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.


Thanks, Keith, good article. State mandates have been the alleged reason behind the” build everything everywhere as close together as possible” city development that has made San Luis Obispo no more special than anywhere else but has provided millions of dollars in development fees to keep the SLO city machine running. The council just raised fees again for reviewing plans, early occupancy, etc. SO much for affordable housing.

All planning should be local. We don’t have the water and infrastructure to build build build especially on good farmland (think Dalidio property) but that is of no consequence to Sacramento. We also have a city council that has approved all this, ducking the question of what residents want and citing state mandates as the excuse to change SLO from a pleasant little community with character and unique neighborhoods, to just another choked with traffic, faceless suburb full of ugly tract houses with no yards and stack and pack condos. So sad. They all need to go!


So, Keith what are your housing affordability solutions?


How about the article in yesterdays Tribune from James Papp, about the city council wanting to remove him from the Heritage committee because some developer wanted the designation removed from a landmark building in town and James pointed out the flaws in the application and pissed everyone off, so the developer is whining to the council to fire James. The city council is who should be fired in this town as they rubber stamp just about anything some developer wants to destroy in this city,pretty soon we’ll have nothing but trashy looking buildings all through town,Opps we going down that path now.


These bills appear to have bi-partisan support with two of Wiener’s bills garnering votes of 33-3 and 30-8 (the Senate currently has 12 Republicans and 28 Dems). Eight Republicans voted yes on the bill which would increase housing density. The other bill has to do with allowing more homeless shelters.

Read more here:’s-legislation-enable-more-housing-density-sb-902-and


Where is Ms Arnold;whoops i found her.She was at a anti mask/freedom rally.This is the worst example of leadership.


“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.”…you forgot to add, former principal at RRM…a for profit, for development and urban sprawl outfit…LOL, Keith calling the pot black. Why leave your private sector career out of your CV? Isn’t that your more significant body of work?


Yes I was a Principal at RRM and proud of it. Spent most of my time there designing parks, waterfronts like Pismo Beach and Venice Beach, revitalizing downtowns, creating creek greenways, and saving open space. Thanks for asking…


I didn’t realized that you designed parks and waterfronts. I thought that was done by Jeff Ferber and the likes. I guess I mistakenly pegged you for the guy at the firm that mainly worked for developers getting urban sprawl projects approved, and that you opposed the new laws because they would allow State mandated higher densities in your precious SLO enclave. My bad.

BTW I don’t understand your Huizar example. What does that have to do with the new planning laws proposed at the State level? Isn’t that just feeble fearmongering? Huizar is a rotten apple and the Feds got him. I think that it would be easier for corruption and criminal element to thrive at the local level as opposed to the State level. Take your buddy Adam or your Mayoral opponent Heidi, both corrupt as it gets. So my point was, just come clean on why you oppose these laws. You don’t want the State to give cities the ability to increase housing density. I get it. Just say that.


Hey slocoruptiohater, working for a living, even in the “development world” is not a crime, is not immoral, and is a noble profession.


Where is Adam Hill?


I haven’t heard anything about this. Thanks for alerting people. I assume this is an extension of Sacramento’s demand of a few years ago that all california cities rezone a certain portion of the cities land as reserved

for low income housing, regardless of the wishes of the cities residents. Sacramento knows what’s best for you? Citizens must be controlled for their own good? Politicians always make sure they are insulated from decisions they make.

kevin rise

You dont have to look far Keith. Kelly Gearhart and John Wallace. What would be fascinating to read would be your opinion on all that foul play locally, and how Wallace engineering is still alive and well placing local bids.