A leader in the battle for local control over development

T. Keith Gurnee was an urban planner for four decades, working in California communities up and down the coast.

Gurnee, originally from Atherton,  wanted to be an architect when he started college at Cal Poly in the 1960s. He quickly felt he could have a greater impact on a community by becoming an urban planner. His projects helped re-design the waterfronts of Pismo Beach, Morro Bay and Avila Beach.

Now, in a busy retirement, he’s become a board member of Livable California, a statewide grassroots, slow-growth movement fighting for local local control over development decisions. Gurnee writes position papers and lobbies lawmakers to protect the rights of cities in the midst of the housing crisis.

To pro-growth and housing advocacy groups, Livable California is the embodiment of statewide NIMBY-ism. For Gurnee, the fight is over the self-determination of cities.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Q: How did you get involved with Livable California?

A: The state started talking about taking over zoning and imposing a top-down, one size fits all to planning for future growth in every city in California. I really felt that was a huge overreach, and very deleterious to the diversity of communities in California to try to impose one size fits all on cities that are very different from each other.

That really concerned me. I was invited to the (four-member) board in May 2018. I do a lot of the writing of letters and expressing concerns about state legislation and what the unintended consequences could be.

Q:  What are your concerns about the unintended consequences of the state taking a more active role in zoning decisions?

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A: The state is totally unprepared to accommodate the level of growth that they’re talking about. We live in a drought stricken state.

We  got out of a 5 year drought about a year or two ago. The state has never completed the state water project to have the infrastructure necessary to support that kind of growth. To go ahead and blindly say we need 3.5 million new houses — is absolutely wrong.

The state’s just not prepared. Neither are the cities. Targeting single-family neighborhoods for high density development, when they were designed and developed with infrastructure to support low density — the local infrastructure won’t be able to support that.

The water, sewer, traffic — there’s far better places to be putting higher density development than in the middle of single family homes.

Q: What housing measures concerned you this year in Sacramento?

A: Sacramento has approved, in the last 3 years, 64 housing bills, none of which address the real problem — the lack of affordability. They’re all geared for producing high end market rate housing, and not addressing the need to find a way of giving people who are of less means to be part of the American Dream of owning a home in a safe neighborhood.

The problem is, it requires money. The state’s partly to blame for this crisis and they’re trying to blame to local governments. They’re taking away the self-determination of local governments, which is …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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