|The Watchdog Newsletter
4 July 1999
General Plan Amendment 96-03 Hearing (Revised)
The hearing before the Planning Commission for General Plan Amendment 96-03 has been changed from July 23rd to September 17th, 1999. Please mark your calendar for this important hearing.
GPA 96-03 is the County's answer to SOFAR's successful lawsuit over the County's deficient plans for our Agricultural Preserve, Land Use Designator 20, farmlands. The County of San Diego is bound by the findings of the San Diego Superior Court that the Land Use, Conservation, and Open Space Elements of the County's General Plan are inadequate (SOFAR vs. County of San Diego, 1996). On January 11, 1996, A Superior Court in San Diego County issued a judgment finding that the Lan d Use, Conservation, and Open Space Elements of the County's General Plan were inadequate because it defers consideration of some issues to an Agricultural Element which does not exist. Therefore, it could not be relied upon in making an informed dec ision on a project. The Court mandated that no decision on similar projects be made until the defective General Plan elements were made adequate.
In 1979, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Land Use Element of the General Plan a regional blueprint that lays the foundation integrating public facilities and transportation with industrial, commercial, residential, and agricultural land use for the entire County. Minimum lot size criteria for agriculture was deferred to the Agriculture Element. Tragically, the Agriculture Element was never adopted. Instead, one-sixth of the landmass of San Diego County, comprising its most valuable agricult ural resources, has been left with contradictory General Plan guidance.
Under the terms of GPA 96-03, the County attempts to establish minimum lot size criteria: arbitrarily and without proper study, a 10-acre lot size minimum for those Ag 20 lands west of the County Water Authority (CWA) line, and a 40-acre lot size minim um for those Ag 20 lands east of the CWA line. Most of the lands east of the CWA line are cattle ranches without infrastructure to serve intensive farming. This is dryland farming. The County's proposal is contrary to the County's own policy (Po licy I-38) and Williamson Act guidelines that require 80-acre minimums for grazing land. Likewise, west of the CWA line, according to those same guidelines and County policy, depending upon the different crops and conditions, those lands also require, in many cases, larger lot size minimums. SOFAR has drafted a proposal that will both meet the Williamson Act guidelines and Policy I-38 requirements.
Unfortunately, not only is GPA 96-03 an inadequate plan for Ag 20 farmlands, which constitute 191,000 acres, it completely ignores the rest of the agricultural lands in the County. Land Use Designator 19, Intensive Agriculture, farmlands, which constit ute 27,600 acres, are barely touched upon in this document. Entirely ignored are the hundreds of thousands of acres of additional agricultural lands.
The loss of agricultural land in San Diego County has reached devastating proportions. In the years 1984 to 1996, our county lost over 31,000 acres of farmland. Of this farmland, we lost 4,370 acres of prime farmland, over 28% of the total. We lost 14, 629 acres of farmland of statewide importance, over 50% of the total. We also had over 12,000 acres of farmland committed to non-agricultural use.
Agriculture is San Diego County's fourth largest industry. Farming grossed over $ 1.18 billion last year. We cannot continue to withstand the loss of farmland of the present magnitude without severe consequences.
SOFAR urges the County to give no further consideration to GPA 96-03 until it adequately addresses ALL of the Country's agricultural lands. We will be at the hearing on September 17th to make our voices heard.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
1. Write the County. Support SOFAR's proposal for Ag 20 farmlands and the need for an Agricultural Element for the General Plan.
2. Attend the hearing before the Planning Commission on September 17th.
3. Join SOFAR's presentation before the Planning Commission on September 17th. For more information, contact Duncan McFetridge at (619) 445-9638 or Pandora Rose at (760) 789-8134.
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