Update 6/6: Sean Parker responded to the criticisms below in an email to The Atlantic, disputing some of the specifics of the CCC report.
Hey, if a billionaire couple wants to spend $10 million on their wedding, it's neither all that surprising nor interesting, as far as I'm concerned. So, when news and statistics started to trickle out about Sean Parker's wedding here in California -- namely that it'd cost millions of dollars to create Kardashian-level over-the-topness -- I was ready to chalk it up to the standard excesses of crazy rich people.
But that was before I read the California Coastal Commission's report on the Parker wedding's destructive, unpermitted buildout in a redwood grove in Big Sur. Parker and Neraida, the LLC he created to run his wedding, ended up paying $2.5 million in penalties for ignoring regulations. (Move fast. Break things.)
Here's what the CCC says happened. Neraida cut a deal with The Ventana Inn, which is a private company that manages both a higher-end inn and a lower-end campground. The campground runs along Post Creek under massive redwood trees. While not wild, it is an ecologically sensitive area: Steelhead run through the creek and the trees are ancient. In 2007, the Inn closed the campground because of septic issues, though it kept all of its high-end units open. Pursuant to a 1980s deal that let the Inn expand, they were also required to maintain a public parking lot at Cadillac Flats, which offers a good jumping off point for hikers and backpackers. But they'd stopped doing so, using the lot as overflow parking for the Inn. You with me so far? Basically, what was supposed to be a facility that people of all incomes -- including the general public -- could visit had become a high-end resort with no camping or public parking. Still, it remained a beautiful place. It looked like this:
Enter Parker. He cut a deal with Ventana to use the previously closed campground exclusively for months. Without a single permit or any real thought about the area's natural components, Parker's crew began to build walls and water effects and fake ruins on the old campground. The CCC describes the changes:
The Parker Respondents proceeded to perform unauthorized development activities within the campground. Existing roads and campsites were graded and contoured to create the appearance of ruins. Stone gateways and walls were constructed. Staircases were crafted around existing habitat and redwood trees. An artificial pond was dug and installed. A stone bridge over the pond was constructed. Several elevated platforms were created, some adjacent to Post Creek (Exhibit 9). Over 100 potted trees and plants were partially planted within the existing road beds and campsites, and lighting was installed in the redwood forest. In addition to the unpermitted development, other items to facilitate the event have also been placed on the site including tents and generators.
Nothing says, "I love the Earth!" quite like bringing bulldozers into an old-growth forest to create a fake ruined castle. And to build this fantasy world on a spot that should have been open to regular old middle-class people: That makes it even better.