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Land Use Basics

Land use planning can be a difficult subject. For starters, it's detailed, convoluted public policy stuff that normal people find boring and/or hard to understand. It's also how some people (investors, developers) make a lot of money, how others do business (real estate brokers, construction firms, building materials suppliers and contractors, land use consultants and lawyers) or make a living (construction workers, hardware stores, real estate agents). At its core, though, land use planning is about the built environment that surrounds us - what it has been, what it is and what it could be. It has a built-in yin/yang: our rugged individualism tells we can do whatever we want with land that we own, yet our instincts for self-preservation and family warn us to protect our property from the guy next door. The American Planning Association says the goal of planning is to maximize the health, safety, and economic well-being of all people living in our communities. California has laws and administrative procedures about planning at the local level - every city and county has to have a General Plan and follow certain rules and methods such that residents and businesses can count on orderly performance and expectations for the future and so the state can channel infrasstructure investments accordingly.

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