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Board Refuses To Make The Tough Choices

May 25, 2004

Supervisor Lou Calcagno, Chair
[Sent By FAX and Email: 831-755-5888]
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
240 Church Street
Salinas, CA 93901

RE: General Plan Update Process – May 25, 2004 Agenda (Item #S-18)

Dear Chairperson Calcagno and Board Members:
Last week, the Board asked for “alternatives" to the current General Plan Update (GPU) process. This week, your Board is going to decide in a final and “official" way whether to complete the current process, or whether, instead, to launch into some new and “different" process to amend the County’s 1982 General Plan. Here are some thoughts, which I hope the Board will consider:

  1. The current process, which has cost about $5 million dollars so far, and which has taken almost five years to this point, can be completed this year.

  2. In order to complete the current process, the Board will need to take the following actions:

    • Set the Planning Commission recommendation for public hearings before the Board.

    • Direct that the Final EIR on the current draft be presented to the Board, so it can be considered in connection with the Board’s decision.

    • Actually hold public hearings on the Planning Commission recommendation.

    • Make the “tough decisions" about what the new GPU should say.

  3. This is a simple process, and can be completed promptly. The Board retains full discretion to make whatever decisions they want to, with respect to any of the policy issues covered by the General Plan Update.

  4. If the Board follows this process, there will not be any public “consensus," and the Board will have to decide what it thinks is right, based on the public testimony received, the Final EIR, and the Board’s own knowledge of the issues.

  5. The process just described above is what the Board is paid to do!

Instead of following this process, which is the only process that keeps faith with the public, and that will realize the benefits of the incredibly large public expenditures that have been made on the GPU process so far, the Board is now considering several so-called “alternatives." Here are my comments on the “alternatives" presented to the Board by the County Counsel in his May 25, 2004 Board report:

  • The estimated costs of Alternatives 1-4 are vastly understated. Staffing costs reported at $40,000 per month last week are now, mysteriously, quoted at $25,000 per month. The “consultant" cost of $150,000 is way below what consultants have been charging the County in connection with the current effort. The County has hired lots of “consultants" in running up its current $5 million bill for the GPU. The cost of consultants going forward will not be any less! The cost to prepare a draft and final EIR (a brand new EIR, it appears) will dwarf the $150,000 total cost cited. Just as a point of reference, the cost of the East Garrison EIR is about $500,000; the Pebble Beach EIR is about $600,000. Today, on the Consent Agenda, the Board approved the transfer of an additional $175,000 to pay for more work on the Rancho San Juan EIR. The costs cited with respect to the so-called “alternatives" are bogus!

  • Alternative #3 suggests a “new" consultant to complete the final EIR process (including drafting responses to comments on the DEIR). In fact, your staff has already completed its responses to comments on the current EIR. Alternative #3 is completely unnecessary and simply adds costs, with no public benefit.

  • No matter who prepares the draft GPU document, and no matter who does the draft and final EIR, the policy choices are the same! There are different views of what the future of Monterey County should be. There are legitimate arguments on all sides. There will never be “consensus" on what should happen. Ultimately, your Board has to make the call. The so-called “alternatives" presented will not eliminate that requirement. All the so-called “alternatives" do is to give you an excuse further to delay the tough decisions, costing the taxpayers more money, and increasing public disillusionment.

  • Alternative #1 would apparently discard the Twelve Guiding Objectives that are the foundation of the current GPU effort. These Guiding Objectives reflect what the public has told the Board that it wants, and they were adopted by the Board of Supervisors themselves. If one of the “hidden agendas" that may be driving the recent consideration of “alternatives" is the idea that it will be possible to eliminate those Twelve Guiding Objectives, please note that this agenda is not really “hidden" at all.

LandWatch urges the Board to proceed with the current GPU process.

cc: CAO; County Counsel; GPU Staff; Planning Director; Planning Commission; Other Interested Persons

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posted 05/27/04

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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