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Monday, March 31, 2008

What the Sphere of Influence Means For Davis Growth

Tonight at the Davis City Hall Community Room, there will be a LAFCO hearing on Davis' Sphere of Influence.

LAFCO is proposing a couple of properties be added to the Davis sphere of influence namely the Northwest Quadrant and the Nishi property. While at the same time it removes the Shriner's property east of Wildhorse and north of Covell, areas east of El Macero and areas west of Davis but east of Pedrick.

According to the report:
"The changes from the existing SOI, adopted in 1988, reflect the likely boundaries and best growth areas for the city."
Furthermore it goes on to conclude:
"In addition, the City’s current Housing Element indicates that these sites are more ideal for the projected growth of the City. The proposed SOI promotes a compact city, thereby discouraging urban sprawl, while allowing for steady growth. This represents an overall reduction of approximately 400 acres of undeveloped land from the 1988 SOI."
The question is what does this mean if anything for County Proposed growth and the pass-through agreement.

On February 26, 2008, the Davis City Council did something very unusual--they unanimously agreed on something. In principle, they agreed:

"the Sphere of Influence should be as large as realistic. There is continuing growth pressure on
the perimeter of our community. A larger Sphere of Influence will help discourage urban sprawl, promote efficient governmental services, and preserve open space and agricultural lands, consistent with the purposes of the LAFCO review."
As a result, the Davis City Council lists 10 sites that they want in the sphere of influence, some of these are already included, some of are not. There would seem that the city has some say over what gets included and what does not.

Both LAFCO and the Davis City Council seem to have as their goal controlling sprawl and preserving open space and agricultural lands, why do they have two very different visions for how to do this?

Here is some documentation from LAFCO.
"The sphere of influence is an important benchmark because it defines the primary area within which urban development is to be encouraged. In a 1977 opinion, the California Attorney General stated that sphere of influence should "serve like general plans, serve as an essential planning tool to combat urban sprawl and provide well planned efficient urban development patterns, giving appropriate consideration to preserving prime agricultural and other open-space lands."

Along this same line of reasoning, the California Appellate Court has held that spheres of influence must be adopted before an annexation to the affected city or district can be considered. Section 56650.5 limits the validity of annexation proposals in specified urban areas unless the request is consistent with the applicable spheres of influence. Section 57025 requires LAFCO to send notice of pending annexation hearings to those affected agencies whose spheres contain territory within the proposal.

LAFCO has sole responsibility for establishing a city's sphere of influence. Further, the LAFCO is not required to establish a sphere that is greater than the city's existing boundaries. LAFCO may take joint action to approve an annexation while at the same time amending the city's sphere of influence.

LAFCO officials and local decision-makers recognize the logical assumption that the lands lying within the sphere are those that the city may someday propose to incorporate. If the city finds that annexing an area outside its sphere would be in the public interest, it should request that its sphere be amended to include that area."
Given that, it is interesting that Davis would want to expand its sphere of influence, since ordinarily if you want to limit your growth, you decrease the sphere of influence.

To answer this, we should look to Measure J and the Pass-through agreement. The City of Davis probably believes that it has more control over its growth by keeping areas under its control. Measure J means that even if a property is under the sphere of influence, it still maintains the ability of controlling growth through the voter approval requirement.

At the same time, the recent threat to growth has come not from within the city of Davis but from the county. Does inclusion in the sphere of influence give the city more over its growth? The pass-through agreement would seem to be dependent on the sphere of influence but actually a larger city planning area. However, it seems possible that there a stronger ability to control one's sphere of influence. Just not sure about that.

This should be an interesting meeting tonight, unfortunately there is also an interesting meeting at Emerson to determine what will happen with the Junior High School.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting