Sub-Surface Notes 


digging down

What is below the surface here? Why did the BOCC take the conversation about density off the discussion table? How many visitors or residents know the tortuous route taken by politicians responsible for the Plan during the period 1994-1998 when it was signed? How many know that a handful of citizens thought the final Plan was so bad that they chose to spend uncountable hours challenging the Plan as in egregious violation of GMA, and won, over and over, against SJC's essentially unlimited (your tax dollars) resources? How many know what was at stake then, and, most importantly, what is at stake now? (Hint: the stakes are the same, only now much higher).

The interested reader can peruse the details of the chronological unfolding of what could be easily characterized as a train wreck at any level of detail. Some fundamentals remain, so a review of the past would not be a waste of time. For example, SJC still must adhere to the 14 principles of GMA. Citizens are more informed today and recognize that unguided and essentially unrestricted growth has serious negative financial, environmental, social and carrying capacity consequences in addition to violating the very concept of the Vision that took over a year to craft. Even so, there is virtually no written material on the sub-texts, the Sub-Surface motivations that led the county decision makers to so tenaciously defend the CP regardless of their continued losses before the courts?

13 years ago, a letter to the editor gave a short, powerful summary of the problem. Essays have been written, songs have been referenced.

It would be easy, and possibly accurate, to see where we are as a combination of obvious forces. On the citizen's side, there is lack of awareness, denial, a feeling of powerlessness, lack of information, and understandable confusion and conflicted motivations. The consequence of these forces might appear to be apathy: don't learn, don't write, don't ask, don't push. On the Council side, there is the likely desire to be popular (so as to be re-elected and to avoid negative publicity), to not rock the boat, to kick the tough cans down the road, to be distracted by spot fires and ignore the forest fire, to actually not know what to do when a rock meets a hard place. Leadership is a very rare commodity these days; it requires very tough skin.

The result of these forces is often to "leave well enough alone"; some phrase it as "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Unfortunately, the basically unwritten history here does not support "well enough" or "good". SJC created it's first ever Plan in 1978. On the Surface, this sounds good. A conversation with locals living here long enough to remember it reveals a Sub-Surface characterization as a bloody battle. When the Plan was up for renewal and revision in 1992 under GMA, the "density" issue was taken off the table, so whatever was produced was a carry-forward of what no one actually knew: a buildout population that was not only a violation of the Vision Statement and GMA, but essentially a physical impossibility given carrying capacity considerations. Some of this became revealed in the litigation, but that whole process, expensive and divisive, was damage control, not wise planning. No one really won, nor was the county left with anything wise.

Going forward, we should heed the lessons from the past and craft something really smart. Whether we have the cojones to do this will depend on the success of a new dance between Bedrock and Heart.