Sunday, December 6, 2015/ 7:30 a.m.
I believe most professional planners would agree that the California Coastal Commission sets the “gold standard” for planning agencies. One reason is that the Coastal Act articulates some very specific policies which are “mandatory,” as opposed to “discretionary” in form. Policies that are structured as “discretionary,” which are quite common at the local government level, aren’t really “policies” at all, since they contain a built-in exit that allows the local agency to disregard the policy if the agency wants to approve a particular development.
For instance, if the so-called “policy” states that the agency should prevent the conversion of agricultural land to urban uses “to the greatest extent feasible,” very common language in zoning codes, the local agency can always determine that it is not really “feasible” to protect farmland when an attractive development opportunity presents itself. If you really want to protect farmland, you have to have a policy that says something like, “commercially viable farmland shall not be developed or divided.” Period!
The Coastal Commission is meeting in Monterey, starting on Wednesday, December 9th, through Friday, December 11th. I have links to the agenda at kusp.org/landuse. I invite you to review the agenda, and then to attend the Commission’s meeting, to see that “gold standard” planning agency in action.