Old Carmel

by Connie Wright


Argyll Campbell, a man who truly loved Carmel


"The City of Carmel-by-the-Sea is hereby declared to be primarily, essentially and predominantly a residential city wherein business and commerce have in the past, are now, and are proposed to be in the future, subordinated to its residential character ..."

Argyll Campbell Attorney Carmel CaliforniaOrdinance 96, quoted here in part, was drafted by Argyll Campbell, City Attorney for Carmel from 1920 to 1937 and adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1929. This ordinance, the city's Magna Carta, was the work of a man who truly loved Carmel. It appears on the east wall of City Council Chambers, behind the council seats.


Argyll Campbell was born in San Jose in 1892, the son of a leading jurist, James Havelock Campbell. He attended Northwestern University, but did not graduate. Subsequently, he passed the California bar examination and opened an office. During World War I, he abandoned his legal career and joined the Army, serving as an instructor in law at the University of Santa Clara and at the Presidio. Upon his separation from the Army, he moved to the Monterey Peninsula and resumed his legal career.

Perry Newberry was co-publisher of the Carmel Pine Cone, playwright, actor, producer, "gatherer-in of actors" for the Forest Theater and general gadfly to the Carmel community. He was also a close friend of Argyll Campbell, and together they battled against progress and overcommercialization. Newberry characterized the two groups of Carmel as "the art element" and the "business men." He and Campbell were firmly entrenched in the first group. Main Street, now Ocean Avenue, was an unpaved, rutted thoroughfare, which Carmelites voted to have paved. To Newberry, Campbell and other members of the "art element," paving the street was progress and that was unthinkable. They took the issue to court in Salinas. The judge invalidated the election on the grounds that it had been improperly noticed. The notices of the election had been posted by the town marshall from his horse and were, consequently, so high that no one could read them. This situation did not last and Main Street was paved in 1922.

Campbell suggested to Newberry that the city of Carmel should be surrounded by a wall with limited entry. Newberry quickly took up the idea and said that "toll gates should be erected." Pebble Beach had already done it. This idea did not come to fruition.

In 1929 Newberry and other members of the "art element" were elected to the Board of Trustees with Newberry as mayor. This group passed Ordinance 96, and Campbell, although thwarted in his attempt to wall in Carmel physically, did wall in the city legally by drafting many of the zoning laws and ordinances which affect us today. His zoning ordinance limited the business district and restricted the size of houses and of lot coverage in the residential area. Many other policies that the city has adopted -- no streetlights, no stoplights, no sidewalks in the residential area, no commercial development on the beach -- are the result of the legal basis that his zoning ordinance provided. Seen in this light, it should not surprise us that trees have legal rights in Carmel. If they are injured by a reckless motorist, it is a crime.

Campbell also served as city attorney for two other communities and directed the dance movement for the actors at the Forest Theater. His thinking about civic matters, while scarcely startling in our current context of city planning and environmental concerns, was extremely farsighted for his age, farsighted by about sixty years. His obituary in the November 26, 1943, Pine Cone read, "His love for Carmel was almost fanatical and he was always a leader in the fight to keep the town from radical change, to preserve the simplicities."

 

 

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