Board of Supervisors To Make Key Decisions Soon

August 28, 2002

The Honorable David Potter, Chair [Sent By Email and FAX: 831-755-5888]
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
240 Church Street
Salinas, CA 93901

RE: Board Decisions on General Plan Update and Property Owner Requests

Dear Chairperson Potter and Board Members:

Your Board is just embarking on a public hearing process that will extend over several days. During this public hearing process, or at the end of it, you are going to make critically important decisions on the General Plan Update.

We think that the procedural situation in which the Board is currently deliberating is somewhat “confusing," since so many different issues are being brought to you simultaneously. This letter is our best effort to speak to the most critical issues we think are before you now.

We urge the following:

  1. Don’t Open Up New Areas For Development By Expanding Community Area and Rural Center Boundaries –The “Proposed Schedule," presented to your Board on Tuesday, indicates that you will consider “modifications to Community Area and Rural Center boundaries." Many property owners are asking for such boundary changes, to accommodate their desire to develop their specific properties. Your Board should resist calls to open up more unincorporated areas for development.

    The Draft General Plan Update is based on twelve “guiding objectives." These twelve objectives were recommended to you by the Planning Commission, and were adopted by you at the start of the General Plan Update process. These guiding objectives reflect what the public has said about the kind of General Plan we need for the future of Monterey County. They also, incidentally, represent what most professional planners would agree are “best planning practices."

    The twelve guiding objectives you adopted call for future growth to be directed to the cities, and to a limited number of unincorporated areas where growth can best be accommodated. Calls to expand Rural Center and Community Area boundaries—or to set up new Community Areas or Rural Centers—are calls to violate the basic principles on which the draft GPU is based. Please resist that temptation.

  2. Please Consider the Elimination Of The New Community Areas Added To The GPU On July 23rd – On July 23rd, the Board directed the addition of four new Community Areas to the GPU. These four areas are Chualar, San Lucas, San Ardo, and Pine Canyon (west of King City). LandWatch believes that this direction, which was not “final," was not well considered.

    “Community Areas" are those unincorporated lands designated for an “urban" level of development. These four areas are not appropriate for “urban" development. They are appropriate for designation as “Rural Centers," areas where some past development has taken place, and where some new development might be appropriate, if adequate infrastructure can be made available.

    LandWatch urges the Board to direct that the above four areas be included in the next draft of the GPU as “Rural Centers." We note, incidentally, that this recommendation would not only be a better policy from a “planning" perspective, but would also help reduce some of the capital improvement program needs identified by the CAO in the report received by the Board on August 27th.

  3. Don’t Grant Property Owner GPA Requests That Are Inconsistent With The Draft GPU and the Twelve Guiding Objectives – It is understandable that individual property owners would like you to incorporate changes into the General Plan Update that would allow them to develop their individual properties. About 270 requests for such redesignation have been received. With very limited exceptions, these individual property owner requests would undermine the integrity of the Draft GPU. We urge the Board not to go beyond what the Planning Commission has recommended.

  4. Don’t Adopt Housing Policies That Say That 80% Of All Future Housing Should be Designated For Persons With Above Average Incomes – This is an area of particular confusion. At your July 23, 2002 meeting, your staff presented two charts and proposed policies (in the name of “workforce" housing) that appear to designate 80% of the future housing to be built in the unincorporated areas for persons with above average incomes. That recommendation seemed to carry through (with a slight modification) to the recommendation you received at your meeting on August 27th.

    LandWatch believes that the Board of Supervisors should not designate 80% of all new housing for persons with above average incomes.

    LandWatch supports an inclusionary housing percentage of 40%, with 10% reserved for very low income persons, 15% for low-income persons, and 15% for moderate income persons. This is the so-called “CHISPA Plan." We think it is achievable, and that your Board should put such a requirement into the General Plan Update.

    If the Board wants to go further than this, as was apparently suggested on July 23rd, we believe (beyond the 40% inclusionary level) that 20% of all new housing should be designated for what was called “Workforce Level 1" at your July 23rd meeting, and that 20% should continue to be the target for what was called “Workforce Level 2." We suggest that 20% (not 40%) be the target for the “Above Moderate" category.

    If the Board is going to allocate all housing to a specific income level, then we urge you to do it in this way—so that only 20% of all future housing is designated for the highest income bracket, instead of 40%.

    If the Board does not want to set an inclusionary percentage of 40% in the General Plan, and wants to set an inclusionary percentage of 20%, then we urge you simply to set the 20% inclusionary amount, and not to allocate housing amounts to the other income levels. The materials presented to you by your staff appear to allocate all housing to a specific income level, with 80% of the housing being designated for persons with above average incomes. This is not the right priority for this county, at this time.

  5. Maintain A Requirement That Adequate Infrastructure Be Provided Before New Growth Is Allowed – The Board received a somewhat confusing presentation at its meeting on Tuesday, August 27th. One interpretation of what the staff recommended is that the Board should eliminate the requirement that adequate infrastructure be provided before new growth is allowed.

    One of the most important of the “guiding objectives" incorporated into the Draft GPU is the statement that the GPU will “ensure that infrastructure and public services are available, fully funded and constructed concurrently with new development." This is an objective adopted by your Board at the very start of the process, and is based on what the public has unequivocally told you is the right policy to govern the future growth and development of Monterey County.

    LandWatch urges you not to abandon this fundamental principle!

    At the August 27th meeting, the CAO appeared to say that the county could not meet its state-mandated Housing Element goals unless this policy were eliminated. However, the staff then said that eliminating this policy would produce 2,514 units of “affordable housing" by the year 2007—and 6,027 units of housing for persons with above-average incomes.

    It is obvious that the policy discussed would not mainly benefit lower income families. It would mainly benefit the developers of the 6,207 units of housing for upper income persons. [The “split" here is 73% for upper income housing and 27% for “affordable" housing.]

    If the Board is going to impose further traffic congestion and other infrastructure deficiencies on existing residents, at least make the exception only for housing that is 100% affordable to persons with very low, low, and moderate incomes.

  6. Design A Plan That Lives Within Already Planned-For Transportation Improvements – The staff has suggested several major transportation projects, including new roads, expressways, and the like, that are not included in the officially adopted Regional Transportation Plan. The so-called “Espinosa Expressway" is an example. This road would cut through the middle of prime agricultural land and wetlands areas.

    No money is realistically available for the new road projects that staff suggests might be included in the GPU. We urge the Board to direct the staff to prepare the next draft of the GPU using only those road and highway projects that are already included in the officially adopted Regional Transportation Plan.

When the Board of Supervisors began the General Plan Update process, it did so with the stated objective of regaining and maintaining the support of the public.

The Draft GPU is built on twelve guiding objectives that the public supports. So far, at every step along the way, the Board of Supervisors has maintained faith with the public.

The “next draft" of the GPU does need to respond to the very significant comments made to both the Planning Commission and the Board. However, there is no reason to abandon the “heart and soul" of the GPU at this stage. That “heart and soul" includes the following basic principles upon which the Draft GPU has been based:

Some of the proposals that the Board will apparently contemplate during the next several days would totally violate one or more of the principles just cited. Please do not capitulate to the requests of individual property owners that these publicly supported principles be abandoned, to permit the specific development proposals that they wish to advance.

The Board will not retain, regain, or maintain public support for the GPU unless it continues to support the principles that the public has so clearly stated are its “bottom line" for the future growth and development of Monterey County.

cc: County Administrative Officer
General Plan Update Staff
Members, Planning Commission

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