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Friday, September 12, 2008

Yolo County Releases Draft of Updated General Plan

Draft General Plan Document Released

[FROM COUNTY PRESS RELEASE] (Woodland, CA) – Today, the Yolo County Draft General Plan was released to the public. On September 16, a joint meeting of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission will be held to receive a presentation on the Draft General Plan. The General Plan is the basic document used by local government in land use planning. It provides the comprehensive long-term plan for the physical development of the county, and is often referred to as “the constitution” of the county. All cities and counties are required, under state law, to have one.

The last update was in 1983, based on the county’s original General Plan from 1958. In May 2003, the Board of Supervisors gave direction to begin the current General Plan update process. This is only the third time in the county’s history that the General Plan has been comprehensively updated. While the fundamental land use goals of promoting agriculture and directing urban growth to the cities have not changed, circumstances facing the county have changed. Agriculture requires flexibility to allow it to branch out into processing and tourism related businesses. Similarly, several of the county’s small towns require new infrastructure, investment, and services that can accompany well-designed growth. There is also a greater need for economic development to provide growth and stability to the county revenues that pay for local services. This General Plan update allows the county to examine these issues and chart a course for the future that meets these challenges.

Yolo County is 653,549 acres in size, of which 32,325 acres (just under 5%) lies within the four incorporated cities. Currently, approximately 23,265 residents live in 7,263 homes within the remaining 95% of the county, along side 430 acres of job-producing commercial and industrial land. Under the existing 1983 General Plan, another 11,240 residents, 4,014 homes, and 1,440 acres of commercial and industrial land could be added. The Preferred Land Use Alternative, adopted by the Board of Supervisors on September 18, 2007, is the basis for creating the General Plan update. In addition to the 1983 General Plan, it would allow for another 26,600 residents, 9,500 homes, and 901 acres of economic development through the year 2030.

The four primary proposed land use changes that account for these increases include:
  • Dunnigan community expansion (21,000 residents, 7,500 units, and 430 job-producing acres)
  • Madison community expansion (3,655 residents, 1,305 units, and 116 job-producing acres)
  • New commercial and industrial development in Elkhorn (320 job-producing acres)
  • Conversion to industrial at Spreckels site (69 job-producing acres)
The growth in Dunnigan and Madison is reflective of a desire by the Board of Supervisors to ensure the future sustainability of these communities, including a minimum population to support basic community services as well as carefully structured land uses to ensure that the number and price of homes roughly match the number and wages of local jobs. The growth in Elkhorn and Spreckels is supportive of the Board of Supervisors’ economic development priorities and both highlight site-specific resource opportunities of the county. It should be noted that development in Knights Landing and Esparto is already planned under the 1983 General Plan.

New policy directions in the proposed Draft General Plan focus on the following primary themes:

  • The continuing primacy of agriculture and related endeavors throughout the county, by allowing for more economic innovation and aggressively protecting the water and soil resources upon which farming depends.
  • Modest managed growth within existing towns, accompanied by improvements to infrastructure and services to ensure community sustainability.
  • Expanded protection of a network of connected open space and recreational areas, integrated with the Yolo Natural Heritage Program.
  • Opportunities for revenue-producing and job-producing agricultural, industrial, and commercial growth in designated locations and along key transportation corridors.
  • Manage the existing road network to make the most of existing capacity, while accommodating a diversity of users and alternative modes of transportation.
  • Service levels that allow for the effective and efficient provision of services, consistent with rural values and expectations.
  • A comprehensive approach to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and plan for the potential impacts of global climate change.
  • New emphasis on community and neighborhood requirements that reflect “smart growth” and “healthy design” principles, which complement the unique character of existing developed areas.
All Yolo County residents are urged to follow this important process which will shape the future of Yolo County. Comments on the document will be accepted by the Planning and Public Works Department through November 20, 2008. To view the Draft General Plan, the schedule of upcoming public meetings, or to find additional general information on the General Plan update, visit:

Hard copies of the Draft General Plan are available for viewing and check-out at all Yolo County library branches (visit: for branch locations) and the Yolo County Planning & Public Works (PPW) Department (292 West Beamer Street in Woodland). Hard copies of the Draft General Plan are available for purchase at PPW for $50.00 or on CD for $4.50.


Last summer the city of Davis and Yolo County over the extent to which the city of Davis could control growth on its borders. The city at that point argued that the pass-through agreement gave the city primary land use authority in areas covered by the agreement and any attempt by the county to study the issue would be put the agreement in jeopardy and cause the city to withhold its roughly $2 million per year that it sends from its redevelopment agency to the county in exchange for the county ceding land use authority.

Under strong pressure from residents of Davis including a united from of the Davis City Council, the county almost at the last second reversed course and tabled further talk about creating special study areas on the border of Davis. What is interesting is that after that time, there was insistence by some that this issue was not over. That any tabling of discussion was merely temporary and that the county could reopen the issue at any point in time.

At least in the Davis form of the General Plan that is not the case. Residential growth for the most part appears to be limited to two primary locations--Dunnigan and Madison--ironically enough two areas that had re-entry facilities proposed. As I understand it, Dunnigan for instance has actually lobbied the board for more growth rather than less. I do not know if it is the same in Madison.

There is an interesting article in this morning's Sacramento Bee that Madison now seeks to fight against the re-entry facility. I mention this because while they are not talking about creating a new city in Madison as they are in Dunnigan, adding 3600 residents to the existing population will likely strongly change the current character of Madison. Arguments that there lacks sufficient instruction in Madison miss the point that the infrastructure is going to have to come anyway in order for it to add 3600 residents in the next general plan period.

That is really an aside in the issue of the re-entry facility, but it is interesting to note. As the release says, comments are due by November 20, 2008, so we will see between now and then if this plan stirs up much dissent in Madison and Dunnigan. In the meantime, it does appear that Davis has prevailed in its efforts to determine its own growth. I am certain some will have disparaging remarks to make about that. From my perspective all communities should determine how much they grow and how their character will change. People like to use the term NIMBY but then they forget that people sink their life savings into their homes and property, I guess it's easy to disparage someone else's efforts.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting