Where Is Local Control?

Where Is Local Control?

Local control of land use in California is in jeopardy.

The State of California is usurping local communities’ ability to handle matters relating to building heights, zoning, and housing density (houses per acre).

Livable California, a group formed in early 2018, is creating coalitions with like-minded community leaders, elected city officials, and partnerships with statewide organizations.

The goal that brings these people together is to strengthen local control, within a context of regional planning and funding driven by locally-identified problems and solutions.

Local control isn’t perfect, but among everyday people bottom-up problem-solving is preferable to top-down state mandates.  Local control has a greater capacity to shape solutions than the adversarial, stymied, one-size-fits-all approach currently advocated by big business and Sacramento.

Occasionally, local planning tools have been used inappropriately. But throwing out such tools does not justify the use of state mandates or regional governmental regulations.

In community hands, these tools rely on local planning departments and elected city councils to engage stakeholders, conduct public meetings, issue progress reports, and measure results.  Local officials live in close proximity to their decisions and witness their consequences.  State and regional bureaucrats are generally located in far away offices.

Cities are not blame-free. Some have approved massive commercial construction without encouraging adequate housing. Instead of tackling their own workforce-housing balance, some cities expect nearby communities to house their 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. commuters.

The crisis we face is the systematic effort to dismantle local control and replace it with unelected, regional bureaucracies.

At the state level, there is a rush to pass more draconian legislation, like the dozen or so housing bills passed in 2018, piled on top of the 14 housing bills passed in 2017.

The crisis is believing the mantra “we have to do something.”  The crisis produces legislation that benefits a few, while jeopardizing the majority.

The crisis results in legislation that increases the financial burden on cities without calling it what it is — an unfunded mandate.

The crisis is a threat to democracy.

Susan Kirsch is the founder of Livable California, a coalition designed to build bridges among local elected officials, volunteer leaders, and Sacramento legislators. ν

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