Public Analysis Exercise

Public Analysis Exercise

Criteria 1: legality-Weight 33%

Any feasible policy must be legal meaning it does violate any of the constitutional rights or freedoms (Munger, 2000). However, taking the changing nature of laws, it is important to consider the consequences of the policy. In this case, the policy is to increases the creek setback from 20 to 35 feet. Legally, landowners have a right to their land, but again, such rights come with responsibilities. Just because property developers have a right to the land does mean that they have a right to interfere with the ecology of rivers and creeks affecting marine life. The Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo County (ECOSLO) sued the city, and this led to an agreement to increases creek setback from 20 to 35 feet.

Criteria 2: Political acceptability-weight 33%

Good policy must be politically acceptable or not unacceptable. Politically, unacceptability is a result of much opposition or too little support (Munger, 2000). When a policy is opposed by many people, it is politically unacceptable. The current policy is being opposed by landowners and property developers. However, advocates of environmental protection are in support of the policy. It is thus a clash between landowners and advocates of the environment.

Criteria 3: Improvability-weight 33%

The policy may sound good but fail in the implementation process. Thus, a policy must be robust in that even if the implementation is curbed with issues, the end outcomes still prove satisfactorily (Munger, 2000). In this case, those in charge of implementing the new setbacks may have self-interest which undermines the process.  However, the outcomes of the policy adopted must be satisfactory.


Set creek setbacks at 20 feet

One of the major alternatives that can be considered in this case is to have the creek setback remain at 20 feet. In that the 20 feet regulation is already in effect, continuing with this regulation will satisfy the rights of the landowners and the property developers but the trade-off is that the wildlife corridor may be affected. The ECOSLO had advocated for this policy to ensure that vegetation along rivers and creeks is protected in turn sustaining the life of animals. However, landowners see this as a government meddling in private property.

Set creek setbacks at 35 feet

Another alternative is to adopt the new regulation and set the reek setback at 35 feet. As argued by the ECOSLO, sufficient creek setbacks are a duty to wildlife which should be undertaken by all. Protecting all animals is a duty for all people and while the government recognizes the right of animals, protecting vegetation along creeks and rivers is significant for marine life. While it may not be politically acceptable to adopt this alternative, it is legal and would lead to improvability.

Abolish creek setbacks

Another alternative would be to abolish creek setbacks completely. This would definitely be supported by landowners and is open to legal interpretation. The trade-off is that this would completely destroy the vegetation around rivers and creeks thus affecting wildlife.









Criteria- Alternative Matrix (CAM)

Criteria   Setback at 20 Setback at 35 Setback abolished
Legality 40% 30% 30%
Political acceptability 60% 20% 20%
Improvability 30% 60% 10%


Values of alternatives


Rating =∑a1V1= a1V1+ a2V2+ a3V3------------ anVn


A=weight of criteria

V= values of alternatives measured by the satisfaction of the criteria

Setback at 20 feet = 0.33*0.4+0.33*0.6+0.33*0.3= 0.43

Setback at 35 feet = 0.33*0.3+0.33*0.2+0.33*0.6 = 0.36

Setback abolished = 0.33*0.3+0.33*0.6+0.33*0.1 = 0.33

The alternative with a higher value is allowing the creek setback to remain at 20 feet. Being the current regulation, it can be considered legal, politically acceptable and has improved things for the vegetation. This is the alternative which is at the centre of the clash between landowners and the advocates of the environment. While the landowners have traded-off the 20 feet of their land, the advocates of the environment have to trade-off their need for an increased setback. This alternative leads to both parties being partially satisfied and is better off as compared to other available alternatives.


Munger, M. (2000). Analyzing Policy: Choices, Conflicts, and Practices. New York: W.W. Norton.

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