This blog has mentioned the apparent lack of vision for Arden Arcade that seems to have led to where we are now: vacant or seedy strip malls, low-end businesses, abundant cheap apartments, traffic problems, proliferation of liquor stores, pedestrian-unfriendliness, abused neighborhoods, spotty code enforcement, on and on. So much around our community is haywire.
Every city and county in California is required to control land use through a General Plan (CA Government Code 65300) adopted with public consent, that is supposed to be a blueprint for growing and sustaining urban and rural areas. General Plans must have implementing ordinances (CA Government Code 64500(a)(1) -- e.g. zoning ordinance, noise ordinance, design guidelines, etc. -- and by law (CA Government Code 65300.5) those ordinances must be consistent with the General Plan. Further, the diverse parts of the General Plan (articulated in administrative guidelines) are required to be internally consistent. For example, a General Plan cannot say "This area is supposed to be a good place for people to live and raise a family," and then let businesses run amok. At least that is what state laws require.
Laws are meaningless if they are not enforced. California's set of planning rules are not guided by a central land use police force. Instead, the state lets cities and counties carry out the planning laws and leaves enforcement up to citizens and the courts. But lawsuits are expensive, time-consuming, and without a guarantee of results. They can be pointless if the local land use authority snookers the public. That's a bit like saying, "don't bother" to citizens who might be upset with what cities and counties decide when they exercise their land use powers. In a nutshell, then, our messed up land use pattern is the result of County decisions that we the citizens, business owners, taxpayers, and property holders let happen and cannot do anything about.
It looks like there are three options: 1) accept a bad land use pattern, 2) get the County to clean up its act, or 3) shift the General Plan and land use responsibilities away from the County. At the moment Option 1, though unacceptable, governs. If you don't like it, move away. Option 2 is unlikely to ever be fully successful due to structural problems with County governance and Option 3 (incorporation) is impractical until the Legislature reforms state policy. Yet Arden Arcade does not have to be messed up if We The People want it fixed. The key to moving Option 2 (better County behavior) and Option 3 (local control) into the realm of possibility is an informed populace. This post and a series of others on the theme are intended to share out ideas and concepts from which, hopefully, progress away from Option 1 can start to happen.