Can the urban sprawl of San Jose or Los Angeles happen here? The increase in traffic. The rise in crime. The overcrowding of our schools. The air pollution. The relentless annexation of precious agricultural lands for low density urban uses?
Well, consider this: in the next 22 years, Monterey County is projected to grow more than 40%, adding more than 160,000 people to today’s 340,000. Where will these people go? And what kind of communities await them? And us?
Like it or not, Monterey County is destined to grow. That growth will come from current residents, as their families expand, and from others who seek to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The question is how, and where, and with what degree of planning will growth take place? Will it be well thought out and for the good of the community, or strictly for the personal gain of developers and at the expense of our already over-burdened infrastructure and quality of life? Do we get smart and learn from our neighbors to the north and south or do we let their harmful patterns of growth metastasize here?
Unfortunately, if recent history is any indication, many of our elected officials – who should be the stewards of Monterey County’s future – have a hard time planning beyond the next election cycle. Our county supervisors face relentless pressure from developers from Los Angeles and other places whose interest is to maximize profits and minimize costs. They are approving large piecemeal developments and conversions of farmland to tract homes and industrial uses, while simultaneously not investing in roads, water supply systems, schools, parks and other amenities that together create communities. So who represents the public in this process?
That’s where LandWatch comes in. LandWatch Monterey County seeks to balance demands for growth with the need to preserve our County’s quality of life. By encouraging greater public participation in planning, we aim to:
- Prevent urban sprawl
- Promote development patters that minimize impacts on traffic, water, and air quality.
- Educate the community on growth trends, land use issues, and planning.
- Preserve precious farmlands, forests, and open space.
- Encourage a range of affordable housing.
Again and again, the public learns about destructive development projects too far into the planning and approval process to stop or modify them. The public needs to be heard at the beginning of the planning process – not the end. Monterey County Land Watch will provide that early warning with a professional staff to analyze development proposals and communicate their impact, good or bad, on our daily lives.
How will LandWatch achieve its goals?
- Shape a common vision. LandWatch will spearhead efforts to coordinate the enthusiasm and effort of various citizens and groups to establish enforceable, countywide land use coals based on our common vision.
- Communicate and Educate. County residents need a comprehensive source of information. LandWatch will monitor and publicize critical land use proceedings and, when necessary, organize citizens to ensure good land use planning.
- Seek Common Ground. LandWatch will balance sensible growth and land preservation, working to find common ground between private property rights and land as a community resource. MCLW is committed to working with its supporters, sharing your ideas, listening to the ideas of others, and assisting our elected officials in making difficult choices.
The quality of life we enjoy today will be preserved or compromised, depending on citizen involvement. It is only through better research, monitoring, policy advocacy and citizen action that the environmental health and economic rigor of Monterey County will be maintained.
Finally, consider this. On any one day, our five board of supervisors can choose the future of our county. They can approve or deny Rancho Chualar II. They can approve transfer highway funds to build the Prunedale bypass instead of the Hatton Canyon freeway. They approve or deny Rancho San Carlos, Bishop Ranch, Monterra Ranch, Harden Ranch, Williams Ranch, Miravales, Vista Soledad, or Pebble Beach expansion. On any one day, they can make Monterey County a better or a worse place for all of us to live. Land Watch will watch them as it watches out for all of our futures.
Please make a tax deductible contribution and join LandWatch before the year ends. Our address is P.O. Box 908, Monterey, CA 93942. Membership is only $50 per family. For further information, please call 375-3752.