LandWatch.org

LandWatch Helps Convene "Community GPU" Forums

LandWatch will help convene a series of "Community GPU" forums, to be held over the next several months. We urge you to take part!

Background

On June 8, 2004, The Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted to terminate the General Plan Update (GPU) process that has been underway since 1999 (and that has cost county taxpayers $5 million dollars so far). The Board will now "start over" with a completely "new" GPU process. This new process is proposed to take an additional two years, and will cost (conservatively) about a million dollars more.

Unlike the "old" process, which maximized public participation, and in which all members of the public testified and made comments on an equal footing, the "new" process places a heavy emphasis on individual consultations between county staff and selected "stakeholders," including most prominently the attorneys representing large landowners. The "new" process utilizes meetings held in private settings, and may include a hand‚Äëpicked "citizens committee," which excludes the public at large.

The County Counsel and the Director of the Planning and Building Inspection Department are going to decide whom to consult, and they'll deliver a new GPU document that contains what they decide that document ought to contain. The official objective of the new process is to develop a GPU that gets a unanimous vote from the Board of Supervisors. There is no specific policy direction about how the GPU should deal with the critical planning and fiscal issues confronting Monterey County.

During the Board hearing, LandWatch Monterey County (which has helped stimulate public participation throughout the GPU process) asked the Board to base the new process on the Twelve Guiding Objectives which came out of the former public process. These Twelve Guiding Objectives require, among other things, that new growth be discouraged from locating in rural areas, thus helping to protect agricultural land and natural resources. This request was denied by the Board.

Besides discarding the General Plan Update draft that has taken so much money and time to produce, and besides discarding the Twelve Guiding Objectives, which outline the policy concerns of the public, the new process adopted by the Board is disadvantageous to genuine public participation, and is likely to result in a new GPU draft that is less protective of natural resources, and less concerned about protecting the public from the adverse fiscal consequences of continued suburban sprawl.

The Board's decision to "start over" may also put community groups and individual community members who have participated in the past in a difficult position with respect to their future involvement. If members of the public and community groups decline to participate in the new process (and, of course, that would be fully justified, considering the results of their past participation), then such groups and individuals will be labeled "detractors," as the County Counsel has already called them. The Board will blame them for their "lack of participation," and act as though it were THEIR fault that after participating for five years, and having the Board refuse even to consider the results of the process, that they won't "participate" more.

On the other hand, if those who have participated in the past agree to continue to participate in the new process (which in fact is an "insider" as opposed to a truly "public" process) then they will be providing "legitimacy" to this new, much less public, effort.

In short, continued participation by the public is vital, but the process used must truly be open to individual members of the public. It is unacceptable to base the next draft of the GPU on a set of private "stakeholder" meetings, or on the deliberations of a hand-picked "citizens committee" that excludes the public at large.

A Specific Proposal To Ensure That The New GPU Responds to Public Concerns

The public has participated for the last five years in a GPU process based on extensive public outreach. The GPU draft that resulted from this process was founded upon Twelve Guiding Objectives that came directly from what the public said it wanted. The lesson of the last five years is that public participation in the land use policy process is vital, and that public participation will lead to the kind of General Plan that can guide Monterey County to a socially, economically, and environmentally healthy future.

LandWatch has joined with other community groups to establish a series of community forums that will permit interested members of the public to produce their own "next draft" of a General Plan for Monterey County. This "next draft" should utilize, not discard, the investments made in the last draft GPU produced, and should be specifically aimed at achieving the objectives that the public cares about most:

Thanks to the generous assistance and financial support of the Planning and Conservation League Foundation, the community forums will be led by a professional facilitator, and their efforts will be supported by the work of a professional planner. These forums will focus on the key planning issues, and the result of these forums will be a draft GPU consistent with the Twelve Guiding Objectives that came out of the public process.

Participating Groups Schedule Upcoming

All of the following groups—and others!—will be participating in the community forums. A specific schedule will be announced shortly after the Fourth of July.

LandWatch urges you to participate in this exciting effort to make sure that the Monterey County General Plan truly reflects the public interest!

[Return to County Plan Update Issues and Actions]

posted 07.02.04