Thursday, February 23, 2006
Supporters of the initiative that rewrites the county’s general plan took a beating last week when opponents launched their campaign to kill the anti-sprawl plan.
The opposition group Plan for the People announced on Feb. 16 that they’ve got several elected officials on their side. At a press conference, Gonzales Mayor Matt Gourley said the citizens’ initiative would have a “very negative impact on quality of life in our cities,” and said that Salinas Mayor Anna Caballero, along with the rest of the Salinas Valley cities’ mayors, opposes it. Monterey County’s state Senators Jeff Denham and Abel Maldonado and state Assemblyman Simón Salinas also oppose it.
Salinas could not attend the press conference, but his aide Darlene Dunham read a statement saying the initiative “does not allow affordable housing to be built in rural areas without a half-million dollar campaign.”
In a later interview, Salinas explained that his opposition is focused on a provision in the initiative that would require a countywide election to approve any new subdivision that is not in a city or in one of the five designated “community areas,” outlined in the General Plan.
“I don’t question the sincerity of these folks [initiative supporters],” Salinas said. “I support city-center growth—that makes sense. But if there are opportunities in the outlying areas, we ought to think about putting affordable housing there. Certainly not a lot, but some. And $500,000 to $700,000 for an election would be very costly.”
Several speakers at the Feb. 16 press conference hammered away at this point. The group included many members of the so-called Refinement Committee, which has been successfully fighting growth-control revisions to the General Plan for five years. These opponents include Tom Carvey, director of the pro-growth group Common Ground; Kurt Gollnick of Scheid Vineyards; Alfred Diaz-Infante of the affordable housing organization CHisPA; Juan Uranga of the farmworker’s rights group Center for Community Advocacy; and Jay Brown of the Cattlemen’s Association.
“For ranchers, the initiative’s even more devastating,” Brown said, detailing the “very delicate economics” of ranching. “We make maybe $40 an acre in a cow/calf operation. We must be able to keep family members on the ranch to provide cheap labor.” Sometimes, he said, that means building a home for a son or daughter on the ranch, which would not be allowed under the initiative.
Again, he pointed to the section that requires a vote to OK developments in rural land.
LandWatch’s Chris Fitz defended the provision.
“This initiative is all about putting development in the places that are the most appropriate for growth—in cities in these five community areas in the unincorporated county,” Fitz says. “The rest of the unincorporated area is not appropriate for further subdivision. That is not responsible planning. If that kind of decision is going to be made, all of the citizens of Monterey County need to make it.”
LandWatch is one of several groups that have endorsed the community general plan initiative, which boasts its own slew of elected officials backing it, including County Supervisor Dave Potter, Salinas Councilwoman Jyl Lutes, former Assemblyman Fred Keeley and Monterey Councilman Jeff Haferman, among others.
Fitz says initiative opponents are “disingenuous” and “misleading the public.”
“When we look at the 65,000 units that are in the general plan process in Monterey County,” he says, “that really is a huge number of units. These are units that are already in the general plan process—enough to accommodate 200,000 new residents. There will be opportunity to provide affordable housing among these developments as they come forward.”
Another point of contention is the so-called wine corridor. Earlier incarnations of the county-drafted growth blueprint, GPU2 and GPU3, both included the wine corridor, consisting of wineries and tasting rooms to be built along River Road and into South County. However, the wine corridor is not specifically mentioned in the initiative.
At the Feb. 16 press conference, opponents warned that this will kill the local wine industry. And, they argued, the initiative’s zoning restrictions wouldn’t allow for new on-site winery facilities.
Local vintners grow about 40,000 acres of grapes in Monterey County. “The next logical step is to go into value-added,” Gollnick says, “And turn those grapes into wine, and take that wine, bottle it, and turn it into a regional commodity that is Monterey.”
Gollnick says without the winery corridor, the industry will continue to primarily grow grapes for other wineries in Napa and Sonoma.
“We’re missing out. If we were able to take all of the raw materials in grapes that we ship out, that could turn into $1 billion for the agriculture industry of Monterey. That’s how much money we are losing.
“That’s why I’m ticked off—this whole thing could be thrown out by this initiative. I don’t get why someone would want to wholesale destroy an industry.”
Nobody is trying to do any such thing, says Fitz.
“The initiative doesn’t say anything about the wine corridor,” he says. “In an effort to mislead people, the opposition is saying that the initiative will inhibit land-use designations. As long as these efforts don’t involve subdivision, then the initiative won’t affect them.”
ON TUESDAY, FEB.28, COUNTY SUPERVISORS WILL DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO PLACE THE GENERAL PLAN INITIATIVE ON THE JUNE BALLOT. THE MEETING STARTS AT 9:30AM IN THE SUPERVISORS CHAMBERS, 168 W. ALISAL ST., SALINAS. THE AGENDA WILL BE ONLINE BY FEB. 24, HTTP://WWW.CO.MONTEREY.CA.US/CTTB/AGENDA.HTM.
Amount of water, in gallons, saved daily by the DLI’s waterless urinals, about enough water to wash a load of dishes with a low-flow dishwasher once a weekfor over 44 years. Source: Defense Language Institute Public Affairs Office