County misplanning in Los Olivos

Los Alamos is in the midst of a development blunder aided by our own county planning department. This can happen to any small town, or any neighborhood within a city. 

A builder seeks to develop an acre-and-a-half lot that is bordered by three roads. He may build as many as 11 dwellings. One of the potential access roads has long

provided a safe and quiet place for walking and jogging, pushing infants in strollers, young children riding tricycles and bikes, and folks walking with a cane or in a wheelchair. This road is also, however, the easiest and most profitable choice for the developer.

How has our P&D department handled the permitting process? County transportation experts first downplayed or sought to ignore the one-lane bottleneck on this road. It would experience greatly increased traffic and corresponding risk for accident and injury. The transportation planning supervisor then stated that he was not concerned, as “liability is covered by design immunity as long as we follow adopted county/federal standards and guidelines.” 

Rather than try to understand the community, or call for a traffic study, the planner simply opened the Traffic Engineering Handbook, turned to a general formula, and plugged in some numbers to generate an answer.

The planner further assumed only one new home on each of the parcels within the lot. Zoning here, however, allows for as many as three dwellings on each parcel. So again, his conclusions grossly underestimate the number of vehicles and resulting traffic problems.

County planners ought to pay more attention to realities on the ground and to the interests of existing residents. They need to respect the unique characteristics of a street or a neighborhood and avoid damaging the fabric of communities. 

There may well be pressure from Sacramento for our county to expand the housing stock. There are, though, several other lots in our town that are more suitable for multiple home development.

Seth Steiner

Los Alamos