Is California inviting corruption into local planning practices?

July 6, 2020
T. Keith Gurnee

T. Keith Gurnee


What is it about corruption and government that too often seems to go hand in hand? We’re getting just a glimpse of it locally with the FBI raid and investigation of Supervisor Adam Hill and others in local government to no one’s surprise.

Then the Los Angeles Times recently wrote an editorial about “Ending City Hall Corruption” in the city of Los Angeles. Written in response to the recent arrest of City Councilman Jose Huizar for taking payoffs from developers to get their projects approved, the Times stated that the city’s development review process “…just invites corruption.”

But it is the State of California that could now be inviting corruption into local planning practices. While that LA Times editorial was spot on, if they thought that Councilman Huizar’s pay-to-play schemes were bad, what about what our state legislature is about to do in enacting a spate of state-mandated laws that would supplant LA’s local planning and development review procedures with new processes that would essentially be controlled by developers?

Indeed, it is the State of California that is poised to adopt a batch of bad legislation that could “invite corruption” into both state and local government on a much broader scale than thought before

On July 13, California’s Senate and Assembly will return to session to act on a package of nine top-down, one-size-fits-all housing bills that will snuff out the self-determination of local governments, cram high-density housing into established single-family neighborhoods, and bring about the over-gentrification and displacement of working class communities of color. And all of that legislation is backed by the real estate development lobby and construction unions.

If enacted, these bills will fundamentally change local planning, zoning, and development review procedures for every city and county in California, including right here in San Luis Obispo. If they pass, it will preempt local planning, rendering any local attempts to reform their planning processes as akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Legislators like Scott Wiener, Nancy Skinner, Richard Bloom, Buffy Wicks and others are trying to turn our neighborhoods into their experimental playgrounds without addressing the acute need for truly affordable housing. Yet, too few Californian’s are aware that this is happening, primarily due to the mass media’s apparent decision to look the other way.

With the legislature about take action on these bills, the LA Times would be wise to pay the same kind of attention to these bills and the corruption they will invite as it has to Huizar’s corruption.

T. Keith Gurnee is a former San Luis Obispo Councilmember, the Past President of the California Planning Roundtable, and a Member of the Board of Directors for Livable California, a non-profit organization with over 10,000 followers dedicated to fighting these bills and protecting the self determination of local governments.

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Hello Keith. I’d like to live in San Luis Obispo, near where I was born and raised. How should I do that? I see that developers and construction unions are bad, and also that we shouldn’t build or change anything, particularly if there was “open space” there before. I also have a friend that would like to exercise her “self-determination” and add a unit above her current single family home, but your own “self-determination” says that’s bad. So, where did you find your home that didn’t replace open space, and wasn’t built by a developer or construction union? Thanks for the help.

The good news is that all is very professional and a public process, the bad news is the public can’t keep up with the scheduled public word-spinning meetings and like our Board of Supervisors meeting, they are no longer broadcasted on the radio, except for the very local in house broadcast for county staff. The template answer is use the internet, right!!!!!

By design. Read Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World. Then combine that with Orwell’s 1984 and you begin to have a picture of 2020 and beyond.