Plan to Preserve Ag Buffer Around the City Contains a Key Loophole

Those who read the Davis Enterprise’s coverage of the agricultural mitigation item missed a great deal of several key aspects of the council’s actions. First there was the work of Councilmember Lamar Heystek to bring both Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson and Councilmember Stephen Souza on board in supporting a 2:1 mitigation for all projects under all circumstances. There was also the key fight for adjacent mitigation whereby the council voted to support an adjacent buffer of one-quarter mile next to all developments regardless of whether that adjacent mitigation would exceed the 2:1 prescribed ratio. However, the council majority also exempted agricultural projects of less than 40 acres from adjacent mitigation.

For the sake of simplicity, there were two separate concepts introduced in this item. The idea behind mitigation is that any development along the periphery of Davis would require the developer to concurrently set aside twice as many acres to be protected and preserved as agricultural land. Crucial to the agricultural protection is the notion of adjacent mitigation, which means that there would be a quarter mile designated buffer zone along any development that would be designated as a protected land that would have a permanent designated land-use of agricultural. The idea here is that with that buffer zone, you reduce the possibility of developing the next parcel of land and therefore prevent leap frog development and urban sprawl.

In addition to the adjacent mitigation there would be another strip of land protected somewhere else that along with the adjacent strip would account for twice the acreage of that developed. So if you had a 100 acre parcel for development, you would have to mitigate for a total of 200 acres, part of that would be a quarter mile strip adjacent to your developed property and the rest could be wherever you could secure such mitigation within the planning zone.

The idea here is that as you develop outwards, you create a permanent urban limit line. Now Councilmember Saylor recommended that there be a sunset to this proposal. He argued that this would protect against any unforeseen consequences from this policy. However, that proposal died for lack of a second. The majority in this case argued that the council already would be able to change the ordinance if so needed, and that there was no need to sunset the law.

Councilmember Saylor accused Councilmember Heystek of making an 11th hour change here:

“I’m concerned that our ordinance should be targeting preserving of agricultural land in specific location where the quality is the best land possible, to secure it forever, I’m really interested in doing that, and overemphasizing the adjacency without a 20 or 50 year plan I think is not good. I was willing to balance that with the proposal that was here before us, because it was weighed carefully, through a deliberative process that included voice from all the stakeholders. I’m willing to vote for the ordinance as it has been presented to us in most respects, but this deviation is an 11th hour change that I’m troubled by. So I can’t vote for this.”

Councilmember Heystek strongly rebutted Mr. Saylor’s charge that this is an 11th hour change by reading the motion that was unanimously approved by Open Space Commission “not at the 11th hour but on March 7, 2005.”

They passed the following,

“in the rare instance that more than the 2:1 mitigation acreage is required to create the adjacent mitigation area, the project shall be required to require more than the required 2:1 mitigation acreage to satisfy the adjacent mitigation requirement of this chapter.”

Councilmember Heystek went on to explain that the “notion of 2:1 is not an 11th hour revelation,” instead it is something that has been in the process for a number of years. The delay of bringing this forward was due to the overlap of issues due to Covell Village.

As discussion proceeded, the rest of the council became more steadfast in their support for minimum 2:1 mitigation under any and all circumstances while continuing to support the priority of adjacency of the remaining mitigation. Finding Saylor voted against the project and was on the short end of a 4-1 vote. However, in the aftermath of the vote, a secondary discussion developed Councilmember Saylor backed off, switched his vote, and eventually joined the majority.

The irony about the 11th hour charge by Councilmember Saylor is that staff in the middle of the meeting passed out a handout with key amendments to the proposal—not at the 11th hour but rather at the 13th hour. Davis Open Space Coordinator, Mitch Sears, introduced the idea of exempting projects from adjacent mitigation that were less than 40 acres without any sort of notice to the council. This last-minute maneuver incensed Councilmember Heystek.

When pressed on the issue by Councilmember Heystek, Mr. Sears admitted,

“It’s not a staff proposal…. We heard from several different councilmembers… that there was a possible interest in looking at… addressing smaller projects”

Several was actually two—Councilmembers Souza and Saylor.

One of the key small projects that was exempted was the Wildhorse Horse Ranch project. What this means is that with the exemption, the Horse Ranch would not be required to have adjacent mitigation—a one-quarter mile agricultural buffer around it–that would have effectively prevented the development of the adjacent property.

This brings up the question as to why you would need to exempt small projects from having a buffer?

Councilmember Saylor reintroduced discussion of the exemption for small projects a few hours after Mr. Sears initially presented the staff recommendation for an exemption. Then Councilmember Souza moved to exempt small projects. The motion eventually passed by a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson, of course, joining her allies Councilmembers Souza and Saylor on this vote.

By exempting the Wildhorse Ranch Horse Ranch project from the requirement for adjacent mitigation, the Council majority supported the creation of a more substantial easterly city limit in this quadrant, starting from the northeast corner of the existing Wildhorse development all the way down to the southeast corner of the Wildhorse ranch project at Covell Blvd. By allowing this lengthened border absent any adjacent mitigation, it seems that the Council majority wants to facilitate future urban development on the agricultural land adjacent to the non-urbanized edge of the Wildhorse Ranch project, which is owned by Steve Gidaro.

It appears then that agriculture preservation won a key battle with the council voting to maintain a minimum of a 2:1 mitigation ratio and an adjacent mitigation buffer zone regardless of whether or not that buffer zone exceeded the 2:1 ratio. However, it was a mixed victory as it appears that the exemption, which was passed by the Council majority of Souza, Saylor, and Asmundson, was done so for the specific purposes of protecting key supporters and leaving the door open for them but not others to have future peripheral development.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Land Use/Open Space

72 comments

  1. “If this happens, it doesn’t make any difference who is elected to the Davis City Council…..”

    I wouldn’t count on the born-again populist image that Council candidates Saylor and Souza are attempting to “sell” to the Davis voters. If they pull this off, no one should harbor any illusions about how quickly they will shuck their “lambs clothing”

    My comment to the above quote from Bill Kopper’s posting,outlining his reasons for a recall threat against Yamada and Thomson, is also relevant here.

  2. “If this happens, it doesn’t make any difference who is elected to the Davis City Council…..”

    I wouldn’t count on the born-again populist image that Council candidates Saylor and Souza are attempting to “sell” to the Davis voters. If they pull this off, no one should harbor any illusions about how quickly they will shuck their “lambs clothing”

    My comment to the above quote from Bill Kopper’s posting,outlining his reasons for a recall threat against Yamada and Thomson, is also relevant here.

  3. “If this happens, it doesn’t make any difference who is elected to the Davis City Council…..”

    I wouldn’t count on the born-again populist image that Council candidates Saylor and Souza are attempting to “sell” to the Davis voters. If they pull this off, no one should harbor any illusions about how quickly they will shuck their “lambs clothing”

    My comment to the above quote from Bill Kopper’s posting,outlining his reasons for a recall threat against Yamada and Thomson, is also relevant here.

  4. “If this happens, it doesn’t make any difference who is elected to the Davis City Council…..”

    I wouldn’t count on the born-again populist image that Council candidates Saylor and Souza are attempting to “sell” to the Davis voters. If they pull this off, no one should harbor any illusions about how quickly they will shuck their “lambs clothing”

    My comment to the above quote from Bill Kopper’s posting,outlining his reasons for a recall threat against Yamada and Thomson, is also relevant here.

  5. As this article makes clear, Saylor and Souza remain in the pockets of the developers. Their developers. Oh sure, they are opposed to the encroachment by the county because they would encroach on their own turf, but we need to be clear here, the Souza/ Saylor faction sold out to Gidaro who helped elect them in the first place when he sunk Harrington and Forbes.

  6. As this article makes clear, Saylor and Souza remain in the pockets of the developers. Their developers. Oh sure, they are opposed to the encroachment by the county because they would encroach on their own turf, but we need to be clear here, the Souza/ Saylor faction sold out to Gidaro who helped elect them in the first place when he sunk Harrington and Forbes.

  7. As this article makes clear, Saylor and Souza remain in the pockets of the developers. Their developers. Oh sure, they are opposed to the encroachment by the county because they would encroach on their own turf, but we need to be clear here, the Souza/ Saylor faction sold out to Gidaro who helped elect them in the first place when he sunk Harrington and Forbes.

  8. As this article makes clear, Saylor and Souza remain in the pockets of the developers. Their developers. Oh sure, they are opposed to the encroachment by the county because they would encroach on their own turf, but we need to be clear here, the Souza/ Saylor faction sold out to Gidaro who helped elect them in the first place when he sunk Harrington and Forbes.

  9. The “dark underbelly” of local politics, which is Vanguard’s mission to expose, is that land speculators/developers have the financial power to corrupt our local politics. Measure J and the concept that the DAVIS VOTERS will decide what its future will look like,as encompassed in the Pass-Through agreement, are our last bulwark against this onslaught. We need to stand and defend it with all means at our disposal.

  10. The “dark underbelly” of local politics, which is Vanguard’s mission to expose, is that land speculators/developers have the financial power to corrupt our local politics. Measure J and the concept that the DAVIS VOTERS will decide what its future will look like,as encompassed in the Pass-Through agreement, are our last bulwark against this onslaught. We need to stand and defend it with all means at our disposal.

  11. The “dark underbelly” of local politics, which is Vanguard’s mission to expose, is that land speculators/developers have the financial power to corrupt our local politics. Measure J and the concept that the DAVIS VOTERS will decide what its future will look like,as encompassed in the Pass-Through agreement, are our last bulwark against this onslaught. We need to stand and defend it with all means at our disposal.

  12. The “dark underbelly” of local politics, which is Vanguard’s mission to expose, is that land speculators/developers have the financial power to corrupt our local politics. Measure J and the concept that the DAVIS VOTERS will decide what its future will look like,as encompassed in the Pass-Through agreement, are our last bulwark against this onslaught. We need to stand and defend it with all means at our disposal.

  13. See what is so insidious about this vote is that it leaves open future development. If we keep having Measure J votes, we’ll lose some of them as we lost Target. Our resources are more limited than theirs. Developers can bankroll their campaigns. We rely on sweat and toil and grassroots money, we do not have the resources to compete regularly. We need to retake the council so we don’t have to keep having these fights. It is that simple.

  14. See what is so insidious about this vote is that it leaves open future development. If we keep having Measure J votes, we’ll lose some of them as we lost Target. Our resources are more limited than theirs. Developers can bankroll their campaigns. We rely on sweat and toil and grassroots money, we do not have the resources to compete regularly. We need to retake the council so we don’t have to keep having these fights. It is that simple.

  15. See what is so insidious about this vote is that it leaves open future development. If we keep having Measure J votes, we’ll lose some of them as we lost Target. Our resources are more limited than theirs. Developers can bankroll their campaigns. We rely on sweat and toil and grassroots money, we do not have the resources to compete regularly. We need to retake the council so we don’t have to keep having these fights. It is that simple.

  16. See what is so insidious about this vote is that it leaves open future development. If we keep having Measure J votes, we’ll lose some of them as we lost Target. Our resources are more limited than theirs. Developers can bankroll their campaigns. We rely on sweat and toil and grassroots money, we do not have the resources to compete regularly. We need to retake the council so we don’t have to keep having these fights. It is that simple.

  17. I see this went to the Open Space Commission, but did it go to the Planning Commission too? What was their take on it?

    Possible issues include:

    1.Less affordable homes in the areas that developed on the periphery because purchasing a buffer is required, which itself is expensive.

    2. While it may effectively deter development on the periphery, it may increase pressure for infill development at even higher densities.

    We can’t ignore the housing needs in this community.

    These are just thoughts off the top of my head. I do think it should have gone to the Planning Commission prior to Council. But then again, I haven’t been following this particular issue closely.

    We talk about “bad” developers, but who’s going to build the affordable housing we need and say that we want? We may be solving one problem by exacerbating another.

  18. I see this went to the Open Space Commission, but did it go to the Planning Commission too? What was their take on it?

    Possible issues include:

    1.Less affordable homes in the areas that developed on the periphery because purchasing a buffer is required, which itself is expensive.

    2. While it may effectively deter development on the periphery, it may increase pressure for infill development at even higher densities.

    We can’t ignore the housing needs in this community.

    These are just thoughts off the top of my head. I do think it should have gone to the Planning Commission prior to Council. But then again, I haven’t been following this particular issue closely.

    We talk about “bad” developers, but who’s going to build the affordable housing we need and say that we want? We may be solving one problem by exacerbating another.

  19. I see this went to the Open Space Commission, but did it go to the Planning Commission too? What was their take on it?

    Possible issues include:

    1.Less affordable homes in the areas that developed on the periphery because purchasing a buffer is required, which itself is expensive.

    2. While it may effectively deter development on the periphery, it may increase pressure for infill development at even higher densities.

    We can’t ignore the housing needs in this community.

    These are just thoughts off the top of my head. I do think it should have gone to the Planning Commission prior to Council. But then again, I haven’t been following this particular issue closely.

    We talk about “bad” developers, but who’s going to build the affordable housing we need and say that we want? We may be solving one problem by exacerbating another.

  20. I see this went to the Open Space Commission, but did it go to the Planning Commission too? What was their take on it?

    Possible issues include:

    1.Less affordable homes in the areas that developed on the periphery because purchasing a buffer is required, which itself is expensive.

    2. While it may effectively deter development on the periphery, it may increase pressure for infill development at even higher densities.

    We can’t ignore the housing needs in this community.

    These are just thoughts off the top of my head. I do think it should have gone to the Planning Commission prior to Council. But then again, I haven’t been following this particular issue closely.

    We talk about “bad” developers, but who’s going to build the affordable housing we need and say that we want? We may be solving one problem by exacerbating another.

  21. Brian in Davis said “We talk about “bad” developers,…”

    Developers, like corporations, are not inherently bad. If WE make the rules and stand fast against corruption of that system, they can still “do their thing”.

  22. Brian in Davis said “We talk about “bad” developers,…”

    Developers, like corporations, are not inherently bad. If WE make the rules and stand fast against corruption of that system, they can still “do their thing”.

  23. Brian in Davis said “We talk about “bad” developers,…”

    Developers, like corporations, are not inherently bad. If WE make the rules and stand fast against corruption of that system, they can still “do their thing”.

  24. Brian in Davis said “We talk about “bad” developers,…”

    Developers, like corporations, are not inherently bad. If WE make the rules and stand fast against corruption of that system, they can still “do their thing”.

  25. Developers, like corporations, are not inherently bad. If WE make the rules and stand fast against corruption of that system, they can still “do their thing”.

    This is an easy and vague answer to a more difficult question. They can’t “do their thing” when WE put up roadblocks in every direction. When every available parcel for development is resisted by this community.

    Too dense, not dense enough, too expensive, preserve farmland, infill, too much traffic, too tall, changes the character, not creative enough, etc. etc.

    When the community cannot decide realistically and rationally how it wants to deal with housing needs and growth pressure, it will continually find itself in a reactive mode. It’s one thing to claim that “WE make the rules”, but it’s clear what this community says it wants and development it is willing to support are mutually exclusive.

  26. Developers, like corporations, are not inherently bad. If WE make the rules and stand fast against corruption of that system, they can still “do their thing”.

    This is an easy and vague answer to a more difficult question. They can’t “do their thing” when WE put up roadblocks in every direction. When every available parcel for development is resisted by this community.

    Too dense, not dense enough, too expensive, preserve farmland, infill, too much traffic, too tall, changes the character, not creative enough, etc. etc.

    When the community cannot decide realistically and rationally how it wants to deal with housing needs and growth pressure, it will continually find itself in a reactive mode. It’s one thing to claim that “WE make the rules”, but it’s clear what this community says it wants and development it is willing to support are mutually exclusive.

  27. Developers, like corporations, are not inherently bad. If WE make the rules and stand fast against corruption of that system, they can still “do their thing”.

    This is an easy and vague answer to a more difficult question. They can’t “do their thing” when WE put up roadblocks in every direction. When every available parcel for development is resisted by this community.

    Too dense, not dense enough, too expensive, preserve farmland, infill, too much traffic, too tall, changes the character, not creative enough, etc. etc.

    When the community cannot decide realistically and rationally how it wants to deal with housing needs and growth pressure, it will continually find itself in a reactive mode. It’s one thing to claim that “WE make the rules”, but it’s clear what this community says it wants and development it is willing to support are mutually exclusive.

  28. Developers, like corporations, are not inherently bad. If WE make the rules and stand fast against corruption of that system, they can still “do their thing”.

    This is an easy and vague answer to a more difficult question. They can’t “do their thing” when WE put up roadblocks in every direction. When every available parcel for development is resisted by this community.

    Too dense, not dense enough, too expensive, preserve farmland, infill, too much traffic, too tall, changes the character, not creative enough, etc. etc.

    When the community cannot decide realistically and rationally how it wants to deal with housing needs and growth pressure, it will continually find itself in a reactive mode. It’s one thing to claim that “WE make the rules”, but it’s clear what this community says it wants and development it is willing to support are mutually exclusive.

  29. “They can’t “do their thing” when WE put up roadblocks in every direction. When every available parcel for development is resisted by this community.”

    Bingo. *They* keep contributing to the problem by continuing to propose massive developments that do not provide housing that is affordable. Covell Village would have no reduced the costs of housing because it was adding in 600K houses with a small number of limited equity units as required by ordinance. That is not going to solve the problem. Neither are any of the three that are being proposed by the county.

    I WANT the citizens to put up roadblocks, because otherwise we get the SOS and MOS from these developers.

  30. “They can’t “do their thing” when WE put up roadblocks in every direction. When every available parcel for development is resisted by this community.”

    Bingo. *They* keep contributing to the problem by continuing to propose massive developments that do not provide housing that is affordable. Covell Village would have no reduced the costs of housing because it was adding in 600K houses with a small number of limited equity units as required by ordinance. That is not going to solve the problem. Neither are any of the three that are being proposed by the county.

    I WANT the citizens to put up roadblocks, because otherwise we get the SOS and MOS from these developers.

  31. “They can’t “do their thing” when WE put up roadblocks in every direction. When every available parcel for development is resisted by this community.”

    Bingo. *They* keep contributing to the problem by continuing to propose massive developments that do not provide housing that is affordable. Covell Village would have no reduced the costs of housing because it was adding in 600K houses with a small number of limited equity units as required by ordinance. That is not going to solve the problem. Neither are any of the three that are being proposed by the county.

    I WANT the citizens to put up roadblocks, because otherwise we get the SOS and MOS from these developers.

  32. “They can’t “do their thing” when WE put up roadblocks in every direction. When every available parcel for development is resisted by this community.”

    Bingo. *They* keep contributing to the problem by continuing to propose massive developments that do not provide housing that is affordable. Covell Village would have no reduced the costs of housing because it was adding in 600K houses with a small number of limited equity units as required by ordinance. That is not going to solve the problem. Neither are any of the three that are being proposed by the county.

    I WANT the citizens to put up roadblocks, because otherwise we get the SOS and MOS from these developers.

  33. I’m a little fuzzy on the details but I believe that the open space tax that we pay every year was supposed to be used to purchase open space on the periphery of Davis. Since developers effectively blocked this from happening by an unwillingness to sell land that they see as a valuable investment, the adjacent buffer will help in achieving the long-time desire of the Davis voters.

    My question is: Won’t the developers just develop their land piecemeal (in 40 acre increments) to avoid this open space dedication of their property?

    I don’t know why Saylor believes that this idea of an adjacent buffer of dedicated open space is a new thing. I don’t understand why he would vote against it. This has been discussed over and over again for years as something that the City wanted. The Vanguard’s description of the sequence of events seems to indicate that he did know about Lamar’s motion far enough in advance to be able to give direction to staff to thwart the intended effects of the motion.

  34. I’m a little fuzzy on the details but I believe that the open space tax that we pay every year was supposed to be used to purchase open space on the periphery of Davis. Since developers effectively blocked this from happening by an unwillingness to sell land that they see as a valuable investment, the adjacent buffer will help in achieving the long-time desire of the Davis voters.

    My question is: Won’t the developers just develop their land piecemeal (in 40 acre increments) to avoid this open space dedication of their property?

    I don’t know why Saylor believes that this idea of an adjacent buffer of dedicated open space is a new thing. I don’t understand why he would vote against it. This has been discussed over and over again for years as something that the City wanted. The Vanguard’s description of the sequence of events seems to indicate that he did know about Lamar’s motion far enough in advance to be able to give direction to staff to thwart the intended effects of the motion.

  35. I’m a little fuzzy on the details but I believe that the open space tax that we pay every year was supposed to be used to purchase open space on the periphery of Davis. Since developers effectively blocked this from happening by an unwillingness to sell land that they see as a valuable investment, the adjacent buffer will help in achieving the long-time desire of the Davis voters.

    My question is: Won’t the developers just develop their land piecemeal (in 40 acre increments) to avoid this open space dedication of their property?

    I don’t know why Saylor believes that this idea of an adjacent buffer of dedicated open space is a new thing. I don’t understand why he would vote against it. This has been discussed over and over again for years as something that the City wanted. The Vanguard’s description of the sequence of events seems to indicate that he did know about Lamar’s motion far enough in advance to be able to give direction to staff to thwart the intended effects of the motion.

  36. I’m a little fuzzy on the details but I believe that the open space tax that we pay every year was supposed to be used to purchase open space on the periphery of Davis. Since developers effectively blocked this from happening by an unwillingness to sell land that they see as a valuable investment, the adjacent buffer will help in achieving the long-time desire of the Davis voters.

    My question is: Won’t the developers just develop their land piecemeal (in