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LandWatch Accomplishments


Since LandWatch’s inception in 1997, we’ve seen many land use, litigation, and policy successes. These were usually spurred by unsustainable developments and/or poor decisions at the local or regional level.  These accomplishments offer a snapshot of the success and challenges we’ve seen over our organization’s history.


  • Incorporated LandWatch as a 501(c)3 non-profit by Michael DeLapa, Rebecca Shaw, Maggie Hardy, Keith Vandevere, and Joyce Stevens.



  • Helped to organize a successful ballot measure to establish an urban growth boundary around the City of Marina, the first Urban Growth Boundary in Monterey County.


  • Helped organize Líderes Comunitarios de Salinas (Community Leaders of Salinas) to advocate for affordable housing in the update of the Salinas General Plan.

  • Worked with Creekbridge Homes on the successful inclusion of 10 policies of Traditional Neighborhood Design in the Salinas General Plan update.

  • Worked for 18 months with stakeholders to create the inclusionary housing ordinance, called A Community Plan for the City of Salinas.

  • Engaged the community in the review of the Pajaro Valley Energy Center and provided extensive comments on the inadequacy of the environmental documents. The project was withdrawn.


  • Published “Room Enough” Report on vacant lots of record in the County and cities.

  • Organized a General Plan Summit as part of our efforts on the General Plan.


  • Appealed the Sunridge View subdivision in North Monterey County by LandWatch and Friends and Neighbors of Elkhorn Slough before the California Coastal Commission resulting in a settlement that remains unimplemented. In late 2016 the Coastal Commission denied the project.


  • Published “Land Use and the General Plan,” which outlines a set of recommended General Plan policies to address key planning issues, including affordable housing, the preservation of agricultural land, property rights, natural resource protection, water, permit process reform, and transportation and transit.

  • Opposed the Marks Ranch 275 unit subdivision and led citizens’ efforts to defeat the project. The Big Sur Land Trust ultimately purchased the Ranch.


  • Chris Fitz succeeds Gary Patton as executive director.

  • Established an important statewide precedent for citizen initiatives, ballot measures, and other cases through LandWatch litigation. On a 14-1 vote, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in the case of Padilla v. Lever that recall petitions and in other cases, initiatives, and referenda do not need to be translated into a minority language in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act. This decision led to LandWatch’s General Plan Initiative campaign, during which the organization raised over $800,000 in support of a community-backed General Plan. This campaign ultimately led to Rancho San Juan Butterfly Village being reduced in size, more open space preserved, and important land use protection included in the County General Plan.


  • Co-authored the Hybrid Regional Plan identifying a portfolio of projects to meet water supply needs for the Monterey Peninsula. Local water agencies subsequently adopted LandWatch’s approach.


  • Blocked through litigation and two referendums, spanning a period of five years, the Rancho San Juan project, was the largest development ever proposed in the Salinas Valley. As a result of our work, this project was significantly downsized and a financial settlement was achieved. The settlement agreements included significant changes to the Monterey County General Plan including long term protections for lands designated by the state as being prime farmland or land of “state-wide” importance.

  • Supported the Marina Station project in Marina, which was approved. LandWatch played an important role in protecting vernal pools and persuading the Sierra Club to withdraw its litigation blocking the approval.


  • Amy White succeeds Chris Fitz as executive director.

  • Worked with North County residents to oppose the Heritage Oaks subdivision, which was denied by the Board of Supervisors.


  • Worked to get the Corral de Tierra Shopping Center down-sized from 200,000 square feet to 90,000 square feet.

  • Commented extensively on the 2010 Monterey County General Plan and filed litigation challenging the adequacy of environmental review of groundwater resources for the Salinas Valley, steep slope conversions, and wildlife corridors.


  • Worked with a coalition of neighbors opposed to converting an old hospital to a five-story building. The Board of Supervisors denied Villas de Carmelo.

  • Defeated the MST/Whispering Oaks project through a successful drive to put an initiative on the ballot and subsequent action by the Board of Supervisors.

  • Supported the 51-unit San Antonio affordable housing project in King City. The project was approved.


  • Worked with the City of Gonzales to establish an Urban Growth Boundary, LandWatch together with Supervisor Lou Calcagno got the city to stop growth at Gloria Road.



  • Filed lawsuits against the proposed Ferrini Ranch and Harper Canyon subdivisions, irresponsible developments along the California State Scenic Highway 68 corridor.

  • Supported the Transportation Agency for Monterey County sales tax ballot measure, Measure X,  for road repair and alternative transportation.



  • Michael DeLapa appointed Interim Executive Director.

  • Testified in support of the Pebble Beach Inclusionary Housing Project where 25% of units were affordable and to be built on-site.

  • Published an Op-Ed “Beyond Monterey Downs: Bringing jobs to Seaside” calling for a new vision for economic development in Seaside.

  • Led a broad coalition of community organizations in successful opposition to Monterey Downs, a mega-development on open space that included a horseracing track, 1,300 residences, commercial buildings, a horse park, and other developments. The developer eventually refused to indemnify the City of Seaside forcing the City to rescind all project approvals.

  • Published Op-Ed “Ferrini Ranch, CEQA, and the Denial of Reality” presenting main arguments in LandWatch’s lawsuit against Ferrini Ranch.

  • Testified before the Coastal Commission on the proposed Sunridge Subdivision after a 12-year battle. The Coastal Commission upheld its staff recommendation to deny an extension, effectively killing the project.

LandWatch's mission is to protect Monterey County's future by addressing climate change, community health, and social inequities in housing and infrastructure. By encouraging greater public participation in planning, we connect people to government, address human needs and inspire conservation of natural resources.



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Salinas, CA 93901

PO Box 1876
Salinas, CA 93902-1876

Phone (831) 759-2824

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