The Pine Cone's editorial of the week

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Imagine the arrogance!

Published: November 28, 2008

IF THERE were an Olympics for presumptuousness and haughtiness, the staff of the California Coastal Commission would win the Gold Medal every time.

Michael Phelps in Beijing, the 1927 Yankees, the 1995 Chicago Bulls and even the 1972 Miami Dolphins — none of them were as persistent, or as conceited, as the bureaucrats who sit in coastal commission offices in San Francisco and Santa Cruz, passing judgment on things which are none of their business and capriciously forcing local communities up and down the coast to do things which are just plain wrong.

The latest effort by the “experts” who collect paychecks from the coastal commission’s taxpayer-funded bank account could be the lamest of them all.

Almost two years ago, the Carmel City Council passed an ordinance that would grant a few minor exceptions to the town’s famously strict zoning code to facilitate the construction of low-cost apartments in town.

Of course, Carmel is one of the state’s most charming coastal villages. And it got that way, thank you very much, without the slightest bit of help or advice from any state bureaucrats. Even in recent years, while there have been increasing squabbles about development issues in town, they have all been within the confines of very strict limits. For example, when you hear people complaining about mini-mansions being built in town, they are referring to 1,800-square-foot houses on 4,000-square-foot lots — a limit which has been on the books for decades. And, while quite a few property owners have made use of the 1,800-square-foot limit, nobody is calling for it to be increased. Nobody.

Truly, the people of Carmel don’t need any out-of-towners telling them how precious their town is, or what they should do to protect it.

So when the city council decided that minor zoning exceptions were in order to help out low-income seniors, that decision should have been given great deference by anyone looking in from the outside. Since it was made after due deliberation by the elected representatives of the people who live in Carmel, the zoning exceptions should be presumed to be good for the town, and should only be overturned under extreme circumstances — for example, if it were discovered that the council members who voted for it were bribed.

But coastal commission planners don’t show deference to anybody. When they look at the “coastal zone,” they see a vast plantation of which they are the unquestioned master.

So when the city’s proposed ordinance on affordable housing reached their desks, they looked it over and asked themselves, “Do WE think this is a good idea?” And then, without any logical justification whatsoever, they rendered their answer: No. From on high came word that slightly loosening the building standards for the sake of affordable housing would be a threat to Carmel’s “character ....” As if coastal commission planners who live somewhere else have any idea what that is.

One word they understand perfectly is the word “power.” The city council has been told to heel, which it will probably decide to do.

When will the Legislature put an end to this abuse?