This blog is devoted to the non-urban areas of California which, thanks to the internet and Covid-19, are experiencing the effects of a relocating work force from California’s urban centers to its exurbs and rural communities. The resulting changes go well beyond the obvious like the increased demand for more electric vehicle charging stations. They also include a seismic shift at how local governments, even very rural communities, relate to its citizens.
Until now, many rural communities have taken a “less is better” approach to regulating the citizenry. As chronicled by noted planner and sociologist Dr. E. Ambler, these are communities where open carry is the rule, mandatory masks are a function of fake news, and log hauling trucks rely on a noisy ‘jake brake’ and no one complains. Dr. Ambler explains: “It’s not just that these new residents are pricing the locals out of the housing market. I am also predicting a significant shift in planning and political values as well.”
Sociologists and planners call it the RYPTIDE Effect, otherwise known as “Relocating Young Professionals with Transformative Ideas and Democratic Evolvement.” As these young professionals are appointed to planning commissions or are elected to local office, they look at life through an new lens that is often foreign to longtime residents of these communities. These young professionals are the source for what is viewed by legacy locals as “radical thinking” that tests the boundaries of local political norms. Dr. Ambler cites to a handful of real-world examples to make his case for the pending seismic shift that is fundamentally altering these locals’ way of life:
- A central valley community’s proposed ordinance which defines and restricts “filter” coffee to describe “coffee created through the use of a filter suitable only for a single 6 oz cup of coffee.” This ordinance resulted in the wholesale disposal of hundreds of restaurant coffee pots and coffee makers. Urban archaeologists studying landfills two thousand years from now will likely describe this gastronomic shift as the end of the “Coffee Pot” period.
- A north coast county’s ordinance mandating all cell towers be designed to represent a majestic redwood or oak, as appropriate for the locale, as well as the mandatory co-location of electric vehicle charging stations at the base of every cell tower.
- Numerous public comment periods during city council meetings all over the state have repeatedly been devoted to complaints over the difficultly of obtaining appropriately ripened avocados in local grocery stores.
- Several north state communities have adopted general plan policies designed to “promote upscale retail” by prohibiting dollar discount stores and requiring stores selling hard goods to devote 35% of its shelf space to goods manufactured and directly imported from Europe (e.g., Italian shoes, Paris fashions, and Irish whiskey.)
- One southern desert community located within an hour from Coachella has amended its general plan and zoning code to create the first ever “luxury car dealership zone,” where the only allowed uses are new car dealerships for BMW, Land Rover and Tesla. A Lexus dealership is also allowed with the approval of a conditional use permit when supported by special findings. Two other communities have since followed suit, with a third establishing an ad hoc committee to consider whether its ordinance should also include an option for an administrative use permit for Mercedes Benz.
Planners really do not know how long RYPTIDE will last. Will these new residents simply pick up and migrate out of state or return to their urban roots after a year of remote living? Will they assimilate with the locals by wearing plaid and driving a Subaru Outback? Dr. Ambler notes that our society may now be experiencing another effect of technological advancement, something akin to a societal version of Moore’s Law. “Societal changes normally evolve over decades, but we may now be witnessing the conversion into ever increasing, time-compressed periods of upheaval that are unlike anything that western civilization has ever previously experienced,” he said. “If the speed of change continues as is predicted, locals may not even recognize their hometown in as little as twenty-four months from now. I shudder to think what could come to fruition by 2030.”
When he is not playing the guitar or mandolin, or frustrating himself to no end with learning the banjo, William W. Abbott is Of Counsel at Abbott & Kindermann, Inc. For questions relating to this article or any other California land use, real estate, environmental and/or planning issues contact Abbott & Kindermann, Inc. at (916) 456-9595.
The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice by Abbott & Kindermann, Inc., or the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Because of the changing nature of this area of the law and the importance of individual facts, readers are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.