Can You Build A House In Big Sur?

Big Sur will be your Achilles heel if you are awed by stunning views, forests, beaches, and recreational excursions within nature that are mostly untouched. It is the longest and most scenic undeveloped coastline in the United States. Although certain areas have housing and restaurants, most of this beautiful wilderness remains untouched and ready to be enjoyed by millions.

Deciding to build your own house in Big Sur requires a building permit and numerous visits to the Monterey County Resource Management Agency. Therefore, getting through multiple regulations can incur an additional 5 to 10 percent of expenses of the overall construction costs.

Big Sur is a national treasure that stretches along the scenic Highway 1, and rightfully so, it has stringent rules and regulations to protect it from unnecessary development and commercialization. However, this primarily untouched piece of nature does allow some development within a specified framework. So, let us investigate and see if you can build a house in Big Sur and what the laws are.

Where And How You Can Build A House In Big Sur

It is not impossible, but you must comply with many critical policies. For example, only certain areas are designated for residential development, and specific Big Sur building regulations will apply. Many real estate agencies market available land and complete houses for sale in Big Sur.

Firstly, various committees and groups within California and local county structures manage the rules and regulations to ensure protection. Some would say it has the most restrictive local-use standards in the state of California. However, many would agree that protecting the environment and nature is necessary.

Whenever someone wants to build a beautiful house on a pristine piece of land in Big Sur, they should remember that specific rules and regulations apply. Therefore, understanding The Big Sur Local Coastal Plan Land Use is vital for all homeowners now and in the future.

A Handful of houses built in the last two decades under the Coastal Act are beautifully tucked or hidden behind the woods and hills. In addition, Monterey County preserved and purchased magnificent scenic property, and any development is forbidden.

The Big Sur Coastal Land-Use Plan

The Monterey Count’s land use plan for Big Sur is not intended to be negative. However, on the contrary, the objective is to limit the development of the coast to preserve the scenic and rural area for everyone, including public visitors, can enjoy nature and find the pace of tranquility outside the hassle of city life.

The 1986 Big Sur coastal land-use plan remains mostly intact, and in 2010, there were plans to update it while updating the County’s General Plan. However, the decision was to split the coastal planning area from the inland area of the County within the General Plan update. Therefore, new advisory committees were formed in 2013 to amend the coastal plan as a separate rule guideline.

The Big Sur Development Areas

The Big Sur Local Coastal Plan prohibits any development from the west side of Highway 1, as Big Sur Valley is the exception. In addition, any new development is forbidden from being seen from the highway and key vantage points such as beaches, parks, trails, and campgrounds.

The basic policy prohibits any future development visible from the highway. In addition, The Big Sur Local Coastal Plan is one of the most controversial density regulations for future buildings. For example, any subdivision of existing land should at least be 40 acres in areas west of Highway 1.

Limited land on the slope east of the highway is mainly limited to a subdivision of around 320 acres. According to the rules, the coastal commission calculated that only 12 land groups could be divided within the 234 square miles of the Big Sur Coastal Plan area.

On the west side of Highway 1, a limited density of 1 unit per 2.5 acres is allowed, and 1 unit per 5 acres on the east side of the highway. South of the Big Sur Valley, there is a limit of 1 unit per 5 acres, and in the far south of the region, only 1 unit per 10 acres. The limitation poses an employee housing problem for the hospitality industry. The high renting costs don’t help as many people cannot afford the rent.

Big Sur Building Permits And Construction Rules

Obtaining a building permit can easily be a multi-year procedure. Deciding to purchase a home or start construction on your own house requires various visitations to the Monterey County Resource Management Agency. There are examples of seven-year processes to get building approvals.

Numerous specialists in the obtaining of building permits field have said that it may require an additional 5 to 10 percent in construction costs when you want to overthrow the regulations. Therefore, placing flags that outline the presence of the future house before any construction can take place is essential. In addition, it is necessary to view future construction and determine its visual impact.

Homeowners must diminish any possible impact on the environment. So it is no wonder that many believe that the only people willing to go through these procedures are those who can afford them. Also, application costs for building permits escalate yearly. As a result, the buy-in amount for a beautiful coastal lot is roughly $3 million—an absolute paradise for the rich.

The Big Sur Development Goals, Objectives, And Policies

The Big Sur Local Coastal Plan protects the area to preserve it as open to visitors and a small residential and agricultural community. In addition, the rules cover and restrict the density of development and ensure that no homes are visible from the highway.

The policies of the Land-Use-Plan will guide any possible future development. Therefore, it is no wonder that applications can take many years to complete. Since the beginning, in 1959, the County, residents, and consultants have been aiming to maintain a workable Monterey County Master Plan for the area. The outlines are as follows:

  • Quality should be crucial and not quantity
  • Only small-scale new development
  • Keep the traditional and rural values of the area
  • Be accessible and accommodate as many as possible
  • Protect the environment and enhance the visitor experience
  • With conflicts, the protection of the national resources will take precedence
  • Protect the highway’s beauty as a recreational route
  • Big Sur’s visitor’s visual access should be highlighted and preserved
  • The Big Sur coast and experience of nature have precedence over development
  • Intention to use extreme action to keep the coast’s beauty and natural look
  • It aims to prohibit all intended development visible from Highway 1 and visitor viewing areas
  • Limit new development to a maximum of 15 percent of highway capacity at buildout
  • Areas not suited for other uses, such as commercial or visitors, can be for residential purposes
  • Will allow a few hundred visitor lodge units dependent on the Highway One capacity
  • Rural residential development shall continue but with the protection of incompatible activities
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Big Sur Is A Playground For The Rich

New hotel rooms on stilts nestled among redwood trees on a crest of a ridge high above the beautiful Pacific Ocean is another spectacular development. Civilization is slowly approaching the wilderness in a Big Sur manner, and it is mostly the wealthy.

Governmental or private agencies own around 60% of this coastal region and prohibit development. The most significant part of the interior region is part of the Los Padres National Forest, The Ventana Wilderness, Silver Peak Wilderness, or Fort Hunter Ligget. Protected by The Big Sur Local Coastal Plan, this area is preserved as “open space,” a small residential community, and agricultural ranching.

Thankfully, the law’s building restrictions, among the nation’s strictest, made it possible to preserve Big Sur. As a result, residential development is possible in the Big Sur Valley, but because of limited developable land, avoiding all residential construction is essential.

There Are Big Plans For Big Sur

After a decade-long debate, government officials and environmentalists have agreed to initiate a sweeping zoning plan for California’s extravagant Big Sur coast. This plan is approved and simply awaiting minor revisions.

The Zoning Plan prohibits additional construction of buildings that can be seen along the Big Sur coast. Therefore, no significant developments are allowed, for example, large hotels, condominium projects, and similar significant projects.

After minor revisions, Monterey County Board of Supervisors members expect to enact ordinances. In addition, they are establishing these provisions as law. There is a total of around 165 hotel rooms scattered across the beautiful coast, all covered by the Zoning Plan. The construction of about 300 more rooms is allowed but only in clusters of around 30 units in the four rural communities.

An unusual feature within the plan guarantees about 60 property owners that were deprived of rights to build on sites within the essential viewshed, to build two homes outside the critical viewshed near the coast.

Is A Permit Needed For A Fence In Big Sur?

There is no requirement for permits for a concrete or masonry fence not higher than 6 feet. In addition, wood, metal, and vinyl fences above 8 feet do not require a permit. Also, open metal fences not higher than 10 feet require no licenses.

Requirements For A Coastal Development Permit

Requiring a Coastal Development Permit with a certified LCP is mandatory from the Coastal Commission or local government for any development and construction activity in the Coastal Zone. Therefore, obtaining all required documents is essential.

Beautiful Big Sur Attractions

It is no wonder many people consider Big Sur the most epic stretch of coastline in the world because of the hundreds of plunging cliffs and rocky coves. But, aside from its rugged beauty, Big Sur remains a region with artistic history.

This beautiful world wonder consists of creative restaurants and unique resorts, allowing you to immerse yourself in the mysterious world of fogs, stunning coastal views, and redwood forests that go on for days. But, first, let us look at some of the fantastic attractions of Big Sur.

  • Visit The Beautiful Post Ranch Inn
  • Drive Along The World’s Most Beautiful Coastal Highway
  • Enjoy The Good Vibes At Nepenthe
  • Taking A Hike Down To A Secluded Cove

Interesting Facts About Big Sur

For Monterey County, the year 1986 was highly memorable. The election of the famous Clint Eastwood as mayor of Carmel-By-The-Sea, and the government passing an excessive restrictive land use plan for the beautiful Big Sur happened in the same year. This precise plan prohibited any future development in the area.

Big Sur’s living costs are almost three times higher than the U.S average, and during July, August, and September, the most pleasant weather is present. However, according to Big Sur residents, December and January are the least enjoyable.

Regarding real estate, the median home cost in the beautiful Big Sur is around $2,000,000, and home appreciation has been just more than 7% in the last ten years. Also, it is interesting to know that there are about 18 students per teacher in public schools in Big Sur.

Different Home Builders In Big Sur

When deciding to build your dream house in Big Sur, it is always interesting to know whether there are various construction companies in the area and who they are. Here are a few worth trying: Lewis Builders, Rider Construction, Carmel Custom Homes, and many more.

All of these excellent companies have been in the business for around ten years or more, and using either one of the various home building companies to create your dream house is an option you can always consider.


Whenever you decide to build a house in the beautiful Big Sur, it is imperative to know and follow the correct regulations and rules. Although there are several houses in Big Sur, numerous agencies try to protect the spectacular nature from being overdeveloped.

The Big Sur Local Coastal Plan prohibits any homes from being built west of Highway 1, with Big Sur Valley as the exception. It is essential to know that requiring a building permit is at the top of the list. Numerous visits to the Monterey County Resource Management Agency are crucial. This national treasure is worth the wait.