Community Planning – Case Study: Corralitos, California

Posted on Freedom Advocates on October 12, 2004

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In the name of “protecting” and “enhancing” our neighborhoods, community planners and local busybodies are fanning out all over the country to change our towns and neighborhoods. They call it “visioning”.

Santa Cruz County, CA – An existing town that has excited the interest of community planners is the small town of Corralitos, located in an unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County, California. The Corralitos Valley Community Plan follows the same guidelines and values as groups like the Congress for New Urbanism and the Smart Growth Network whose stated goals are to reshape our values from an individual rights-oriented society to a “community” or collective rights society. “Visioning” plans use psychological and physical cueing designed to make residents change their views on the social value of private property and submit to rules and regulations of conformity required for a “community rights” oriented society to evolve.

Corralitos is a quirky little town with a long tradition of “live and let live” as a community value. In Corralitos, you’ll find tiny, one-bedroom cottages on postage stamp sized lots as well as large chateau-like estates, California ranch-style family homes, and geodesic domes. One neighbor might show off his home with a meticulously landscaped garden; another, not caring to commit to a weekly routine of lawn mowing and raking, has no garden or lawn at all. Corralitos is presently about as far as a community can get from the design and character conformity planners have built into such communities as Fair View Village.

As different as these neighbors are from one another in the style of their homes or gardens, visitors do not come away from Corralitos without remarking on its character and charm. In addition to the wide variety of homes that exist in Corralitos there are also popular retail businesses and productive farms. But, for all the pleasure and freedom Corralitos affords its residents, the town is under fire from the county government to approve a community plan that the community has had little to do with.

County government officials — using public/private partnerships with the City and Regional Planning School of California State University and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like the Corralitos Valley Community Council — are driving the development and approval of a community plan. The planners, true to their training, have held facilitated meetings to create a “consensus based” plan for the town. The planners claim their intention is to preserve the character of the town of Corralitos. By design, the plan as written will force homeowners to capitulate to the planner’s vision of a rural community lifestyle, with very specific restrictions on landscaping materials, home designs, and property usage.

The Corralitos Community Plan covers nearly every aspect of life in Corralitos. The small group of individuals vested in developing the plan has complaints and instructions for residents covering transportation, lighting, parks, business, watersheds, viewsheds, and gardening. Examining just a few pages of the plan turns up some amazing criticisms of life in Corralitos. Here are a few characteristics of the town that are problems in the eyes of the planning committee:

The plan complains that “the construction of some buildings on private lands has detracted from the scenic qualities of the valley”. This implies that the community planners do not care about the economic or pleasurable use of private property by individual property owners. Instead all use must meet the collective approval of the planners and the “stakeholders” they have selected to sit on the Corralitos Valley Community Council.

The plan states there must be “compatibility between current and future buildings or structures and local design character”. This statement implies that Corralitos has a design character, and that a homogenization of design must occur for Corralitos to retain its character.

“Existing community buildings do not and outdoor public places do not have any shared design elements.” It is curious that a plan purporting to develop community character complains that there isn’t any conformity in the community design elements. One wonders; does a community with character require community buildings and outdoor public places to look alike? Is collectively inspired visual harmony more important than a property owner’s right to control the design and cost of his building?

The planners attack local businesses in their plan. “Some commercial facilities have design features that are not in harmony with the Corralitos community.” Planners expect existing businesses to redesign their facilities — at their own expense — to meet an unknown design criteria determined by “stakeholders” who claim to have a right to control the property of others.

Signs in the area do not display the correct style and type. That is, the planners complain that signs for businesses are too varied. Each and every business in Corralitos displays signage that identifies the type of business conducted and at a cost that is determined by the owners of the business. Yet the planners would require all businesses to use their guidelines for signage, regardless of whether it is customary or appropriate for the business, and the cost of which must be borne by large and small businesses alike.

The planners further propose to restrict use of private property in Corralitos in the following ways:

  • Driveways in new developments must be shared — private drives must be eliminated.
  • Fencing materials must be made of field stone, wood, recycled simulated wood or wrought iron. Chain link fencing is not allowed.
  • Driveways must be paved with salt rock, engineered gravel, bricks or pavers. Asphalt or other economical materials are prohibited.
  • Planners suggest that only native plants be used in landscaping on private property.

Each of these elements forces a monotonous uniformity on Corralitos property owners and will raise the cost of owning a home or business there because property owners will have to pay to conform, driving away affordability. Other proposals in the plan affect the rights of property owners to privacy and force some owners to allow hikers and walkers access to their property.

In a town that has thrived on “live and let live”, this new way of community design imposes a value system that is in direct opposition to the desires and lifestyles of the residents of Corralitos. The community plan has turned out to be a collectivist vision for the town that flies in the face of the individualism and respect for private property that was once the hallmark of a free America.

The plan for Corralitos has been in the works for several years now. When first presented with the plans, Corralitos residents vociferously defended their community against the visual homogenization and collective oversight of private property by the non-elected Corralitos Valley Community Council. As a result, the planners took their plan underground, denying residents access to their meeting times and to the “data” they have collected. Many residents of Corralitos may be unaware that this plan is still active, and that at some point in time, probably without public notice, it will be presented to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors for incorporation into the Santa Cruz County General Plan.

Corralitos is clearly a desirable place to live. Placing restrictive covenants on property owners, as suggested in the plan, will not make Corralitos a better place to live. Instead, the planners will make Corralitos conform to every other village and town that use “smart growth” designs. Once these plans become part of the General Plan, the County can begin to enforce them on the residents, against their will. As a result, the town will no longer be a unique community that reflects the individuality and character of its residents. With this community plan, Corralitos is on track to become just another passenger on the “smart growth” train to the land of bland.

Corralitos is one of several towns in Santa Cruz County with community plan development under way. Planners may not have discovered your town yet; it is just a matter of time before they do. The Federal government has become the machine of Sustainable Development and its legions, the well funded foundations and local politicians, are working hard to bring these unique forms of social control, smart growth and community plans to your town.

Community Planning – Case Study: Corralitos, California by Susanna L. Jennings

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