Yes to Mountain Valley--Salinas Needs More Affordable Housing
Thursday, March 11, 1999
The potential referendum on the recently approved Mountain Valley housing development in East Salinas has prompted me to respond, especially since I was one of the City Council members who voted in support of the project. I am not a proponent of unrestrained growth, sprawl, or leap-frog development. I do, however, support well-planned, sustainable, creative community development projects that conform to the city''s general plan and meet community needs!
A serious problem which Salinas faces is the limited area available for housing and job growth. We are bounded by agricultural land, most of which has been protected in the city''s general plan and the county''s Greater Area Plan. Considering that agriculture is a $2 billion industry, it is essential that ag land continue to be protected.
However, a healthy economy will remain so only if people who work in the industry can find affordable housing. Cities which lack affordable housing fail to attract new business, which in turn leads to no economic growth.
According to the Salinas general plan, the area where Mountain Valley is planned is an area which is targeted for housing growth: the north-east corridor. The south-west farm lands will be protected from any and all future growth.
Critics of the project have argued that there will be an adverse impact on the school districts. In actuality however, the Alisal School District will face serious funding shorfalls if this project is not approved. The school district is planning to meet enrollment needs by building the "Mountain Valley" school on donated land. According to Assistant Superintendent Jim Michael, the district must build that school to meet projected enrollment increases, with or without the completion of this development. The donation of the future school site by the developer will save the school district over $1 million!
Additionally, Salinas has recently seen a substantial increase in the number of working poor families in Salinas, due mainly to increased housing costs.
The Mountain Valley development will provide over 100 units of inclusionary housing, and 700 homes which will be affordable to working families within Salinas. In addition, it is a planned community with a 21-acre park (the largest community park with usable area in northeast Salinas), and a 19,000 square-foot child care center (the largest in the city) which will house 100 children, and have heated floors to enhance infant care. Bicycle/pedestrian paths will make travel within the development safer. Finally, the developer will be expanding the surrounding roadways, not only to accommodate the increased traffic, but also to redirect traffic off neighborhood streets and onto larger arterials.
Bill Shaw, developer of the project, has set an example to the city as to what we must demand from all new development in Salinas and Monterey County. We must ensure that all developers are responsive to community needs and concerns, and will address those issues to mitigate development and traffic impacts, provide ample park and open space, provide school land, and provide bicycle and pedestrian access within the development.
The City Council is considering a moratorium on future developments until the revision of the general plan is completed. However, Mountain Valley is a well-planned, socially conscious, responsive and creative development which meets the demands of our growing community, within the confines of our current general plan, and should be allowed to break ground.
Jyl Lutes is a Salinas City Council member.