Helping Our Peninsula's Environment


"Community" General Plan -

Developer's Dream, or

Resident's Nightmare?

(c) Copyright Jan 21, 2005 HOPE


 You know all too well that because of unbridled growth we're out of water, our Carmel River is dying and our roads and highways are gridlocked.

You probably also know how every bit of additional growth further stresses our natural environment and could lead to the extinction of the more than 68 local animals, flowers and trees officially on the Endangered Species lists. That includes Sea Otters, Condors, Snowy Plovers, Gowen Cypresses, Steelhead, Yadon's Rein Orchid and Mark Twain's celebrated California Red-Legged Frog.

Not as widely appreciated is how every time we get to - we vote solidly against growth. For example remember in 1997, how every Supervisor's district and every city in Monterey County voted against the 30 square mile Rancho San Carlos subdivision by some 57% to 43%.

The Herald recognizes it - "Solid 'no growth' sentiment among Monterey Peninsula voters." -Herald Editorial, November 7, 1996

Five years later the Carmel Pine Cone is disgusted to admit it - "No-Growth Movement Can Declare Victory." Editorial, April 13, 2001

Even Developers Recognize We Always Vote Against Growth.

Remember how we resoundingly voted down the Carmel Valley Dam? (Also 57% to 43%)

Q. What did Cal-Am do immediately afterwards?

A. They came out with their "No-growth" Dam.

Q. Why did Pebble Beach Company and Clint Eastwood put Measure A on the ballot?

A. Because Clint feared we would put their project on the ballot. Their Measure A was almost purely intended to prevent a public vote against their project.


Sadly, we do not vote nearly as well for public officials as we do against growth. But even so, Sam Karas and Dave Potter were both elected because they opposed the Hatton Canyon Freeway while their losing opponents supported it.


And contrary to developer's claims, there is no law requiring us to have any more growth.


So with our local environmental crisis, no law requiring growth, and a community which even developers know votes solidly against growth, why would anyone but a developer advocate for a County General Plan providing huge growth?

Well, fasten your seatbelt. In November 2004 the Salinas Californian published a commentary explicitly disavowing "no-growth" and "slow-growth."

"So what" you say. "That's no surprise."


The surprise is who wrote it...



Landwatch !


If disavowing no and slow growth wasn't bad enough, Landwatch's commentary then advocated for 40,000 new housing units and another 126,000 people to live here - within the next 15 years.

How big is 40,000 housing units? Well, for comparison - adding up all the homes in Monterey Peninsula cities comes to "only" 36,570 housing units. (1)

And Landwatch wants our county to grow by even more than that; essentially another Monterey Peninsula's worth of houses, water demand and traffic. Not to mention square miles of lost and fragmented wild habitat.

Every Opportunity To Include Sustainability

Since each of the three groups writing General Plans got started (County General Plan Staff, the Common Ground/Monterey County Business Council/"Refinement Group" and Landwatch), HOPE has given them every opportunity to do the right thing, giving them every benefit of the doubt - even when they seemed way off track.

Since October 1998, the beginning of the County's General Plan Update, HOPE has attended dozens and dozens of each of their meetings. HOPE has respectfully asked all three parties preparing General Plans for an honest evaluation of two clear and simple alternatives:

1. A General Plan constrained by water, traffic and other existing network (infrastructure) limits.

 2. A General Plan constrained by sustainable use of resources sometimes called "Carrying Capacity" or "Steady State"; a "Sustainable Communities" Plan.

None of the three groups has even responded.



Huge Growth Instead

Instead, all three General Plans use AMBAG's overinflated population growth forecasts as though they are some holy grail.

This is in spite of the strong public opposition on that precise topic (2) and zero public support - specifically at the Landwatch Marina "Community" General Plan workshop.

As one of us wrote in the 1997 AMBAG Population Forecast Minority Report - AMBAG population forecast growth numbers are essentially made up out of thin air.

AMBAG makes the population forecast numbers as big as they think they can get away with. And then that developer's dream is forced on us. AMBAG normally gets away with this because the public is almost completely unaware of this vital issue.

(It makes some sense when you realize AMBAG's Board is made up of city and county representatives who get millions of dollars in development grants based on their population projections. The higher the population forecasts, the more money they get. The cost side of this is that taxpayers have to pay for the roads and sewage that such unneeded and unwanted growth causes.)


Our enemy is not developers.

Our enemy is growth.


HOPE's mission includes fighting harmful growth.

So we will fight unsustainable growth - no matter who proposes it.



Property Rights Alarm

While huge growth is a personal affront to most of us and our environment, the most dangerous part of the "Community" General Plan may be buried in seemingly innocuous property rights language.

The "Community" General Plan appears to increase private property rights so large property owners can get around county environmental protections. HOPE will be obtaining a formal legal opinion on this soon and will let you know.



Flawed Process

According to insiders, LandWatch made a distinct decision to not include a handful of environmental groups, including HOPE, in developing their General Plan.

This is puzzling decision since for the past 10 years HOPE and its Trustees have been involved in more Monterey Peninsula land use successes than any other group; HOPE's environmental science advisors are world leaders in their fields; HOPE has written several complete model General Plan Elements, our Executive Director has analyzed and commented on dozens of General Plans, and he has extensive population forecast experience having served on AMBAG's Technical Advisory Committees including authoring the Minority Report in the 1997 Tri-County Population Forecast.

Making this sadder is LandWatch's failed promises and false claims on this issue. HOPE was promised a chance to comment on the Draft Community General Plan, but that never happened. In fact as of Jan 21, (more than a week after they gave copies to the Supervisors) Landwatch still hasn't put copies on the web or made them available to HOPE or the general public.


According to one of the people working on the Community General Plan document text, they didn't even finish writing it until the night before it was presented to the Supervisors. So any organization with a genuine Board endorsing the Plan would have had to analyze 261 pages in the 8 hours before the Supervisors meeting. How many of the 18 organizations actually read, understood, and then signed off on the document before it was turned in?

This may be why the League of Women Voters demanded a retraction from the Herald article which reported the incorrect claim that League supported this "Community" Plan.


Finally, one has to ask - How can anyone oppose 4,000 homes at Rancho San Juan for traffic and water supply reasons, and in the next breath support ten times that many new housing units for our county.


40,000 new housing units and

126,000 more people

is neither smart-growth or smart at all.


What were they thinking?


Ours is a world class community.

We deserve far better than Los Angeles style "planning."




(1) Peninsula City Housing Units

Monterey ......13,382

Seaside .......11,005

Pacific Grove ..8,032

Carmel .........3,334

Del Rey Oaks .....735

Sand City _________82

Total .........36,570


* This does not include Marina or Peninsula unincorporated areas such as Pebble Beach.


(2) Landwatch's proposed "New Goal LU-1" and proposed "New Policy LU-1."

Two table representatives and one individual spoke out strongly against both the goal and policy. No one spoke in favour of the goal, the policy or growth. Yet Landwatch claims their General Plan is a result of these community forums.



For more information on this topic and on a sustainable General Plan see our website at - 


This letter as a Word RTF file


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This Page Last Updated January 22, 2005