Volume 14 - No.3 - Summer 2004

· Back to Home

· Documents that Decieve

· Success and Setback in Trabuco Canyon

· EHL’s Work Honored by American Planning Association

· EHL Supports Revised California Gnatcatcher Listing

· EHL in the News

· Poetry by Jess Morton

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EHL in the News -

Opinion Editorial Reprint

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Show leadership on land-use issues

By Dan Silver
June 15, 2004

It is hard to believe, but 50 years ago, Los Angeles County was the leading agricultural county in the state. However, Los Angeles failed to meet the challenge of growth, as there was insufficient vision and leadership from the elected officials responsible for planning. Now, despite the lack of open space and hopeless traffic congestion in the greater Los Angeles area, there is still a shortage of housing.

Fortunately, San Diego County is on the verge of charting a new and sustainable course for its future. For the last seven years, the Board of Supervisors has directed a historic revision – called the "2020 update" – of its fundamental land-use plan. This plan involves all the lands outside city limits, the lands that define San Diego as unique in the region.

Tomorrow, the supervisors can give the process a critical vote of confidence by moving forward with a map recommended by county planning staff. There are hugely important reasons for doing so.

We have learned that focusing growth where infrastructure and services are available is the only approach that the taxpayer and the environment can afford. Take, for example, road costs. If the county's current, sprawling land-use plan were kept, it would cost $7.7 billion to improve the roads. Under the new plan recommended by staff, this dips to $2.3 billion. Savings also result for fire protection and other services. Subsidies are reduced. The county can't afford not to change course.

If ranching and farming are to prosper, suburban-style lots and "ranchettes" must not replace these historic uses. The new map recommended by staff achieves this goal – and does so while fully accommodating the growth projected over the next 20 years. Again, the idea is to focus growth where it makes most sense, and where it is most affordable. By doing so, we can preserve the very landscapes that create a high quality of life for rural residents and city dwellers alike.

The reason that San Diego County is on the verge of planning success is the stakeholder process set up by the Board of Supervisors. Over the course of hundreds of meetings, builders, farmers, community groups, property owners and environmentalists have provided extensive input into the board's overall policy framework. Staff has responded with a carefully balanced compromise that now has a critical mass of consensus behind it.

Not that all problems are solved – hardly. For example, more work is needed to maintain community character and to support ongoing agriculture. But by accepting the staff recommendation as the basis for moving the 2020 update forward into an environmental impact report, all parties can continue to work together. If the careful balance is upset, all the progress made over the last seven years is at risk.

San Diego County is at a crossroads. Last election, a ballot measure to redo the county's land-use map was defeated, in significant part because the 2020 update promised a superior alternative. The voters placed their confidence in county government, and the supervisors have now brought us a long way toward realizing that prse.

As expected, many from all sides are asking for more. However, by holding the line that good planning has established, and endorsing the balanced map recommended by their staff as the vehicle for moving forward, leadership from the supervisors can truly keep San Diego special.

Silver is executive director of the Endangered Habitats League, dedicated to ecosystem protection and sustainable land use.

Copyright 2004 · Endangered Habitats League
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