Hearst vs. Fiscalini: The prequel
January 13, 2011
Recent news coverage of the shooting of the three Hearst Ranch zebras suggests an undertone of dislike between ranchers David Fiscalini and Stephen Hearst. This current battle is nothing new to people who have followed the two families over the years. [San Francisco Weekly]
Flash back to 1997. The Hearst Corp. had lofty plans for San Simeon, including a five-star hotel and a professional 18-hole golf course. There also was talk of restaurants, campgrounds, and souvenir shops along Hwy. 1, plus housing for the workers who would be needed to staff the new resort area.
As one 1997 newspaper account recalls, “Hearst is flooding San Luis Obispo County with four-color brochures and promotional videotapes touting the riches sure to flow for all if the resort is built, and underscoring its corporate commitment to environmental responsibility.
“The company has sent county voters a mass mailing containing not one, but two, postage-paid postcards pre-printed with statements of support for the project. Citizens are being asked to sign the cards and mail them back to a San Luis Obispo law office that Hearst is using as its local beachhead during the campaign.”
Stephen Hearst was one of the main players promoting the upscale resort within San Luis Obispo County.
Meanwhile a prominent Cambria family–the Fiscalinis–hosted regular meetings of environmental activists opposed to the Hearst project in Betty Fiscalini’s kitchen.
Her son David, according to newspaper reports, was especially vocal against the resort, arguing that agricultural land needed to be preserved.
“Whenever you do something like this it becomes easier to do it again,” said David Fiscalini, talking about the resort. “What Hearst wants to do is going to open the floodgates for land speculation. All of a sudden, you can put anything anywhere.”
Both sides poured money into their campaign. Stephen Hearst eventually conceived a conservation agreement. Formal negotiations with the American Land Conservancy began in 2001 and a final agreement was reached in 2005.
The Hearst Corp. deeded 15 of its 18 miles of coastal property, 949 acres, to the state and agreed to a conservation easement restricting development on the remaining 80,000 acres of the ranch.
Also, Hearst Corp. retained rights to put a 100-room inn at Old San Simeon Village and no more than 27 homes in the ranch’s hills and 15 homes for employees east of San Simeon Acres. However, the soft economy kept all resort plans on hold indefinitely.