for the OP and question on seed viability…
you can germinate old seed. for stubborn seeds, try either Giberellic acid or a mild salt peter solution. Some peppers germinate well after this treatment. Covered germination trays work well(use indirect sun)
for soil–I think you said you lived in SoCal? Use this site to find out what type of soil you have so you can add the proper amendments :http://casoilresource.lawr.ucdavis.edu/soilweb/
Visit the Derveas Urban farm if you can. Great inspiration. They grow most of their food except for grains.