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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

LAFCO Votes to Enlarge Sphere of Influence

Vanguard is Concerned About the Process of the 5-0 LAFCO Vote

In a strange turn of events the evening of March 6, 2008 the Davis City Council passed a recommendation for the Sphere of Influence (SOI) that was notable in that it excluded from its sphere two controversial properties on Davis' periphery--Northwest Quadrant, Covell Village and the Nishi Property. The motion made by Lamar Heystek and seconded by Mayor Sue Greenwald passed by a strange vote of 2-1-2. Councilmembers Stephen Souza and Don Saylor, a month before the council election decided to abstain from that vote.

This was a reconsideration of a vote that had originally attempted to make the SOI extremely large. When LAFCO originally took up this item in April, they expressed concern that the size of the original SOI would invite properties not intended for development in the foreseeable future. LAFCO's report warns that adding such areas would lead to land speculation on those sites for the purpose of development.

As a result, the council revisited the issue. At the May meeting Councilmember Heystek complained about the lack of clear direction from city staff on the issue of the SOI.
"I don't see this as merely a ministerial action of the council, because personally I will speak very frankly, I don't feel that I received enough information from city staff to be able to make a decision. I understand that LAFCO has made a recommendation that certain sites be excluded, but I have not received information for our staff as to why certain sites should be included."

He continued:

"I don't understand and I haven't heard from city staff, why we have to include other areas such as the northwest quadrant, such as Covell Village, such as the Nishi site, when we know we already have Measure J, when we know we already have the pass-through agreement, and we know that those are really the strongest protections from unwarranted or undesirable development on our borders."
As Councilmember Heystek pointed out, it appears in the next five years we neither intend to expand city services into these areas nor develop in these areas--so why include them in the SOI?

As a result of that discussion, the motion to exclude the Northwest Quadrant, Covell, and Nishi was passed largely because neither Councilmember Souza nor Councilmember Saylor voted on the matter.

Flash forward to Monday at the LAFCO meeting.

The LAFCO staff recommendation rejected the Davis City Council's proposed boundaries.

This is from the LAFCO staff report:
As previously discussed, a sphere of influence under LAFCO law is a guidance document for the Commission to determine what areas are best suited for inclusion, or removal, from a city or special district. Historically, spheres of influence for cities in Yolo County have been drawn tightly; however, those lines must be drawn with the intent to meet the projected growth and service capabilities of the affected agency. The latest request by the City of Davis would not provide sufficient land within the sphere for the City to meet its own population growth projections in the coming years.

Staff believes that given existing policies, service capabilities and impacts on agricultural land, the LAFCO staff recommended sphere of influence includes the areas that are best considered for annexation over the next twenty years. The staff recommended areas that are already developed, are infill property, or have already been evaluated in previous studies. The City’s current land use policies call for controlled and well planned growth. The County’s general plan identifies itself as the protector of agricultural land. The land use policies in conjunction with the City-County Redevelopment Agreement and Davis’ Measure J provide strong adjuncts to controlled growth in the City of Davis. The staff recommended boundaries balance the need for some expansion of boundaries while addressing the need for deliberate, logical and orderly annexations.
The first map is the Davis City Council recommended Sphere of Influence:

The second map is the LAFCO staff recommendation:

The LAFCO recommendation is as follows:
a. Ten year sphere of influence:

i. City owned property: Davis Municipal Golf Course, City of Davis Park on County Road (CR) 102 (Old Landfill Site), and Davis Wastewater Treatment Plant.

ii. Urbanized properties: El Macero, Willowbank, Royal Oaks (formerly Barthel’s Mobile Home Park), Rust home site parcel, and University of California, Davis campus.

iii. Undeveloped properties: Covell Village (Hunt-Wesson) parcel, Mace Curve parcel and Nishi parcel.

b. Twenty year sphere of influence:

i. Urbanized property: Cactus Corners (CR 98 and Russell Blvd).

ii. Undeveloped property: Northwest Quadrant (north to Binning Tract subdivision, east to State Hwy 113, south to Covell Boulevard, and west to CR 99).
The LAFCO board that includes Davis City Councilmember Stephen Souza as the representative from the Davis City Council and County Supervisors Helen Thomson and Matt Rexroad, voted to pass staff recommendation 5-0.

Key Commentary Regarding the Role of Councilmember Stephen Souza's Role in This

As a member of LAFCO, Councilmember Stephen Souza has a duel role in this process. He sits on the board of LAFCO but he also needs to represent to LAFCO in this matter, the wishes of the Davis City Council. In the packet to LAFCO was presented the Davis City Council's recommended SOI.

Responding to a question from Councilmember Lamar Heystek last night, Councilmember Souza acknowledged there was not much discussion on the item at the Monday meeting. He did mention that Supervisor Rexroad had asked him about what the Davis City Council wanted. Councilmember Souza conveyed the impression at the LAFCO meeting that this is what the Davis City Council wanted and had mentioned his role on LAFCO as the reason for him abstaining from the vote.

I spoke up at the City Council, which is something I do not ordinarily do, to clarify this point.

Here are my comments:
"I wanted to raise the issue of yesterday’s LAFCO vote on the sphere of influence. I was not able to attend the meeting, however, talking to folks who did I got the impression that the message was somehow conveyed that the LAFCO staff report was what the council majority wanted. [Note: Councilmember Souza had actually acknowledged this in response to Councilmember Heystek's question]

I am a bit confused by that if it is that case, because the most recent vote that I am aware of on May 6, 2008 ended with a very different recommendation from the Davis city council.

That vote was a bit odd in that two members supported, one opposed, and two members abstained. However, it was a valid vote of the council. The motion passed and that was the recommendation ostensibly sent to LAFCO.

If that is the case, then I do not know how it could be accurate to suggest that the majority of the Davis city council wanted anything but the May 6th vote results.

As such I am very confused and would like an explanation as to how the message was apparently conveyed otherwise. And I would like to also know if the will of the council, as expressed by vote on the night of May 6th, was represented by the current LAFCO representative from this council."
Unfortunately I did not get an answer to those questions, although there was the beginning of a heated exchange, when another member of the public, Eileen Samitz, spoke during public comment in an attempt to get an answer on this issue. The Mayor [probably wisely] however cut off Councilmember Souza as he was about to respond to Ms. Samitz's comments and moved the meeting forward.

As I stated at the meeting, I believe that Councilmember Souza had every right to vote as he did, however, my concern was he somehow conveyed the impression that there was a different will of the council majority than the one reflected in the vote taken on May 6, 2008, which was the only vote on the topic and therefore should have been, despite its strange numerical nature, the reflection of the council's desires on this subject.

My concern is therefore strictly procedural here. I do not understand how the councilmember arrived at a different conclusion from Davis' own recommendation.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting