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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Will LAFCO Changes to Davis' Sphere of Influence Open the Door to Growth on the Periphery?

Lost in the shuffle was a report in the Davis Enterprise that Davis' sphere of influence would be reduced by LAFCO.

In the Davis Enterprise article this is presented as a means to "preserve more prime agricultural land."

Claire St. John of the Davis Enterprise writes:
"'The changes from the existing SOI, adopted in 1988, reflect the likely boundaries and best growth areas for the city,' the consultant, PMC, wrote in a report. 'The primary differences between the 1988 adopted SOI and the proposed SOI include the removal of several prime agricultural areas, moving the university property within the 10-year SOI and adjustment of areas to reflect where growth is likely.'

A reduction of about 400 acres is proposed, most of which is prime agricultural land. The proposal also includes some re- jiggering to reflect where Davis is likely to grow in the future."
However before this can be approved, there will be a public process and a discussion of at the February 26, 2008 Davis City Council Meeting. This discussion takes place two weeks after the discussion of Davis' one percent growth rate.

The article suggests both Davis Supervisors are concerned about the new boundaries.
"Thomson and Yamada, who also serve as Yolo County supervisors, said they would prefer to see the sphere of influence stretch more to the west of Davis where services such as a hospital, nearby grocery store and other amenities already exist. To include those lands could give Davis more control of its growth and avoid having development forced on it as happened with Mace Ranch.

'By failing to include that property, the city was caught off guard,' Yamada said.

'The question in 1986 was if Davis was taking its fair share of growth,' Thomson added. 'Some people didn't think so and they ganged up and Davis has been paying for it every since. You don't have to grow to the sphere. It's just that that's what you evaluate when you look at annexation.'"
The larger concern however, might be the fact that if areas are not included in the sphere of influence, they might not be covered under the pass-through agreement. That means that the county might have a greater ability to develop on Davis' periphery or close to Davis' periphery under a new arrangement.

Councilmember Stephen Souza, an alternate on LAFCO is quoted in the Enterprise article:
"When reached later, Souza, who is also a Davis City Council member, said Davis now has control over its borders under Measure J. That measure requires voter approval on any General Plan change from agriculture to urban use.

'We have placed a provision in our municipal code that allows us to have ultimate control over any development outside the city of Davis,' he said. 'I believe we should control our own destiny, we should not be controlled by others. When I say 'we' I mean we, the citizens of Davis.'

Any border development needs to be discussed with the county and vice versa, Souza added. That hasn't been the accepted practice in recent years, Thomson said.

'We shouldn't be talking at each other, we need to be talking with each other,' he said. 'We affect each other.' "
In addition to the Davis City Council meeting, LAFCO will take up public comment on the proposed sphere of influence on the evening of March 31, at the Davis City Hall.

One of the issues that must be clarified is whether shrinking the city's sphere of influence instead of protecting prime agricultural land will actually leave it more vulnerable. Davis has Measure J in place to protect its periphery and require a citizen vote. Davis also a pass-through agreement with the county that enables it to have a say in development on its periphery. If changes to the boundary alter that arrangement, we could be looking at a repeat of what happened last summer.

Additionally, the county has not taken the three studies areas proposed at that time off the table, but they might have an easier track elsewhere including along the I-80 corridor if this comes to pass.

Davis residents need to watch this with great interest in the coming weeks.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting