Letter against planning by developer written guidance packages approved in secret

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water
3105 Yorkshire Lane
Modesto CA 95350

County of Merced
2222 “M” Street
Merced, CA 95340
(209) 385-7654
(209) 726-1710 Fax

Dee Tatum
Chief Administrative Officer

Robert Lewis
Director of Planning and Economic Development

Ruben Castillo
County Counsel

Merced Co. Board of Supervisors
dist1@co.merced.ca.us etc.

Re: Item # 53 on April 11 Board meeting agenda

Dear Supervisors,

We would like to register our objections to Item # 53, General Plan Amendment Policy and Procedures during the General Plan Update Process, and direction on how property-owner sponsored General Plan Amendment applications should be treated during the General Plan update process.

Our objections include but are not limited to:

· It is unclear what guidance packages are or how they will be used; however, guidance packages cannot be used as a substitution for an adequate and updated General Plan, because they have undergone a public review process or environmental review under California Environmental Quality Act
· This is piecemeal development
· It goes against the direction of the existing, outdated General Plan
· It streamlines the conversion of agricultural land
· The need today is to update the General Plan before proceeding with growth
· The procedures surrounding this policy and procedure violate public process
· This policy and procedure invites development to define the next General Plan
· Public testimony on this policy and procedure at the Feb. 14 board meeting is not reflected in the nearly identical April 11 proposals or in a staff report, which both proposals entirely lack
· This policy and procedure violates the Lesher Consistency Rule under California Environmental Quality Act and is an open invitation to inconsistent planning
· The General Planning Steering Committee has violated and continues to violate the Brown Act (please see attachment) in direct, specific ways including but not limited to being unable to obtain steering committee minutes or agendas at the front desk of the Board office or being able to obtain a file on the steering committee at the front desk of the Planning Department (copies of request forms submitted at public hearing).

Because of these fundamental flaws in the proposal presented in Item 53 of the April 11 board agenda, we urge the board to take no action or adopt the Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning.


Lydia M. Miller
Steve Burke


Interested parties

Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

We call for a moratorium on County General Plan amendments, variances, minor sub-divisions changes to existing projects, zoning changes, and annexations of unincorporated county land by municipal jurisdictions, MOU’s and developments with private interests and state agencies, until a new County general Plan is formulated by a fully authorized public process – and approved locally and by the appropriate state and federal agencies.
The continual process of piecemealing development through amendments, willfully ignoring the cumulative impacts to infrastructure and resources, for the benefit of a small cabal of public and private special interests, is illegal and reprehensible conduct on the by elected and appointed officials of local land-use authorities.
We also call for a permanent moratorium on indemnification of all local land-use jurisdictions by private and public-funded developers.
Indemnification is the widespread, corrupt practice in which developers agree to pay for all legal costs arising from lawsuits that may be brought against their projects approved by the land-use authority -- city or county. Without having to answer to the public for the financial consequences of decisions made on behalf of special interests, local land-use authorities can be counted on to continue unimpeded their real policy: unmitigated sprawl, agricultural land and natural resource destruction, constant increases in utility rates, layering of school and transportation bonds on top of property taxes, and the steady erosion of the county's infrastructure.

Adopted 2006

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
Merced River Valley Association
Planada Association
Le Grand Association
Communities for Land, Air & Water
Planada Community Development Co.
Central Valley Food & Farmland Coalition
Merced Group of Sierra Club
Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge VernalPools.Org
California Native Plant Society
Stevinson Citizen’s Group
San Bruno Mountain Watch
San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers


Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders.

P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341

Relevant Provisions of the Brown Act
§ 54953. Requirement that meetings be open and public ...

(a) All meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency, except as otherwise provided in this chapter...

Joiner v. City of Sebastopol (1981), 1st Dist. 125 Cal App 3rd 178 Cal Rptr 299
... The exclusion from the definition of"legislative body" under former Gov C § 54952.3, of a committee composed solely of membersof the governing body of a local agency which were less than a quorum of such governing body,had no application under the circumstances.

San Diego Union v City Council (1983, 4th Dist) 146 Cal App 3d 947, 196 Cal Rptr 45.
Although a charter city has complete control over its municipal affairs and has direct constitutional power to determine the compensation of its officers and employees (Cal. Const., Art. XI, § 5, subds. (a), (b)), the Brown Act (Gov. Code, §§ 54950 et seq.), requiring open meetings of the city council when salaries of nonelected city officers or employees are discussed and determined, does not impermissibly infringe in any manner upon this authority. Rather, the procedural nature of the Brown Act's guaranty all meetings of a governmental body be open to the public unless expressly exempted by statute, designed to eliminate much of the secrecy surrounding the deliberations and decisions on which public policy is predicated, addresses a genuine and pure matter of statewide concern...