But there seems to be a problem on the GPUSC that has been developing over the past few months. The first truly significant divide between the 5 original members and the 4 new ones. Or at least a couple of the new ones. And that is what many consider to be the shimmering crown jewel of the General Plan, the grandly entitled "Land Use Element."
To bring the elephant out into the open, it is the part of the General Plan that just about everyone is concerned about. There are some other good and valued things for sure, but none so carefully watched as the Land Use Element. It is where preservation either gets preserved, or development gets developed. There really isn't much middle ground here. And as such it is sure to be the source of much chat and blog fodder when The 9 roll up their sleeves and get down to it.
And here is the issue. If you go back to the Environmental Impact Report of the 1996 General Plan (which is the one currently in effect), you will get to read some pretty shocking stuff about Land Use. Very not so Sierra Madre type things that will either have you scratching your head in wonder or recoiling in horror as if from an evil incarnate. Which I am here today to say it is.
Here is what the 1996 EIR has to say about the Land Use language in the General Plan of that very same year:
Impact 5.7-1: By the year 2015, the population (of Sierra Madre) could increase by 12,450 from the 1990 estimate of 10,732 residents to a theoretical capacity of 23,212.
Of course, if you're going to have an additional 12,450 folks move into town, you're going to have to build them a whole lot new places to live. Which is the point, I suppose. Here is what the 1996 EIR has to say about that:
Impact 5.7-2: By the year 2015, up to 5,224 dwelling units could be added to the City's housing stock under the theoretical capacity...
Now nobody wants 12,450 new people moving here, nor would anyone wish to see our picturesque village destroyed by the construction of over 5,000 new structures in a town that covers a rather petite 3 square miles. We'd prefer that things remain pretty much as they are. What we have always known as Sierra Madre would never quite look the same, and could end up making Pasadena look like a country retreat.
So certainly all 9 members of the General Plan Update Steering Committee, publicly proclaimed small town slow growth preservationist stalwarts all, would want to excise this nasty relic of the DSP era from the body of our new and soon to be living General Plan. It is not what Sierra Madre wants now or at any other time.
Unless, of course, you are a member of the Downtown Investors Club. Or one of their enablers on the City Council. Because a General Plan that would call for development this immense would pretty much set our town up for what they have always wanted, which is exploiting Sierra Madre and its good name for their own personal enrichment. It was the planning foundation for the Downtown Specific Plan, as it will be with whatever it is Mosca and Buchanan want to hook to all that new water infrastructure. After they sell a few bonds, of course.
Yet somehow the General Plan 9 never seems to get around to getting this job done. And, sad as I am to say it, the division appears to be between the original 5 members, and at least a couple of the more recent appointees to the Committee. The 5 original members had been working on getting the job done when their 4 new colleagues joined the GP conga line.
But you know what? Every time the Land Use Element comes up now, these couple of new members do whatever they can to delay its consideration. Certainly this would be the best time to work on it because interest in civic affairs in Sierra Madre seems to be on the uptick, and having as many people as possible involved could help to save this town from becoming just another generic adjacent Gold Line settlement.
If you were a cynical soul you might even suggest that certain mega-development advocates could be working to shift Land Use deliberations over to this summer when everybody is at the beach and won't be around to see what is going on.
There is a General Plan Update Steering Committee meeting this evening at City Hall. If you happen to be there and you'd like to take a moment to speak at the podium, might you suggest that the GPUSC get cracking on the Land Use Element thing now? Ask them what's going on with the delays.
I mean, why not just get down to doing the one thing that everyone is concerned about?