The "Good" and the "Bad" in the Latest GPU
The best part of the latest draft of the General Plan Update is the set of "Guiding Objectives" that are the foundation of the plan. These Guiding Objectives came directly from public testimony, early in the process. They reflect not only "good planning," but what the public quite properly wants and demands.
The Guiding Objectives say growth should be directed "to areas already committed to an urban level of development (e.g., cities, areas directly adjacent to cities, and densely developed unincorporated communities)." They say that county government must "ensure that infrastructure and public services are available, fully funded and constructed concurrently with new development." They encourage all new development to provide "actual, new, permanently affordable living quarters, including housing for people withlow, very low and moderate incomes who live and/or are employed in MontereyCounty."
This is only a "partial list." If implemented through enforceable policy provisions, the twelve Guiding Objectives would stop rural sprawl; provide maximum protection to the county's commercial agricultural lands; protect the incomparable natural resources of Monterey County; prevent developments from being approved where public services, roads, and water aren't available; and make sure that new development benefits the people of Monterey County, instead of meeting the housing demands of other areas.
The worst features of the newest draft are the many contradictions to these Guiding Objectives that have been introduced by the direct action of the Board of Supervisors last November. Acting at the request of large rural land owners (and their attorneys) the Board approved hundreds of acres of "skip out" subdivisions, totally in violation of the principle that new development should be directed to "areas already committed to an urban level of development." On April 29th, county staff noted that language changes in the newest draft have opened up an additional 54,000 acres of agricultural and open space lands to future subdivision. Economic and environmental losses-and new traffic congestion-are the certain result of these changes.
What can you do about it? Get involved! LandWatch Monterey County has a brand new book, Land Use and the General Plan, that provides some very helpful guidance. In addition, let's remember that the "best" parts of the General Plan Update came directly from public testimony early in the process. Let's get rid of the "worst" parts of the latest draft by a renewed outpouring of citizen action now!
Gary A. Patton is the Executive Director of LandWatch Monterey County. From 1975 to 1995 he served on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, and is recognized throughout California as a land use planning expert.