Friday, November 5, 2010

307 / LandWatch

Today, I attended an annual membership lunch hosted by LandWatch Monterey County. LandWatch is an unusual organization, in that it addresses key economic, environmental, and social justice issues from the framework of land use "policy." This "policy" focus is probably the most unusual feature of the LandWatch approach. In the land use arena, most people pay attention to "project" level issues: the proposed new subdivision; the shopping center development that will increase traffic; a new freeway interchange that will likely have growth-inducing impacts.

The problem with focusing on the "project" level is that there are so many projects that the public tends to wear itself out, chasing after one problem, then another, then another, till finally they give up the chase altogether. Then, we have "land use a la California" - patterns of land use that are the sum of lots of (bad) individual decisions added up.

I am a fan of the LandWatch "policy-centered" approach. Their publication called Land Use And The General Plan, which I helped write, advocates a "policy" focus in local general plans, with the idea that if the "policy" is right, then all the individual decisions will be right, too. The essence of land use law in California is that project level decisions must be "consistent" with the policy statements in the local general plan, so strong and enforceable "policy" statements can direct ultimate "project" level results.

What if there were statewide policies to which all land use decisions would have to conform? The process could be simpler, shorter, cheaper, less frustrating - and the net result would be a lot better overall.

Since there will soon be a new Governor, a new approach to land use policy is at least possible. Here's one vote in favor!

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