Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Brea: "Property Rights" or "Protection and Preservation"?

Hmmm... I noticed this in today's OC Register, and it's making me think:

Landowners in the hills of Brea blasted the idea as too restrictive.

A majority of speakers during Tuesday's public hearing applauded it as an overdue step toward preservation.

And as of late Tuesday, the City Council had not reached consensus on new zoning laws that would slash the number of homes that could be built in Brea's Carbon Canyon region – more than 1,100 acres east of the Orange (57) Freeway.

So would Brea be limiting property owners' rights by limiting the amount of homes that they are allowed to build along the hillsides of Carbon Canyon? Or would Brea simply be taking a common sense step toward preventing a terrible tragedy like the Laguna Landslides of 2005 from happening in their community?

Follow me down below for more on this debate over property rights, public safety, and hillside preservation...

(Cross-posted at Calitics)

So what is this really about? According to our favorite right-wing blogger, Jon Fleischman, this is all about the Brea City Council infringing on people's property rights. Here's what he wrote yesterday on OC Blog:

Tonight the members of the City Council in Brea will face a rather straight forward vote on whether they support private property rights, or not. Before them is a proposal that is, in polite terms, a 'taking' of the property rights of many property owners in Brea. To be more blunt, there is a zone change coming before these Councilmembers that, if passed, would severely restrict the number of homes that can be built on properties than can currently be built, according to existing standards. In the wave of an arm, or rather the press of a button, these Councilmembers may Lord over these property owners, and literally reduce the value of their land by a huge sum.

Oh, really? So is the city of Brea obligated to respect the "property rights" of a few over the safety and well-being of the larger community? Maybe the city needs some sensible standards in order to prevent Carbon Canyon from becoming the next Bluebird Canyon. From yesterday's Register:

City leaders say they have no obligation to ensure a landowner can make a profit; their obligation is to safety and public demand for preservation.

"We're trying to set some realistic, specific standards so they know exactly what they can build," Councilman John Beauman said. [...]

Supporters of the new regulations say it gives teeth to the goals of the city's 2002 General Plan, which calls for future development in the core of Brea while limiting building in the hillsides.

During 2002 hearings, hundreds of residents spoke out, demanding that the city do all it can to preserve the land that separates Brea from sprawling developments in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Brea officials said recent landslides in Laguna Beach and Anaheim Hills are examples of what can go wrong when steep slopes are overdeveloped. New regulations would determine the number of homes allowed based on the grade of the slope – the steeper the slope, the fewer the homes.

As we saw in June 2005 in Laguna, a great amount of damage can be done when we humans mess with Mother Nature and overdevelop these steep hillsides. So perhaps, the city of Brea does have an interest here in protecting residents from this type of catastrophe.

And oh yes, what about all the other residents in Brea? What if they'd like to see some of their hills remain hills, and not just become sprawling McMansion tracts like much of the rest of the region? Hmmm... I guess their "rights" aren't as important as the "property rights" of a few rich developers, at least according to the folks at OC Blog.

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