Sierra Club takes stand in support of the SOAR initiative

OCEANSIDE — The Sierra Club North County Coastal Group recently issued an endorsement for the Oceanside SOAR initiative, which calls for a citizens vote on zoning changes to open space, parks, golf courses and farmland.

In its endorsement statement the club said the decision to support the initiative is based on the club’s policy to preserve agricultural land and open space, and eliminate urban sprawl and “improperly sited” development.

The initiative was launched by city residents after a couple of requests were brought to City Council to change agriculture zoning to low-density housing zoning.

The club stresses the initiative would not change land uses, but simply switch the decision making power from elected council members to voters.

The group also points out Oceanside is one of the few cities that has zoning to protect land use, and preserve agriculture and community character.

The club supports the city’s smart growth plan, which calls for high-density development in the downtown area and along public transportation corridors.

Club members emphasize costly infrastructure is already in place within target smart growth areas, but absent in undeveloped farmland or open space areas.

Fellow Sierra Club chapters support the initiative. Richard Miller, Sierra Club San Diego Chapter development associate, said the initiative preserves quality of life for residents, and helps ensure there is no other feasible location for development before zoning changes take place.

“Areas cannot be developed or changed without a vote of the people,” Miller said. “It helps people to focus on what they really want for their cities and own communities.”

Several Oceanside commercial farmers have spoken against the initiative during City Council meeting open comments. Among their objections are that the initiative diminishes private property rights and reduces land value, which impacts loans farmers depend on to plant their next season crops.

Miller said he does not see the initiative having a negative impact on farmers. He said it simply switches the vote on zoning changes from the City Council to the public.

“Any decision to develop land has to be made by the individual owner,” Miller said. “It doesn’t change anything.”

Eric Larson, San Diego County Farm Bureau executive director, said it would be a tall order to ask farmers to rally voters to approve a land use change.

“The effect, as is the intent of the initiative, is to essentially lock in their zoning in perpetuity,” Larson said. “From a practical perspective I don’t see farmers having the will or capacity to go to the voters for a change in land use.”

Larson said the initiative would impact both small and commercial farmers.

“All farmers would be impacted equally by having no access to changing their land use,” Larson said.

Larson did not comment on whether the initiative might affect land value.

Miller said he is not a relator or banker, but he sees holes in the argument that the initiative would decrease land value, and make it more difficult for farmers to get loans.

The San Diego County Farm Bureau has not yet taken a position on the initiative. It will be considering a member’s request to oppose the initiative at its December board meeting.

 

 

3 Comments
  1. Mandy Barre 3 weeks ago

    Promise your article is wrong- they want to develop HIGH DENSITY housing in Morro Hills. Hope it’s a typo and you will correct it.
    And Larson is wrong also- this does not permanently alter zoning- it puts it on hold for 20 years or subject to the people’s vote. When you can no longer trust the council to keep their promises made during campaigning to protect neighborhoods (Lowery) this is what the people have to do to protect this precious land.

    • Concerned Oside 2 weeks ago

      I don’t mind the high density housing as long as they move the water treatment facility over there too. The darn water treatment facility’s odor travels for miles in the ocean breeze. They need to concentrate on fixing that… instead of adding to it.

  2. Maize 2 weeks ago

    SOAR doesn’t protect “open space,” it impacts Oceanside’s working farms who want to stay in business here. Did reporters actually TALK to the REAL farmers, the ones who run commercial WORKING farms on their own PRIVATE PROPERTY? Or research the impact SOAR’s had to land values in Ventura County? Ask Nagata Bros., the Castellanos, and others who say if this passes it will devastate their homes and businesses. Farmers say they won’t be able to repurpose any of their OWN land, put up a building, or leverage even a portion of their land for a bank loan without a 2 year process and public vote. Research says a $20 million farm’s valued at about $3 million for the 20 years this stays in effect if it passes. Do Oceanside farmers need help? Of course, but tying up the land of working farmers for 20 years will create more problems than it solves. Not to mention the taxpayer expense of an election every time any farmer needs a loan. You can’t blame the Council if a farmer can no longer afford to farm and needs to sell. And you can’t solve the problem of a farms’ profitability for a future buyer if they can’t afford the water or competition with global commercial farms. Try listening to the working farmers instead of running your own political agenda.

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