Radical, Myopic Rush to Judgment Should Be Rejected at the Polls
I am a firm advocate of the preservation of viable agriculture and open space, and I personally circulated the initiative that created the California Coastal Commission in 1972. I have been trained in environmental issues, and advise public agencies, private firms and the courts of their financial effects.
Measures A and B prohibit even the smallest modification of a city’s limits, no matter what the purpose. Whether for a public utility, a new major employer or a house of worship, under SOAR the city would not be able to approve any change, no matter how small, without a costly (and potentially misleading) election. To give land-use decisions to advertising agencies makes a mockery of our democratic system.
It is also unfair to smaller applicants. Suppose a church wanted a land-use change, and suppose it had unpopular religious beliefs. In an election, do you suppose it would be judged on its beliefs or on the merits of its case?
Each city already has defined city limits and spheres of influence, and modifications are already scarce, difficult and costly.
The loss of flexibility has already cost the city of Ventura at least $8 million. The inability to sell its sloping 87 acres with residential entitlements to finance the purchase of the level 100 acres it wants for an East End park is a consequence of the Ventura SOAR initiative (which squeaked in by 411 votes). Do the neighbors of the 87 acres really want the noise, lights and traffic of a park next to them?
Cities across the nation compete for employers, including private industry and the military. Santa Paula, our county’s poorest city, has been unable to attract a major employer, despite much effort.
The Navy nearly closed its operations at Port Hueneme and Point Mugu in the latest round of base closures, a mere four years ago. If SOAR passed, you can bet that the Navy would notice, and that alone would likely tip the scale against Ventura County. The economic results would be devastating.
On the environmental side, Thousand Oaks has thousands of acres of permanent open space because the city was able to negotiate donations in exchange for permits on other properties. This includes the Westlake area and Dos Vientos Ranch, approved 31 years and nearly 20 years ago, respectively. Without any flexibility, similar future negotiations could not take place.
The SOAR proponents continually cite generalities rather than specific trends that would be subject to public scrutiny. They claim enormous figures of “lost” farm and open space land per year, but the only agency studying the issue, the state Department of Conservation, says differently.
Besides, the state does not examine or consider any changes to cities’ boundaries, and to imply that it does is incorrect.
A better study of actual trends shows quite the opposite of what the SOAR proponents imply. Ventura, for instance, changed its General Plan designation for all of the now agriculturally designated property, from Harbor Boulevard to east of Wells Road from residential to agriculture, in 1972. Oxnard de-annexed more than 2,000 acres of land in the early 1990s. LAFCO recently turned down two proposed annexations to Oxnard. Moorpark has not annexed any property in its history, according to LAFCO.
The county-sponsored Agriculture Policy Working Group issued a report this year. Unfortunately, the main SOAR proponent took advantage of the group’s town meetings to repeat the same misleading speech. With all due respect, the group should have been composed of experts in related fields rather than politically astute individuals, and it should have been the General Plan Working Group. Perhaps such a group should be created.
The SOAR initiatives are radical documents that have been sold to well-meaning people by those who are virulently anti-growth. SOAR is a myopic rush to judgment that should be soundly rejected.