OCEANSIDE — It has become one of the most divisive local issues in the recent memory.
Measure Y pits the Save Open Space and Agriculture Resources (SOAR) initiative against some large-scale farmers and others in a heated debate on whether to approve the measure on Nov. 6.
Measure Y would amend the land-use element of the Oceanside General Plan to require voter approval to change the land-use designation or zoning of agriculture or open space land. A “yes” vote is in favor and would be law until Dec. 31, 2038, while a “no” vote would leave the current ordinance as is.
Each group has cemented its endorsements led by conservation groups with SOAR and Nagata Brothers Farms Inc., Mellano & Company and North River Farms fueling the opposition.
North River Farms is the proposed community in South Morro Hills of nearly 700 homes, a boutique hotel and restaurants that Integral Communities Inc., an Orange County developer, the 12th largest in the country, presented to the Oceanside Planning Commission and City Council in 2017.
Measure Y, though is nothing new to the state. The first SOAR initiative was passed in Napa County in 1990.
But in Oceanside, the Yes on Y camp fears mass-scale development will be constructed and the No on Y group is in league with developers and the California Building Industry Association, which donated $10,000 to the campaign.
Neil Nagata, co-owner of Nagata Brothers Farms Inc., who has been farming for 30 years, said nothing will change if Measure Y doesn’t pass in November. He said the measure is about keeping farms and farming viable in the city, and if the measure passes, it will decrease the value of farm land and make it harder for farmers to borrow money to operations flowing.
“The best way to preserve agricultural ground is to help the farmer succeed, not to put another burden on the farmer,” Nagata said. “As long as we’re here (farmers) and we’re profitable, we’re not going anywhere. If anybody knows anything about farmers, there is a passion and commitment to it.”
Dennis Martinek, meanwhile, was one of the early organizers of the Yes on Y campaign. He said the latest push before the election is to clear confusion about the initiative saying the opposition’s message is if Yes on Y passes, it will hurt farming.
Additionally, Martinek said developers are funding the opposition because they want to construct high-density commercial projects, along with the housing. He said the No on Y campaign has raised more than $500,000, while the Yes on Y just $30,000.
“What we are trying to do is preserve open space and farming,” he said. “The main point we are emphasizing is Measure Y gives the voters the right to decide whether land use in agriculture or open space will be changed.”
According to the city of Oceanside’s impartial analysis, Measure Y includes two exceptions. First, the measure does not define “legal fair share housing requirement,” and when a project has a “vested right” to develop under state law.
The city’s analysis says the measure “appears” to refer to the California government Code for cities to prepare a Housing Element to its General Plan to provide very low-, low-, moderate- and above moderate- income housing. The city’s Housing Element does not “identify” agricultural or open space land for the city to meet its needs by 2020.
The measure would allow agritourism and residential uses in designated areas without voter approval as long as a project does not interfere with agricultural operations and open space “character” is preserved.