Just Say No--We need to halt large subdivisions until we revise the General Plan.
Thursday, May 21, 1998
Monterey County is cherished for the beauty of its coastline, rolling oak hills, expansive farmland, and open spaces. Recreational opportunities and natural beauty attract business, residents and tourists. Tourism and agriculture drive our economy. Yet the environmental health and economic vitality of Monterey County are at risk. LandWatch Monterey County''s report, State of Monterey County 1998, reveals that piecemeal development and the prospect of more rapid growth in the future threaten our quality of life.
To make sense of what the future holds, consider that Monterey County''s population increased by 28 percent between 1980 and 1997. The Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG) forecasts that population growth will increase an additional 39 percent by 2020, just 22 years from now. Although legally contested, AMBAG''s forecasts have been approved by local officials and now influence subsequent planning throughout the county.
Urban sprawl in Monterey County is not a myth. Our report reveals that Monterey County and the cities have either approved or are considering the approval of 15,400 residential units, 1,145 hotel/motel units, and 5 million square feet of commercial/industrial projects in the next five years. Sixty-one percent of the residential units currently pending consideration is on farmland. Close to 4.6 million square feet of commercial/industrial development has been approved or is pending approval and will be built on farmland. Low density, leap-frog development encourages inefficient use of land, increased commuting, and more crowded highways.
Meanwhile, the county''s General Plan--the blue print for land use decisions--is 16 years old. Many of the city general plans are 10 or more years old. There is no comprehensive document which assesses the cumulative impacts of all approved or pending projects throughout the county. And no agency monitors whether local governments are meeting their goals of providing affordable housing.
Responsible government requires that development be guided by the limits facing us. These include overtaxed water supplies in many parts of the county, dangerously congested roads, overcrowded schools, and strong resistance among residents to subsidize the expensive public investments that would be necessary to support additional growth.
LandWatch urges public support for an immediate development moratorium until the cumulative impacts identified in State of Monterey County 1998 are analyzed and mitigation measures approved.
Building on the proposal of Supervisor Tom Perkins, the moratorium should apply to any new subdivisions greater than 25 units not already legally vested, and General Plan amendments. LandWatch urges Monterey County to update the General Plan so that it is consistent and includes sound planning goals. We also urge public support for city-centered growth, affordable housing within incorporated cities, preservation of farmlands, and more efficient transportation systems.
State of Monterey County 1998 is the first annual comprehensive assessment of land use, the environment and infrastructure in Monterey County. It includes data on the unincorporated portions of Monterey County as well as the 12 incorporated cities. And it provides an integrated overview of population trends, land-use patterns, traffic conditions, and approved and pending projects that affect the environmental health and economic vitality of Monterey County. State of Monterey County 1998 is available free through LandWatch''s web site at http://www.mclw.org. Printed copies of the executive report are available free upon request. For more information call (408) 375-3752.
Donna Kaufman is coordinator for LandWatch, a nonprofit, public benefit corporation dedicated to improving the quality of life through land-use planning, policy development, and public education.