Carmel city council votes to limit and control Monterey Car Week events

Growing impact on the small community will be addressed in new policy

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The Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance brings a massive crowd to Carmel's main street | Bob Golfen photos

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.

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Porsche race cars lined up during Carmel’s signature Concours on the Avenue

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. 

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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.

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Visitors admire a Ferrari roadster during the Pebble Beach Tour stopover in Carmel

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.

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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.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

7 COMMENTS

  1. As an annual visitor and auction company employee / participant, I fully agree with Bobby Richards:

    “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.” On the money from my point of view.

    Too much and too congested for this old geezer!! Then again, I no longer spend New Years’s Eve in Times Square. Monterey Car Week.. see y’all there!!

    Thanks for the article, Bob.

  2. Another case where individuals with the IQ level of monkeys (hate to offend monkeys) and the inability to think and act like an adult cause every-one-else to pay the price for their childish behavior. Some never grow up!

  3. If the wealthy Carmel-By-The-Sea area residents don’t appreciate the tourism and the money that comes with it during Monterrey Car Week, move the venue. All it takes is a name change, and I am sure there are many picturesque coastal towns that would love the opportunity to host this prestigious event.

  4. ohhhhhh boy I’m sure the things I would say out loud would offend all you idiots who live in that town, quite frankly car shows are America at its finest and the amount of attention and the level of money that gets spent in allllllllll these towns across America when their is a car show, especially the tourist towns covers their revenue for the entire summer, but we are talking about California!!

  5. Can’t help but laugh. This one week event must generate 80% of the sales tax/tourism revenue for the entire area and they want to run it out of town for a few idiots doing burnouts? How about you increase police presence for the week, write hundreds of tickets (thus adding even more revenue for the peninsula) and let the poor businesses who depend on the annual event to actually stay in business. As if the state already isn’t already broke enough.
    Monterey needs car week waaay more than car week needs Monterey. I’d personally love to take my tourism money anywhere outside of CA.

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