everything within The Preserve—buildings, fences and signs; new landscapes, roads and pathways, even how cattle are moved through grazing lands. Finally, taken together, these decisions helped craft a strategy for creating a community. We knew we needed to attract families who would grow to become a strong community. Since the early years of settlement of this continent a few notable American families acquired majestic landscapes to preserve and enjoy, and, in the process, secured family legacies. We wanted to extend this tradition at The Preserve, to give the families who fall in love with this one of a kind setting a way to protect it for those who would follow. We thought we had the perfect place to do that.
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