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Defender of Wilderness

By Bettina McBee Hohmann

Photos by Gustav Schmiege III, Jason Speth, and Scott Campbell

Home to Fort Ord, a former US Army military post-turned national monument that has undergone tremendous preservation efforts, the Monterey Peninsula is long associated with nature and conservation. Actor/ director Clint Eastwood and master builder/CEO of Carmel Development Company Alan Williams were at Fort Ord during their respective service with the military. While stationed there, they both fell in love with the Monterey Peninsula, and they subsequently became dedicated to its preservation and ensured sustainability.

During the Korean War, Eastwood enjoyed shaking a leg at the dances held at Mission Ranch near Ford Ord. The ranch’s green wetlands were scattered with cows and sheep, the animals of a dairy farm. Later, as his acting career blossomed, Eastwood purchased the first 500 acres of what would become a sustainable community he would call Teháma—a Native American word meaning "abundant in nature." He started directing his plan of investing in the fresh air, expansive hills, and tranquil slopes of the peninsula. The oceanic breezes off the Pacific ignited Eastwood’s memories of being a young G.I. swinging to dance tunes at Mission Ranch, and the strong community vibe of Carmel began forming the backdrop of his future home.

In the late 1980s, Eastwood was elected mayor of his beloved Carmel, and the citizens offered him feedback about the future of Mission Ranch. The dilapidated landmark had been approved for development into condominiums. To preserve the building’s history, protect the animals, and conserve the property’s current 22 acres, Eastwood purchased it and hired Williams, whose company specializes in the restoration of old buildings. Eastwood met Williams during his search for an expert to inspect the property and assess its damages. Hiring Williams for the subsequent seven-year preservation and rehabilitation of the property was a natural step in the evolution of Mission Ranch, which eventually led to Williams’ role in designing Teháma.

An Iowa native, Williams studied architecture and urban planning at the University of Iowa and has an innate love for land. “What started as 500 acres has grown to over 2,000 acres with 90 lots,” says Williams, smiling, as he discusses Teháma. “We took the original acres and put in 44 lots. Every utility is underground, and we own our water systems.”

Nearly 20 years later, they are releasing the final homesites, leaving the remaining 85 percent of Teháma's land untouched. These open spaces are the beneficiaries of Eastwood’s and Williams’ planning.

The need for sustainability in ever-expanding communities around the world necessitates an eye for conscientious building, especially when open space is becoming an increasingly rare commodity. Eastwood and William’s vision for Teháma was to create a self-sustaining community where its residents have lots of elbow room and live in harmony with nature. In addition to developing a state-of-the-art water reclamation plant that provides for the community’s 18-hole, invitation-only golf course, designed by architect Jay Morrish, Eastwood and Williams created a model for sustainability by using solar energy, integrating discrete parking and underground utilities, and initiating the successful regeneration of native flora and fauna. Residents have essentially become stewards of the space.

Teháma’s panoramic views of Point Lobos, Carmel Bay, Monterey Bay, and the Santa Lucia Range are the heart of the community. The canyon is well preserved, and properties are precisely designed to highlight as well as protect the land’s ecology. Both men, who are intimately connected to the environment, call Teháma home and have a personal interest in being judicious in its transformation.

“Clint wants to develop ‘enough homes to take care of it,’” states Williams. The infrastructures of this unique community are designed to be of the land rather than on the land. One example of this is the use of Carmel stone to build the clubhouse and fitness center.

Eastwood’s director’s eye and Williams’ architectural talents have created a Shangri-La for all of Teháma’s residents, human and animal alike.

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