Same Game, New Rules
Sex and the County: Pro-General Plan coalition brings process back out into the open.
Thursday, July 1, 2004
Forget models and movie stars, ex-politicians are the new sex symbols. For example: the constant gushing about Bill Clinton’s sleek, gorgeous new physique, and how he’s greeted like a rock star wherever he goes. The girl reporter doesn’t deny any of that. But has anyone checked out former-Central-Coast-Assemblyman-turned-Planning-and-Conservation-League-Executive-Director Fred Keeley? Whatever his big announcement turns out to be, the girl reporter is signing on to his campaign.
It’s about 10 minutes before nine on a Tuesday morning, and Keeley—looking svelte, wearing a navy pinstripe suit, yellow tie and a closely shaven beard—is standing alone on the Monterey County Courthouse stairs.
He’s waiting for the rest of the community advocates slated to gather here at 9am to make a “dramatic announcement” about the General Plan Update process, which was scrapped by County Supervisors in March.
Keeley’s charming, and funny and smart…but before the girl reporter can ask him the important question (is his suit Calvin Klein?) the rest of the gang appears. There’s a dozen or so regulars, including Carmel Valley Association’s John Dalessio, who’s wearing a blue shirt with birds on it, possibly peacocks, and LandWatch’s Gary Patton, wearing a slightly rumpled navy suit and similarly rumpled hair (think: Public Defender chic). There’s also the Coalition to Protect Housing, Farmlands, Air and Water’s Alexander Urciuoli, in a red plaid power tie; Lynn Classen, the co-chair of Friends, Artists of Elkhorn Slough, who’s wearing purple Birkenstocks (a new pair she saves for special occasions), and who describes her couture as “middle-aged 1960’s activist-not-hippie;” and the Sierra Club’s Gillian Taylor, in an aqua jacket over a lemon-yellow knit top, black slacks and red shoes.
The group holds five huge placards that the Carmel Valley Association’s Paula Lotz presented to the Supes a few weeks ago, listing every single public meeting devoted to the General Plan Update, beginning on Nov. 16, 1999 and ending 83 meetings later, on May 25, 2004.
Then Keeley starts talking about the hundreds of Monterey County PCL members who have been “involved in the updating of the General Plan for the better part of half a decade…encouraged by the initial adoption of the 12 Guiding Principles”—a list of objectives that prioritized things like affordable housing, natural resources, agriculture and air quality, all of which were developed with community input and later adopted by the Supes.
Keeley recalled that everyone involved had been “encouraged that there was a public process that was transparent.”
Or so they thought. Until late March, when the Board was slated to begin its formal review of GPU3. Instead, three of the five Supes—Edith Johnsen, Fernando Armenta, and Butch Lindley—voted to scrap the 20-year growth document.
Which leads Keeley to the big announcement.
“Rather than going behind closed doors,” he says, “which is the process we understand the Board of Supervisors would like to do, we will convene a series of public meetings, facilitated by a neutral facilitator to move this process forward.”
These forums, sponsored by the Planning and Conservation League Foundation, will be open to the public and held throughout Monterey County, at yet-to-be-determined locations.
“We are not starting over,” Urciuoli says. “We are continuing. We are using the 12 Guiding Principles. We are using the draft [plan] that is available and we are using the recommendations of the county’s own Planning Commission”—which, by the way, adopted a finished version of the plan, which was then rejected by three of the five Supes.
(Lou Calcagno and Dave Potter voted against Johnsen’s motion to kill GPU3.)
These public meeting, slated to begin shortly after July 4, will focus on issues like building more affordable housing and protecting agriculture, to name a few, and will result with a draft growth document that the group will present to the Board.
“We are not going to let attorneys for developers ghost write the General Plan Update behind closed doors,” Patton says.
What’s your timeline, asks the girl reporter.
“Faster, better, cheaper,” Patton responds. “We’re hoping by early fall to develop a citizen-based General Plan document.”
In June, the Supes turned the update process over to the Planning Department and County Counsel Charles McKee, who estimates this new plan will require an additional 16 months and as much as $980,000 more.
As soon as this press conference ends, Keeley says he’ll go ask the Supes to direct county staff to participate in these GPU workshops, “to come out from behind closed doors and join us in each and every one of those meetings.”
The girl reporter’s still keeping her fingers crossed that this time around, the meetings will include cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
A few hours later, the girl reporter sits at her desk, working and taking occasional quick breaks to check out the Neiman Marcus summer sale catalog, when an e-mail arrives. It’s a canned response from Plan for the People, a group of development types, growers, labor representatives and hospitality industry insiders, most of whom are also members of the committee formerly known as the Refinement Group, which has gone through so many name changes that Prince would be jealous. Oh, and they’ve drafted their own version of the General Plan Update.
“We don’t [think] the plan put forward by a special-interest group at today’s press conference is any substitute for that inclusive process,” says Mike Johnston, a spokesman for Campaign for Plan for the People, in the e-mail. “Really, what we need is a process that brings diverse opinions together to work it out.”
The statement continues, “…those special interest groups at Tuesday’s press conference decided not to continue participation [in the Refinement Group.]
Hmm, thinks the girl reporter, maybe that’s because the Supes ended the group’s meetings after six months failed to bring “consensus” on anything other than when to start and end the meetings.
“Meanwhile,” reads the e-mail, “the Refinement Group has worked diligently on a weekly basis to make recommendations on a new General Plan for Monterey County. Our research has concluded that about 75 percent of the community wants a general plan flexible enough to allow current and future generations of Monterey County residents to achieve the American Dream, including jobs, home ownership and preservation of our beautiful environment.”
Okay, sure. But even if they hate the American Dream, the ad hoc coalition holding the press conference boasts 80 percent support for affordable housing, clean air and room to breathe.
Now, back to Marc Jacobs on sale at Neimans.