By the Greater Antelope Valley Association of REALTORS, Board of Directors
On Saturday, September 27, the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission is conducting a hearing that could be of consequence to property owners in the unincorporated portions of Antelope Valley wishing to develop their properties.
The hearing will be held at the Antelope Valley College Performing Arts theatre at 10:00am. The location is 3041 W Avenue K. Lancaster, CA 93536.
Why is this meeting so important and why are we encouraging citizens to attend? Decisions made on the AV Area-wide Plan and draft environmental impact report will largely determine the Valley’s economic direction for decades. Of particular concern is what GAVAR, AVBOT and a Blue Ribbon Task Force see as ‘over-reaching’ in its designation of Significant Environmental Area’s (SEA’s) to the plan.
Los Angeles County, an area of approximately 4,083 square miles, is served by an oversight master policy document called the Los Angeles County General Plan. This document is used to guide future development and conservation throughout all the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. Within this umbrella plan, there are many “area plans” that further detail land use planning.
Much of north L.A. County is unincorporated and includes over two dozen communities. The Antelope Valley accounts for approximately 1800 square miles and, by area, accounts for approximately 44% of L.A County. Some 75% of the unincorporated area in L.A. County is located in the Antelope Valley. For this reason, area-wide plans and the rules derived from their adoption are of utmost importance to the region.
The existing Antelope Valley Area Plan (AVAP), called “Town & Country” was last adopted in 1986. A new area plan update is being developed to more accurately reflect regional growth, resource protection, state law, local ordinances and community vision.
While the AVAP has always had an overlay of SEA’s applied to approximately 250,000 acres, the new plan adds approximately 150,000 additional acres, designated SEA’s, over the current plan. This has only been shown on the AVAP map since June of this year, with no community meetings held since that time, to explain, discuss or obtain local input regarding the expanded boundaries. Further, too many other plans are undergoing review simultaneously to adequately review and comment in a timely manner. (Examples: AV Area Plan; Significant Ecological Area ordinance (SEA); Hillside Management Area ordinance (HMA); Renewable Energy Implementing ordinance (REI), Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) and the General Plan (GP) update).
For this reason we request the removal of expanded SEA boundaries from the AVAP maps and recommend that there should be no SEA overlays in EOA set asides. Indeed, we’d like the Department of Regional Planning and the Planning Commission to focus solely on the AVAP at this time and place a hold on all the above ordinances, pending plan approval by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.
So, what is an EOA? It’s an Economic Opportunity Area. By applying this designation to key sections of north L.A. County, we concentrate potential development, appropriately, in key areas while preserving the rural nature of the region. Roughly, the Economic Opportunity Areas correspond to the High Desert Corridor, the Fox Field Industrial Corridor and the northwest/Tejon corridor in L.A. County. Setting aside these EOA’s and exempting them from SEA’s is a balanced approach between preservation, appropriate growth and visionary land use planning.
We anticipate many fiscal ramifications or consequences if the current plan is adopted, as is. Preserving the Antelope Valley by ‘down zoning’ can have the effect of reduced property values, reduced tax roll revenues and reduced development opportunities. Further, complying with the new SEA’s will likely result in higher permitting costs and more complicated permitting procedures.
We acknowledge the complexity of the issue being discussed in this letter but feel the outreach by county officials, regarding the SEA maps on the AVAP, to date, has been wholly inadequate. But for the fact that the consequences can be significant for many property owners, this issue warrants a full and open hearing and far greater community input. The current plan, at its heart, seems to pit ‘property rights’ against ‘resource conservation’. There is no reason these two interests can’t be fully reconciled.
Once adopted, rules codified in both the General Plan and Area Plan will impose standards that many property owners in unincorporated areas will find surprising or cumbersome or both. For this reason we’re trying to apply the brakes. We understand and approve of wise land use planning. But there’s a difference between textbook planning and reality-based planning. At the least, issues and consequences should be fully vetted before implementation. The current schedule is not fully embracing that concept.
An old Japanese proverb notes that vision without action is a daydream, while action without vision is a nightmare. Our preferred course is vision and action in balance.
We encourage everyone to attend the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission hearing on Saturday, September 27.