Council Pushing Forward with Far Reaching Farmland Protection Ordinance

Back in July, the council agreed to support a 2:1 agricultural mitigation for all development projects on the Davis periphery under all circumstances. The council voted at that time 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.

(See the July 12 20007 article for the full discussion at that point.)

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 by setting aside specific land into permanent mitigation.

The council also directed staff to return with modifications to the minimum mitigation ratio.

At last week’s meeting, Don Saylor, who was originally a skeptic of this proposal back in July, asked a series of tough questions about the need for the quarter-mile adjacent mitigation. Suggesting that it was not viable for farming in the size allotted by the ordinance.

According to Mitch Sears, Davis City Staffer, the idea of adjacency is to address the outward expansion of the city so that larger tracts of farmland are protected.

Don Saylor: “What is this ordinance titled?”

Mitch Sears: “Farmland Protection.”

Don Saylor: “But it’s really something else is what you just said. It’s not agricultural mitigation from what you just said–it’s something else. What was the word you just used?”

Mitch Sears: “Farmland protection.”

Don Saylor: “Earlier when you were describing the reason for the quarter-mile boundary–you said it was something other than agricultural mitigation.”

Mitch Sears: “The primary threat to farmland in the central valley is urban expansion…”

Don Saylor: “So it’s the urban expansion prevention ordinance?”

Mitch Sears: “We’re taking language from the general plan…”

From the General Plan:

“In order to create an effective permanent agricultural and open space buffer on the perimeter of the City… peruse amendments of the Farmland Preservation Ordinance to assure as a baseline standard that new peripheral development projects provide a minimum of 2:1 mitigation along the entire non-urbanized perimeter of the project.

The proposed amendments shall allow for the alternative location of mitigations for such projects including but not limited to circumstances where the project is adjacent to land already protected.”

Don Saylor: “So a permanent agricultural and open space buffer ordinance is what we’re talking about? Because it doesn’t seem like we’re preserving agriculture.”

At this point City Manager Bill Emlen stepped in:

“Obviously it’s got multidimensions to it. There is an agricultural land preservation component to it. Once again I think it gets down to the question about the importance of maintaining urban encroachment to preserve viable farmland.”

Don Saylor: “We’re exempting affordable housing and public use, what’s the rationale for exempting those uses if we’re preserving agriculture and we’re creating this permanent buffer against urban expansion, then are we saying some urban expansion is okay?”

Mitch Sears: “I think it was in recognition of Measure J that has similar exemptions.”

Don Saylor: “So some urban expansion is okay?”

Mitch Sears: “Yeah. The way that the ordinance is constructed doesn’t say that you can’t grow, you grow and there’s a cap essentially put on that next step of urban expansion. That was one of the basis for the general plan action and also for the way the ordinance was envisioned, constructed and analyzed.”

Councilmember Lamar Heystek was one of the chief proponents of this measure.

“We are situated in an agricultural landscape. I think it [this ordinance] makes votes under Measure J more of a balanced presentation. I think that some citizens may subconsciously support a Measure J decision knowing that we’re going to preserve more agricultural land in perpetuity than is being taken away. I think the 2:1 proposal that was presented originally in July was by far the strongest preservation ordinance that had ever been seen by any municipal government in the state. But with council having taken action to say that 2:1 was the absolute minimum that was an even farther leap forward and I commend the council taking that step. We will have the strongest agricultural mitigation ordinance and farmland protection ordinance in the state.”

Councilmember Heystek had previously described this ordinance among his most proud accomplishments of his first year on the council:

“I’m proud that I proposed and successfully fought for the passage of the strictest agricultural mitigation ordinance in the state – one that requires the preservation of two acres of ag land for every acre developed.”

Don Saylor continued to express concerns about this ordinance in his closing comments–however in the end he voted with the majority to pass the agricultural mitigation and farmland protection ordinance.

However, for those with a strong commitment to preserve viable agricultural and farmland this is an innovative and forward looking initiative that will enable us to preserve our agricultural heritage in the face of growth and urbanization pressures.

—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

128 comments

  1. “Suggesting that it was not viable for farming in the size allotted by the ordinance…..”

    Mich Sears responded clearly and directly to Councilman Saylor’s attack on Davis’ Agricultural Mitigation ordinance by stating that 1/4 mile is considered, by those who study the issue, as viable for agricultural activities.

    The southern 1/3 of the previous Covell Village site for development(commercial and affordable residential) with the 2/3 to the north as adjacent permanent agricultural mitigation seems to fit quite nicely into this ordinance.

  2. “Suggesting that it was not viable for farming in the size allotted by the ordinance…..”

    Mich Sears responded clearly and directly to Councilman Saylor’s attack on Davis’ Agricultural Mitigation ordinance by stating that 1/4 mile is considered, by those who study the issue, as viable for agricultural activities.

    The southern 1/3 of the previous Covell Village site for development(commercial and affordable residential) with the 2/3 to the north as adjacent permanent agricultural mitigation seems to fit quite nicely into this ordinance.

  3. “Suggesting that it was not viable for farming in the size allotted by the ordinance…..”

    Mich Sears responded clearly and directly to Councilman Saylor’s attack on Davis’ Agricultural Mitigation ordinance by stating that 1/4 mile is considered, by those who study the issue, as viable for agricultural activities.

    The southern 1/3 of the previous Covell Village site for development(commercial and affordable residential) with the 2/3 to the north as adjacent permanent agricultural mitigation seems to fit quite nicely into this ordinance.

  4. “Suggesting that it was not viable for farming in the size allotted by the ordinance…..”

    Mich Sears responded clearly and directly to Councilman Saylor’s attack on Davis’ Agricultural Mitigation ordinance by stating that 1/4 mile is considered, by those who study the issue, as viable for agricultural activities.

    The southern 1/3 of the previous Covell Village site for development(commercial and affordable residential) with the 2/3 to the north as adjacent permanent agricultural mitigation seems to fit quite nicely into this ordinance.

  5. This is really an important achievement. The adjacency mitigation ordinance is the first of its kind in the nation.

    The credit belongs to Mark Spencer, who introduced and developed this concept, and the activists who supported it. Mark and the citizen activists have been working tirelessly to get this proposal adopted for years.

    Although the required ag buffer which will be required to be adjacent to the city might not be wide enough to preclude jumping over it some day, it is an important step toward establishing a permanent edge and ultimate size for the city.

    During the Great Depression, the citizens of Berkeley and other East Bay cities voted to tax themselves to create a permanent open space buffer to define the edge of their cities. They realized that without it, Berkeley and Oakland would sprawl over the East Bay Hills into Contra Costa County. This permanent open space buffer is the East Bay Regional Park system.

    It is hard to imagine what the East Bay would look like today if housing subdivisions covered what is now the East Bay Regional Parks.

  6. This is really an important achievement. The adjacency mitigation ordinance is the first of its kind in the nation.

    The credit belongs to Mark Spencer, who introduced and developed this concept, and the activists who supported it. Mark and the citizen activists have been working tirelessly to get this proposal adopted for years.

    Although the required ag buffer which will be required to be adjacent to the city might not be wide enough to preclude jumping over it some day, it is an important step toward establishing a permanent edge and ultimate size for the city.

    During the Great Depression, the citizens of Berkeley and other East Bay cities voted to tax themselves to create a permanent open space buffer to define the edge of their cities. They realized that without it, Berkeley and Oakland would sprawl over the East Bay Hills into Contra Costa County. This permanent open space buffer is the East Bay Regional Park system.

    It is hard to imagine what the East Bay would look like today if housing subdivisions covered what is now the East Bay Regional Parks.

  7. This is really an important achievement. The adjacency mitigation ordinance is the first of its kind in the nation.

    The credit belongs to Mark Spencer, who introduced and developed this concept, and the activists who supported it. Mark and the citizen activists have been working tirelessly to get this proposal adopted for years.

    Although the required ag buffer which will be required to be adjacent to the city might not be wide enough to preclude jumping over it some day, it is an important step toward establishing a permanent edge and ultimate size for the city.

    During the Great Depression, the citizens of Berkeley and other East Bay cities voted to tax themselves to create a permanent open space buffer to define the edge of their cities. They realized that without it, Berkeley and Oakland would sprawl over the East Bay Hills into Contra Costa County. This permanent open space buffer is the East Bay Regional Park system.

    It is hard to imagine what the East Bay would look like today if housing subdivisions covered what is now the East Bay Regional Parks.

  8. This is really an important achievement. The adjacency mitigation ordinance is the first of its kind in the nation.

    The credit belongs to Mark Spencer, who introduced and developed this concept, and the activists who supported it. Mark and the citizen activists have been working tirelessly to get this proposal adopted for years.

    Although the required ag buffer which will be required to be adjacent to the city might not be wide enough to preclude jumping over it some day, it is an important step toward establishing a permanent edge and ultimate size for the city.

    During the Great Depression, the citizens of Berkeley and other East Bay cities voted to tax themselves to create a permanent open space buffer to define the edge of their cities. They realized that without it, Berkeley and Oakland would sprawl over the East Bay Hills into Contra Costa County. This permanent open space buffer is the East Bay Regional Park system.

    It is hard to imagine what the East Bay would look like today if housing subdivisions covered what is now the East Bay Regional Parks.

  9. Sue: Why don’t you give Lamar credit on this one–he was part of the early process on the Open Space Commission and then helped sheppard it through council getting Souza and Asmundson to join you guys?

  10. Sue: Why don’t you give Lamar credit on this one–he was part of the early process on the Open Space Commission and then helped sheppard it through council getting Souza and Asmundson to join you guys?

  11. Sue: Why don’t you give Lamar credit on this one–he was part of the early process on the Open Space Commission and then helped sheppard it through council getting Souza and Asmundson to join you guys?

  12. Sue: Why don’t you give Lamar credit on this one–he was part of the early process on the Open Space Commission and then helped sheppard it through council getting Souza and Asmundson to join you guys?

  13. What is this? A progressive blog or a blog to support the political machine of Bill Ritter and David and Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald? And how come these remarks that sound like they come from a particular political machine are never signed?

    Lamar has been great, but on this issue he was one of many activists who was working hard on this issue. This effort was well underway before Lamar became involved in Davis land use issues.

    In my opinion, this moment belongs to Mark Spencer.

  14. What is this? A progressive blog or a blog to support the political machine of Bill Ritter and David and Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald? And how come these remarks that sound like they come from a particular political machine are never signed?

    Lamar has been great, but on this issue he was one of many activists who was working hard on this issue. This effort was well underway before Lamar became involved in Davis land use issues.

    In my opinion, this moment belongs to Mark Spencer.

  15. What is this? A progressive blog or a blog to support the political machine of Bill Ritter and David and Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald? And how come these remarks that sound like they come from a particular political machine are never signed?

    Lamar has been great, but on this issue he was one of many activists who was working hard on this issue. This effort was well underway before Lamar became involved in Davis land use issues.

    In my opinion, this moment belongs to Mark Spencer.

  16. What is this? A progressive blog or a blog to support the political machine of Bill Ritter and David and Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald? And how come these remarks that sound like they come from a particular political machine are never signed?

    Lamar has been great, but on this issue he was one of many activists who was working hard on this issue. This effort was well underway before Lamar became involved in Davis land use issues.

    In my opinion, this moment belongs to Mark Spencer.

  17. The political reality is that without Lamar Heystek on the city council this effort would not have passed. Beginning with his service on the Open Space Commission and most importantly with his election to the city council in 2006 Lamar was a forceful and effective advocate for a 2:1 agricultural mitigation for all development projects on the Davis periphery under all circumstances. Lamar’s leadership working to secure the support of both Ruth Asmundson and Stephen Souza gave the measure the additional votes needed for passage.

    Surely, citizen activists such as Mark Spencer, Pam Nieberg, Eileen Samitz and many others deserve credit too, but again the political reality is without Lamar and his political skills this would not have been adopted.

  18. The political reality is that without Lamar Heystek on the city council this effort would not have passed. Beginning with his service on the Open Space Commission and most importantly with his election to the city council in 2006 Lamar was a forceful and effective advocate for a 2:1 agricultural mitigation for all development projects on the Davis periphery under all circumstances. Lamar’s leadership working to secure the support of both Ruth Asmundson and Stephen Souza gave the measure the additional votes needed for passage.

    Surely, citizen activists such as Mark Spencer, Pam Nieberg, Eileen Samitz and many others deserve credit too, but again the political reality is without Lamar and his political skills this would not have been adopted.

  19. The political reality is that without Lamar Heystek on the city council this effort would not have passed. Beginning with his service on the Open Space Commission and most importantly with his election to the city council in 2006 Lamar was a forceful and effective advocate for a 2:1 agricultural mitigation for all development projects on the Davis periphery under all circumstances. Lamar’s leadership working to secure the support of both Ruth Asmundson and Stephen Souza gave the measure the additional votes needed for passage.

    Surely, citizen activists such as Mark Spencer, Pam Nieberg, Eileen Samitz and many others deserve credit too, but again the political reality is without Lamar and his political skills this would not have been adopted.

  20. The political reality is that without Lamar Heystek on the city council this effort would not have passed. Beginning with his service on the Open Space Commission and most importantly with his election to the city council in 2006 Lamar was a forceful and effective advocate for a 2:1 agricultural mitigation for all development projects on the Davis periphery under all circumstances. Lamar’s leadership working to secure the support of both Ruth Asmundson and Stephen Souza gave the measure the additional votes needed for passage.

    Surely, citizen activists such as Mark Spencer, Pam Nieberg, Eileen Samitz and many others deserve credit too, but again the political reality is without Lamar and his political skills this would not have been adopted.