Land use and planning issues, which have been upstaged by budget troubles, moved back into the spotlight Tuesday, and a neighborhood zoning dispute dominated the long meeting of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.
We agree with what the supervisors ultimately decided on a 3-2 vote to allow a small development of town homes on a site that had been zoned for what Del Rio is famous for, expansive lots, most of them a half-acre each.
With Chairman Bill O'Brien casting the deciding vote, the board overruled the planning commission and said that the Villas at Del Rio project can proceed. If and when it is built, there will be 18 units on 4.3 acres.
Del Rio residents were clearly divided on the proposal, with opponents arguing that the project should not be allowed because it differs from Del Rio's community plan adopted in 1992. That 20-year-old plan is outdated and out of sync with current housing demands in two ways. First, housing can be high end without being built on large lots. There are luxury condominiums and very nice houses on smaller lots as is evident in San Francisco and many cities.
Second, as a community we now recognize the advantage of neighborhoods that contain a variety of housing options, appealing to different age groups and interests.
On another land-use issue Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a revised housing element for the county general plan, but only after grousing that the state shouldn't be mandating housing quotas by local government. We agree that the Legislature puts some onerous demands on local agencies, but we also recall that until the real estate crash of a few years ago, Stanislaus County and most of its cities were doing a poor job of planning for low-income and very-low-income housing.
Just about the only benefit of the housing bust is that it has put owning a home within reach for more people at least those who have a job.
The state-required housing document is a tedious and time-consuming exercise and the current one is already out of date, even though it theoretically is good through 2014. But there is value in counties and cities doing periodic assessments of their housing inventories and then planning for what will be needed for the future. Here in the valley, that means being open to higher density housing developments as a way to preserve valuable farmland.