Deep in the heart of John Steinbeck country, city folks, rural folks, farmers, businesses and everyone in between are still waging dubious battle over control of Monterey County land. After an 11-year process, a general plan update was unanimously approved by the county's Board of Supervisors on October 26.
Orange County is known for its miles of tract homes, car traffic and a booming economy. Much of that growth is due to the work of the Irvine Company, which has shaped a swath of the central county through its control and development of 93,000 acres that were once one of California's great ranches.
It's a saga straight out of the Rust Belt: auto giant closes its factory, laying off nearly 5,000 auto workers, and leaving behind an aging structure and contaminated site of 370 acres. Businesses throughout the region, which supply parts to the factory, also take a hit.
One of the least scenic ways to visit Napa Valley is to enter from the south, through the industrial zone between the cities of American Canyon and Napa. The congested traffic and office parks near Highway 221 are a long ways from the idyllic pastoral stretches to the north.
Salinas is the blue-collar workhorse of Monterey County and the center of a wealthy agricultural region. But unlike its sister cities on the nearby Monterey Peninsula, Salinas has a downtown that is devoid of upscale restaurants and boutique hotels.
Although it is home to the National Steinbeck Center, a museum honoring the Nobel laureate and Salinas resident John Steinbeck, downtown Salinas has never taken off. Instead, the community has sprawled out on the fertile farmland that surrounds it.
Residents of the Riverside County city of Temecula, which has been among the state's fastest growing cities for 20 years, have run into some growth they do not want. City leaders and local residents are opposing a proposed quarry located one mile south of the city limits near the San Diego County line.
The Navy closed Moffett Naval Air Station in 1994, and, at first, some buildings sat empty. But now, given the right economic conditions, Moffett is poised to be a national model of base reuse with various parts serving as a business incubator, business park and research university. Collectively, those projects could add as many as 4,000 residences, more than 2,000 students and upwards of 5,000 employees to the former base.
Although freeways have helped shape the development of California, very few new freeways have been built since the 1980s. The focus has instead been on widening existing freeways, and adding carpool and transit lanes. But in Riverside County, where construction and development are major economic drivers, county officials are trying to add a new east-west freeway.
San Diego County has been a national leader in habitat conservation planning, setting aside areas where rare and endangered species can thrive in the midst of ongoing development. Now, 12 years after a plan for the southern, inland part of the county was adopted, a second habitat plan has been released, this time for the inland North County.
Little Italy is one of San Diego's most popular neighborhoods today. In some ways a high-priced residential district with an Italian theme, Little Italy also provides an example of what a city can do to restore a down-on-its heels area. Twelve years ago, few had heard of this area north of downtown San Diego. But since the late 1990s, the area has grown and prospered.