The Revolution Starts Now
Frustration with sprawl—and with pro-sprawl supervisors—ignites two citizens’ initiatives.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
<>>Monterey County voters are taking land-use policy decisions into their own hands.
On Nov. 10, smart-growth supporters started collecting signatures to put a general plan initiative on the June 2006 ballot. Two days later Butterfly Village opponents began circulating petitions to stop the 671-acre development. Both petition drives follow last week’s Measure C vote, where 75 percent of voters rejected Rancho San Juan, the 4,000-home, mixed-use development proposed between Salinas and Prunedale. The day before the Measure C vote, County Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve Butterfly Village, the first piece in the larger Rancho San Juan plan, a move seen by many as an effort to subvert the intent of the measure.
“The board certainly appears to be sending the message that decisions board members are making are not reflective of public sentiments, not in sync with what the public wants,” says Supervisor Dave Potter, the lone dissenting vote against Butterfly Village.
The other four supervisors cited the threat of a very expensive lawsuit from Butterfly Village developer Moe Nobari as a reason to approve the project.
In 2001, Nobari won a court order that required the County to process a growth plan for the Rancho San Juan area. But the court didn’t mandate the County approve Nobari’s development—a fact that Potter reminded his fellow supes at the Nov. 7 meeting.
“Nothing in this writ…shall compel any particular result,” Potter read from the court order.
Potter doesn’t buy the argument that the board must approve Nobari’s residential-and-golf-course plan, or else pay the developer millions of dollars in damages.
“I’ve read the judge’s order several times, just for that very purpose,” Potter says, “to see if it says you have to approve what he applied for, and it’s just not there.”
Potter’s also supporting the General Plan Initiative. The initiative would concentrate growth in the cities and five designated “community areas.” It would also increase affordable housing requirements, and would require a county-wide election to approve any new subdivision that’s not located in one of the designated areas.
On Nov. 10, several community members signed the petition, including Peninsula Water Board Member Alvin Edwards and East Salinas business advocate Tony Barrera. Potter signed the General Plan Initiative first. And he says he expects to see voters shoot down the Butterfly Village ballot measure by a wide margin, similar to Measure C.
“I think that land-use issues—which people have always been passionate about in the fifth district—those issues have spread county-wide.”
Potter’s fifth district runs down the coast, from Monterey to Big Sur.
“It’s not just about preserving the coast,” Potter
continues, “it’s about preserving our hillsides and
agricultural lands, also. The passion for land use has
While land-use watchdogs have a friend in Potter, he’s typically the only voice promoting smart growth by demanding that developers prove that they have water, adequate roads and other infrastructure prior to development.
Supervisors Fernando Armenta, Butch Lindley and Jerry Smith generally approve every development that comes before the board. Supervisor Lou Calcagno is the swing vote.
Rarely do members of the public get to weigh in as directly on the supervisors’ land-use decisions as they did last week, with Measure C.
“The [Measure C] vote clearly shows that the board is out of touch with the public,” says Julie Engell, who chairs the Rancho San Juan Opposition Coalition. “But by making their decision to approve Butterfly Village on Monday, instead of waiting until Tuesday and taking the public’s vote under consideration, the board clearly demonstrated that they aren’t interested. They don’t want to know what the public thinks.”
But they’ll soon find out.
The supes’ disregard for the public on Rancho San Juan, and the six-year-in-the-making General Plan have generated political momentum, says Jane Parker, who unsuccessfully ran against Supervisor Jerry Smith in 2004. During the campaign, both said they opposed Rancho San Juan. Last week, Smith voted to approve Butterfly Village. Parker, assistant director of the Action Council of Monterey County, campaigned against Measure C.
“It’s the height of arrogance to make a decision on a different version of Rancho San Juan the day the voters had a chance to weigh in,” Parker says.
Parker, who is also supporting the General Plan Initiative, says the supervisors’ refusal to say no to “the developer du jour,” in the case of Rancho San Juan or the General Plan Update process, highlights the need for new leadership.
“The way our government works is that we elect out representatives to represent us,” Parker says. “But it is completely part of our democratic process to say, ‘You guys aren’t representing us well. We are going to take those elected powers back.’ That’s what the initiative process is all about.
“It really is quite astonishing the degree to which the
Board of Supervisors is ignoring the public’s interest. They
are making the case for the need for such initiatives that,
hopefully, will be on the ballot in 2006.”
Number of pieces of plastic per square mile of ocean—due in large part to the fact that only five percent of plastic bags are recycled. Source: Monterey Regional Waste Management District.