The County has adopted a new Los Angeles County General Plan as of October 6, 2015. Click here to be directed to the County website for the Plan.
The LVTC's submitted the following letter to L.A. County in regard to the proposed Plan. It is presented here to help everyone understand the viewpoint of Leona Valley residents as represented by LVTC.
August 14, 2013
Richard Bruckner, Director
County of Los Angeles
Department of Regional Planning
320 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, California
Re: Town & Country
Dear Mr. Bruckner:
The Leona Valley Town Council is very appreciative of the time and expertise devoted by Los Angeles County Regional Planning to the development of the Town & Country Plan. After more than 170 outreach meetings performed by the Planning Department since 2007, we feel that we have been included in the entire process since the beginning and have had every opportunity to have our voice heard. The draft plan matches very closely with our desire to preserve our rural community and way of life.
Leona Valley has a long history of protecting our rural life style. We have fought several housing developments, city influences, power lines, increased traffic, sidewalks, and asphalt paving over dirt road shoulders. Presently, we are disappointed with the emphasis that has been placed on the Blue Ribbon Committee. This group claims to have been personally appointed by Supervisor Antonovich. While it is admirable that a group of business professionals, large landowners and groups that would benefit from strong growth have come together to create their own version of a plan, the County scoping process and the input obtained through this process seem to be in danger of being ignored or de-emphasized.
Our preliminary review of the Blue Ribbon Committee changes to the proposed Town & Country Plan reveals an increase in overall density that cannot be supported by the resources that presently exist. Land use planning must consider the available resources. How many dwellings can the Antelope Valley support based on water resources alone? According to Los Angeles County Waterworks District No. 40, water supply assessments done for individual projects and the Antelope Valley Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, there is not currently sufficient total water capacity available in light of current consumption patterns. The ongoing water adjudication case must also be considered. The BRC suggestion of doubling the density originally proposed by Regional Planning will create an untenable situation in light of the limited water availability.
There are other infrastructure concerns to be considered. Waste facilities must be provided for the increased housing. New roads must be added for the increased traffic. More County services will be required, including law enforcement, fire protection, schools, Public Works, etc. This will necessitate higher property taxes, leading to higher housing costs for all residents. Regional Planning has proposed limiting density in order to avoid these problems. They also have addressed the issues of disaster relief and environmental desecration. Adding more buildings and infrastructure will obviously destroy the land. Biodiversity will disappear as wildlife and birds die or leave the area. Denuded landscapes lose their ability to transport water to recharge aquifers, worsening the problem of water scarcity.
Furthermore, while aiming to reduce “sprawl” this BRC plan in some aspects not only increases sprawl, but will further weaken economic conditions they claim to wish to strengthen. The market price of land is pushed upward by speculation, high demand, and dwindling supply. The price of land can also escalate through land fragmentation, which is a problem in some areas of Antelope Valley, and can result in a significant constraint on housing production. Land fragmentation, which was originally allowed by inadequate regulation of land subdivisions in the past, often resulted in parcels that are uneconomical or difficult to develop because of size, inadequate access, or scattered ownership.
The problem is most acute on the east and west side of the Valley, where fragmented areas adjacent to existing development hamper logical urban expansion. Often, these areas are “skipped over” in favor of land further away from the urban core, encouraging “leap-frog” development and urban sprawl. The result is that developers incur greater costs from infrastructure extensions, the County incurs greater costs for providing services and these costs are passed on to the potential buyers in the form of higher housing prices. While lower land costs on the urban fringe may initially offset some of the increased development costs, land fragmentation and sprawling land use patterns will ultimately result in higher housing prices and higher costs to the community who must serve these developments.
The Antelope Valley real estate market has always exhibited exaggerated boom and bust cycles. This occurs because of uncontrolled growth with residential subdivisions being built beyond the population of a boom cycle. Generally, in an economic boom a temporary increased population moves to the Antelope Valley, only to return to the Los Angeles Basin upon the realization of distance, employment and other factors. In the decline cycle, these homes are often left vacant, which drives down the real estate market pricing by 50% or more, allowing these homes to be purchased by investors as rental properties. With the most recent well pronounced collapse, prices have dropped sufficiently low in a down cycle to allow for persons living on government assistance to qualify for a mortgage loan and purchase a house in the Antelope Valley. These factors have resulted in an area that is over-burdened with non-owner occupied dwellings, Section 8 housing, and a population that is more dependent on local government resources. Planning for higher densities, while not curbing uncontrolled growth, will further deteriorate this area and will result in an increased degradation of the Antelope Valley in the bust cycle. Housing should be built to the mean population, not the temporary boom population, in order to achieve better economic stability for the Antelope Valley. A proposal to increase densities will not help with the present boom and bust cycle.
This is also true of the commercial and industrial planning that is presently taking place. The Blue Ribbon Committee supports new and expanded economic opportunity areas, those locations where new or expanded industrial and commercial zoning will take place. But when one area is expanded or created, another area meets demise, resulting in higher vacancy rates, blight, and a physical deterioration of another location. Presently, the commercial vacancy rate is excessive in the Antelope Valley. Some cities in the County of Los Angeles have a permitting system that protects from this type of cycle, by attaching an area vacancy rate to the issuance of a commercial or industrial construction permit. Once the vacancy rate is below 3% (a rate indicating a strong market) a permit can be issued for new construction.
Throughout the Antelope Valley there are areas of commercial blight and abandonment in favor of “new” locations, even within the same community. This will be exacerbated if additional opportunity locations are introduced while failing to address the issue of the high vacancy rates and the resultant blight and deterioration of neighborhoods and commercial/industrial centers in the Antelope Valley. The proposed locations of the BRC’s Economic Opportunity Areas are particularly problematic as they are widely dispersed across the valley and in areas where there is little or no current development. This will result in increased traffic with the expected resultant noise, air pollution and congestion. New industry in these previously undeveloped areas will eliminate agricultural uses, destroy scenic integrity and intensify the recent dust issues. Government Code 65589.5(c) states: “it is the policy of the state that development should be guided away from prime agricultural lands; therefore, in implementing this section, local jurisdictions should encourage, to the maximum extent practicable, infilling existing urban areas.”
When the BRC was first formed, we were told that they would be addressing land use issues with the “island areas”, i.e., those locations outside of a defined Community Standards District. We were shocked to discover that our own area has a BRC proposed density that is double what was presented by County Planning through the community outreach process in which numerous residents participated. While the BRC indicated they would correct the map for Leona Valley, this complete disregard for the autonomy of the communities of the Antelope Valley and the input of community members is not appreciated and gives us great concern for future proposals presented by this group. Furthermore, some who are members of the BRC could personally benefit economically by their own proposed changes, which results in a lack of independence and balance in their “process”. As such, we cannot support the actions of the Blue Ribbon Committee at this time, but will review future proposals as we do with all land use projects that affect our area.
While the BRC is not completely done with their own Plan for the Antelope Valley, we can address our concerns as it pertains to our own expertise in this Valley. Densities should not be doubled in the most rural sections of the Valley. If “sprawl” is to be eliminated, it can be done through clustering of housing closer to the urban centers that are contiguous to Palmdale and Lancaster; while reducing densities in the most rural areas and those areas that lack sufficient physical resources. Agricultural uses should be expanded in the rural areas as well as programs which offer development off-sets for agricultural and environmentally sensitive habitat areas. This would make these properties more valuable while encouraging a critically needed level of protection that will enhance this Valley for generations to come.
Long term economic and feasibility issues (aka: Highest and Best Use) should be addressed. With a likely continued contraction for manufacturing in California, including the potential relocation of much of the aerospace industry, there should be a vision in totality for the commercial and industrial land uses in this Valley. How unfortunate it was when the City of Palmdale and the City of Lancaster each constructed an auto mall. The result, two weak auto malls instead of one flourishing zone. There are presently large manufacturing zones in both Palmdale and Lancaster, a great amount of which is undeveloped. Portions of improved properties remain vacant or under-utilized after prior Enterprise Zone funds have dissipated. Yet, the Blue Ribbon Committee supports an expansion in existing industrial areas and the introduction of new commercial and industrial zones, which will compete directly with several abandoned or under-utilized locations in the Valley. In-fill of existing areas should occur first. A contingency plan should be in place should Lockheed relocate or should Los Angeles Worldwide Airports release back thousands of acres of land in the east Antelope Valley that had been acquired through the eminent domain process but was never developed.
We encourage all groups and individuals to make comments on the Town and Country Plan. This is part of the democratic process. But we do not want two sets of plans. The County Plan was crafted with direct participation over a long period of time through an extensive scoping and outreach process that we appreciate. We have no problem with an individual or a group making recommendations; however, we do not want the process hijacked and the years of public participation squashed by a new coalition that does not represent everyone.
A completely separate second BRC plan for the Antelope Valley will further burden the unpaid community volunteers who are already studying and reviewing one complex plan presented by the County. It is also the responsibility of every Town Council to represent their own community and constituents should the County plan fall short in comparison to what their town had originally agreed to through the outreach process. It is not the job of an outside group to perform this task for them. Many of the proposals as currently presented by the BRC will harm the rural integrity of our Valley. This is something we cannot tolerate or condone. The BRC plans should not in any way be considered supported by the community of Leona Valley at this time.
The County of Los Angeles Regional Planning Department has done an exemplary job of outreach for the new Plan over the past decade. They have had meetings year after year throughout all of the communities and have met directly with all of the Town Councils and residents in the Antelope Valley. We applaud the County for its continued inclusive approach and hope that the input of hundreds of individuals over many years is not ignored.
We do support the County of Los Angeles Regional Planning Department. Their outreach, professionalism and sensitivity to our rural communities have not gone unnoticed. We would appreciate a continued balanced approach to the solutions via the land use planning process that includes not only the powerful economic forces of this Valley, but the voice of the small town, the individual and those who seek to protect the unique environmental, rural and other resources in this area.
Leona Valley Town Council
Cc: Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich
Senator Steve Knight
Assemblyman Steve Fox
Association of Rural Town Councils
Blue Ribbon Committee
Mitch Glaser, DRP
Thuy Hua, DRP
Jon Sanabria, DRP