The small, scenic city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, is usually a quiet place, a wealthy enclave nestled along the coast on the Monterey Peninsula, and known for its storybook cottages and walkable village center.
But every August, Carmel becomes something of a madhouse during Monterey Car Week, especially on Tuesday, when the Concours on the Avenue takes place, and again on Thursday, when the lunch stopover for the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance bring 10s of thousands of classic car-obsessed visitors into town.
In the casual home of fewer than 4,000 people, the parking chaos and milling crowds are a bit much for some residents, who fear there’s more to come with the booming popularity of Monterey Car Week – which brings multiple car shows, collector car auctions and vintage auto racing to the Monterey area, culminating in the world-renowned Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Several additional car gatherings in Carmel have brought the issue to a head, according to a report in the Carmel Pine Cone, the weekly newspaper that serves the community.
The Carmel City Council has decided to take action, voting earlier this month to have city staffers create a plan that would restrict Car Week activities to just the Tuesday concours and Thursday tour, and would prevent those events from expanding.
The plan also would address whether to regulate local but non-city car shows, such as the Carmel Mission Classic, and to “work with neighboring communities and the county on ways to mitigate the impacts events held outside the city limits have on the town,” the newspaper said.
Rather than starting this year, the plan would take effect during Car Week 2021, the newspaper noted, because most groups already are organizing their 2020 car events.
Several council members noted that Carmel previously had decided to limit Car Week events to just the concours and the tour, but recently added a third event, the Prancing Ponies show that takes place on Wednesday.
“I remember when we said we would have no more than the two car events, and then we added a third,” council member Bobby Richards was quoted in the newspaper report. “I still think we should not have added that third event.”
A Pebble Beach Concours official said the new policy is not anticipated to have any effect on the Pebble Beach Tour’s lunch stop, since there are no plans to change or expand. The stopover for the tour is hugely popular as most of the spectacular cars that will be shown at the concours are parked on Ocean Avenue, Carmel’s main street, for a free showing, resulting in wall-to-wall crowds.
Besides the organized car shows and gatherings that take place in Carmel, the massive influx of car enthusiasts to the peninsula cause other problems, the newspaper noted.
“Last year, this issue was highlighted when hundreds of people arrived Friday night to watch drivers peel out and do donuts on Ocean Avenue, forcing Carmel P.D. to summon a dozen police units from other agencies to help contend with the crowd and the reckless drivers,” according to the news report, which appeared on the front page of the February 7-13 edition of the Carmel Pine Cone.
The council decision ordered the staffers to come back to the council in three months with a draft of the new Car Week policy.