Sex And The County
Penultimate Party: Stylish planning commission gives the nod to conservation-friendly General Plan.
Thursday, April 29, 2004
The end is finally in sight—and not a minute too soon for the girl reporter. At a five-hour meeting on April 21, Monterey County planning commissioners nearly finalized their proposals to the General Plan. They voted 10-0 to approve 58 changes to the plan, and agreed to complete their changes at the April 28 meeting—past the Weekly ’s deadline.
(This is another reason the girl reporter is convinced that this column should be more about Sex and less about The County. By the time this installment published, the commission will have met twice since our last issue. Writing news puts too much emphasis on timeliness, she thinks. It’s almost as difficult as writing about fashion. Both county news and couture seem to change almost overnight. Sex, at least, never goes out of style.)
After the board has finalized its proposals to GPU 3—the catchy name for the third draft of the county’s future planning document—the planning commission will then recommend a finished plan to the Board of Supervisors sometime in May. This puts the Supes on track to adopt a new 20-year growth plan by June.
It’s like running a marathon—a four-year marathon—thinks the girl reporter, sitting on a lumpy chair at the press table, which smells like cigarettes and coffee. Well, not that the girl reporter has ever run a marathon. Four miles is about her limit, and even less if it’s uphill. Although those new Puma bubblegum-pink sneakers are almost enough to make her think about running a marathon. Almost. Not quite. Still, there’s no reason not to buy the shoes.
The girl reporter thinks the commissioners feel likewise—about the General Plan, that is. After four years, $4 million, and three draft documents, each more contentious than the last, Commissioner Juan Sanchez called the planning commission’s movement towards a completed General Plan “historic,” and all 10 commissioners seemed to have fire in the belly when it came to making it happen.
Some of the commission’s important recommendations include:
• Axing the Rancho San Juan project—a huge proposed development on 2,581 acres between Salinas and Prunedale.
• Keeping a 40-acre minimum building restriction on rural lands. Conservationists say this is a good thing, and will discourage new subdivisions in rural areas that don’t have adequate roads, public safety and other services. Groups like the Farm Bureau and the Vintners and Growers Association hate the 40-acre minimum because it will force them to keep their land in agriculture.
• Forbidding rural subdivisions in areas where they would cause traffic congestions.
• Prohibiting “residential clustering”—the grouping of up to three homes on lands zoned for agricultural use. However, cluster subdivisions will still be allowed in areas zoned “rural,” not “agricultural.”
• Encouraging developers to build more low-income and workforce housing projects around the Monterey Peninsula, and focus new development near needed infrastructure.
• Completing more studies and a “specific plan” before creating a full-scale River Road winery corridor with tasting rooms and the like. At the meeting, this particular recommendation sparks a lively back-and-forth between the commissioners that sounds almost made for GPU 3: The TV Movie .
Chairman John Wilmot , looking distinguished in a sable-colored suit, a mocha shirt and a shock of white, curly hair: “Growing grapes is essentially agriculture. Why is it treated so differently? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Commissioner Miguel Errea , wearing a cowboy-chic gray, plaid sports coat and a waxed handlebar mustache. (The girl reporter would bet he wears cowboy boots, but she can’t see his feet under. She thinks because of the success of HBO’s new Western series, Deadwood , more Monterey County-ites will pick up on Errea’s style. He’s talking about tasting rooms and responding to Wilmot:) “For the record, I’m not in the wine-making business except as a consumer. It’s a marketing strategy.”
Commissioner Don Rochester , crisp and clean with his shiny head and white button-down: “Commissioner Errea is right. You don’t find too many people driving to Monterey to taste carrots.”
The dashing Commissioner Keith Vandevere , wearing a suit and a light-blue shirt. Or is it light gray? Oh well. “We haven’t had any requests for carrot corridors, have we?”
Laughs from the peanut gallery ensue.
While the recommendations are nice, also noteworthy—(perhaps even more important, thinks the girl reporter)—is the fact that everyone seemed to dress for the occasion. Almost all of the commissioners wear sports jackets or suits and ties; Commissioner Sharon Parsons wears a long charcoal knit dress and a tribal-looking mother-of-pearl necklace. As usual, the land-use attorneys and wine industry consultants wear smart suits, or chic neck scarves and sandals. As always, attorney Christine Gianascol Kemp remains “gravely disappointed” with the plan, but looks fantastic in a double-breasted light-blue jacket while protesting the commission’s environmentally friendly proposals.
On the other side of the aisle, so to speak, more conservation-minded types wear spring shades of sorbet—lime, lemon yellow and tangerine. At the press table, Monterey County Herald scribe Joe Livernois has cut his hair and trimmed his formerly Prunetuckian goatee. He cleans up nice.
In the end, the Commission’s recommendations are a boon to environmentalists and neighborhood groups, and a barb for development-minded farmers, land-owners and attorneys.
“I believe that the end result that I see here is really going to be a disservice to the community, particularly the agriculture community,” warns a black-and-white clad Nancy Isaacson, speaking on behalf of the Salinas Valley Water Coalition and the Independent Grower’s Association.
Environmentalist Marit Evans, wearing a pastel-printed blouse over a light blue shell, gives voice to the opposing viewpoint.
“I commend you all,” says Evans, a former planning commissioner herself, laying down the gauntlet, and setting up the next episode. “You’ve pushed a good plan. If this board of ours destroys it, they will pay.”