Will LAFCO Changes to Davis’ Sphere of Influence Open the Door to Growth on the Periphery?

Lost in the shuffle was a report in the Davis Enterprise that Davis’ sphere of influence would be reduced by LAFCO.

In the Davis Enterprise article this is presented as a means to “preserve more prime agricultural land.”

Claire St. John of the Davis Enterprise writes:

“‘The changes from the existing SOI, adopted in 1988, reflect the likely boundaries and best growth areas for the city,’ the consultant, PMC, wrote in a report. ‘The primary differences between the 1988 adopted SOI and the proposed SOI include the removal of several prime agricultural areas, moving the university property within the 10-year SOI and adjustment of areas to reflect where growth is likely.’

A reduction of about 400 acres is proposed, most of which is prime agricultural land. The proposal also includes some re- jiggering to reflect where Davis is likely to grow in the future.”

However before this can be approved, there will be a public process and a discussion of at the February 26, 2008 Davis City Council Meeting. This discussion takes place two weeks after the discussion of Davis’ one percent growth rate.

The article suggests both Davis Supervisors are concerned about the new boundaries.

“Thomson and Yamada, who also serve as Yolo County supervisors, said they would prefer to see the sphere of influence stretch more to the west of Davis where services such as a hospital, nearby grocery store and other amenities already exist. To include those lands could give Davis more control of its growth and avoid having development forced on it as happened with Mace Ranch.

‘By failing to include that property, the city was caught off guard,’ Yamada said.

‘The question in 1986 was if Davis was taking its fair share of growth,’ Thomson added. ‘Some people didn’t think so and they ganged up and Davis has been paying for it every since. You don’t have to grow to the sphere. It’s just that that’s what you evaluate when you look at annexation.'”

The larger concern however, might be the fact that if areas are not included in the sphere of influence, they might not be covered under the pass-through agreement. That means that the county might have a greater ability to develop on Davis’ periphery or close to Davis’ periphery under a new arrangement.

Councilmember Stephen Souza, an alternate on LAFCO is quoted in the Enterprise article:

“When reached later, Souza, who is also a Davis City Council member, said Davis now has control over its borders under Measure J. That measure requires voter approval on any General Plan change from agriculture to urban use.

‘We have placed a provision in our municipal code that allows us to have ultimate control over any development outside the city of Davis,’ he said. ‘I believe we should control our own destiny, we should not be controlled by others. When I say ‘we’ I mean we, the citizens of Davis.’

Any border development needs to be discussed with the county and vice versa, Souza added. That hasn’t been the accepted practice in recent years, Thomson said.

‘We shouldn’t be talking at each other, we need to be talking with each other,’ he said. ‘We affect each other.’ “

In addition to the Davis City Council meeting, LAFCO will take up public comment on the proposed sphere of influence on the evening of March 31, at the Davis City Hall.

One of the issues that must be clarified is whether shrinking the city’s sphere of influence instead of protecting prime agricultural land will actually leave it more vulnerable. Davis has Measure J in place to protect its periphery and require a citizen vote. Davis also a pass-through agreement with the county that enables it to have a say in development on its periphery. If changes to the boundary alter that arrangement, we could be looking at a repeat of what happened last summer.

Additionally, the county has not taken the three studies areas proposed at that time off the table, but they might have an easier track elsewhere including along the I-80 corridor if this comes to pass.

Davis residents need to watch this with great interest in the coming weeks.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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60 Comments

  1. Matt Williams

    In a word, “No!” The LAFCO sphere of influence is only one of the “influences” on development. Measure J is a significantly more powerful influence on development. The fact that Davis controls the “Keys” to sewage treatment (and to a lesser extent water) is a significantly more powerful influence as well.

    Bottom-line, the LAFCO decision is worth watching, and continually monitoring, but it will not increase development pressure on the Davis periphery.

  2. Matt Williams

    In a word, “No!” The LAFCO sphere of influence is only one of the “influences” on development. Measure J is a significantly more powerful influence on development. The fact that Davis controls the “Keys” to sewage treatment (and to a lesser extent water) is a significantly more powerful influence as well.

    Bottom-line, the LAFCO decision is worth watching, and continually monitoring, but it will not increase development pressure on the Davis periphery.

  3. Matt Williams

    In a word, “No!” The LAFCO sphere of influence is only one of the “influences” on development. Measure J is a significantly more powerful influence on development. The fact that Davis controls the “Keys” to sewage treatment (and to a lesser extent water) is a significantly more powerful influence as well.

    Bottom-line, the LAFCO decision is worth watching, and continually monitoring, but it will not increase development pressure on the Davis periphery.

  4. Matt Williams

    In a word, “No!” The LAFCO sphere of influence is only one of the “influences” on development. Measure J is a significantly more powerful influence on development. The fact that Davis controls the “Keys” to sewage treatment (and to a lesser extent water) is a significantly more powerful influence as well.

    Bottom-line, the LAFCO decision is worth watching, and continually monitoring, but it will not increase development pressure on the Davis periphery.

  5. Anonymous

    I agree that this is well worth monitoring and analyzing as we cannot rely on the Enterprise for a full and multi-faceted discussion. The Vanguard serves as an invaluable tool for the Davis electorate in this regard. In this election-campaign environment, our elected officals’ proclamation can be dismissed as mainly self-serving political spin. I will remain unconvinced of Souza’s new-found commitment to carry out the will of the Davis electorate until he answers whether he supports ANY changes in the Measure J wording during the next four years. I would also like to hear his answer to the question whether his previous public proclamation that he WILL NOT be running for elected office after 2012 still stands.

  6. Anonymous

    I agree that this is well worth monitoring and analyzing as we cannot rely on the Enterprise for a full and multi-faceted discussion. The Vanguard serves as an invaluable tool for the Davis electorate in this regard. In this election-campaign environment, our elected officals’ proclamation can be dismissed as mainly self-serving political spin. I will remain unconvinced of Souza’s new-found commitment to carry out the will of the Davis electorate until he answers whether he supports ANY changes in the Measure J wording during the next four years. I would also like to hear his answer to the question whether his previous public proclamation that he WILL NOT be running for elected office after 2012 still stands.

  7. Anonymous

    I agree that this is well worth monitoring and analyzing as we cannot rely on the Enterprise for a full and multi-faceted discussion. The Vanguard serves as an invaluable tool for the Davis electorate in this regard. In this election-campaign environment, our elected officals’ proclamation can be dismissed as mainly self-serving political spin. I will remain unconvinced of Souza’s new-found commitment to carry out the will of the Davis electorate until he answers whether he supports ANY changes in the Measure J wording during the next four years. I would also like to hear his answer to the question whether his previous public proclamation that he WILL NOT be running for elected office after 2012 still stands.

  8. Anonymous

    I agree that this is well worth monitoring and analyzing as we cannot rely on the Enterprise for a full and multi-faceted discussion. The Vanguard serves as an invaluable tool for the Davis electorate in this regard. In this election-campaign environment, our elected officals’ proclamation can be dismissed as mainly self-serving political spin. I will remain unconvinced of Souza’s new-found commitment to carry out the will of the Davis electorate until he answers whether he supports ANY changes in the Measure J wording during the next four years. I would also like to hear his answer to the question whether his previous public proclamation that he WILL NOT be running for elected office after 2012 still stands.

  9. matt williams

    Doug Paul Davis said…

    But isn’t part of the pass-through is in effect determined by the sphere of influence?

    To the best of my knowledge, no. My copy of the actual agreement is at home, but I am almost positive that Attachment A of the Pass Through Agreement defines the geographical area it pertains to. That area is significantly larger than the LAFCO Sphere of Influence.

  10. matt williams

    Doug Paul Davis said…

    But isn’t part of the pass-through is in effect determined by the sphere of influence?

    To the best of my knowledge, no. My copy of the actual agreement is at home, but I am almost positive that Attachment A of the Pass Through Agreement defines the geographical area it pertains to. That area is significantly larger than the LAFCO Sphere of Influence.

  11. matt williams

    Doug Paul Davis said…

    But isn’t part of the pass-through is in effect determined by the sphere of influence?

    To the best of my knowledge, no. My copy of the actual agreement is at home, but I am almost positive that Attachment A of the Pass Through Agreement defines the geographical area it pertains to. That area is significantly larger than the LAFCO Sphere of Influence.

  12. matt williams

    Doug Paul Davis said…

    But isn’t part of the pass-through is in effect determined by the sphere of influence?

    To the best of my knowledge, no. My copy of the actual agreement is at home, but I am almost positive that Attachment A of the Pass Through Agreement defines the geographical area it pertains to. That area is significantly larger than the LAFCO Sphere of Influence.

  13. Doug Paul Davis

    That would be a relief. Several have expressed concern that this might be a back door way to circumvent the pass through agreement. Once less thing to worry about is a good thing.

  14. Doug Paul Davis

    That would be a relief. Several have expressed concern that this might be a back door way to circumvent the pass through agreement. Once less thing to worry about is a good thing.

  15. Doug Paul Davis

    That would be a relief. Several have expressed concern that this might be a back door way to circumvent the pass through agreement. Once less thing to worry about is a good thing.

  16. Doug Paul Davis

    That would be a relief. Several have expressed concern that this might be a back door way to circumvent the pass through agreement. Once less thing to worry about is a good thing.

  17. Another view

    I agree w DPD – this is a subtle (or not so subtle) attempt to gently herd Davis citizens into a corner, where the change in the “sphere of influence” is used as “justification” for things Davis citizens have been against – such as peripheral growth. Remember, developers are not going away, but rather chipping away at the resolve of citizens. Developers use politicians to get what they want. Too often developers make a killing financially, then walk away fat and happy – leaving the city saddled with a fiscal mess.

    By the way, I am not anti-developer – just for “smart growth” – which makes developers a part of the process requiring they bear their fare share of costs and do everything possible to avoid sprawl. Developers can be quite innovative if gently herded in the right direction!

  18. Another view

    I agree w DPD – this is a subtle (or not so subtle) attempt to gently herd Davis citizens into a corner, where the change in the “sphere of influence” is used as “justification” for things Davis citizens have been against – such as peripheral growth. Remember, developers are not going away, but rather chipping away at the resolve of citizens. Developers use politicians to get what they want. Too often developers make a killing financially, then walk away fat and happy – leaving the city saddled with a fiscal mess.

    By the way, I am not anti-developer – just for “smart growth” – which makes developers a part of the process requiring they bear their fare share of costs and do everything possible to avoid sprawl. Developers can be quite innovative if gently herded in the right direction!

  19. Another view

    I agree w DPD – this is a subtle (or not so subtle) attempt to gently herd Davis citizens into a corner, where the change in the “sphere of influence” is used as “justification” for things Davis citizens have been against – such as peripheral growth. Remember, developers are not going away, but rather chipping away at the resolve of citizens. Developers use politicians to get what they want. Too often developers make a killing financially, then walk away fat and happy – leaving the city saddled with a fiscal mess.

    By the way, I am not anti-developer – just for “smart growth” – which makes developers a part of the process requiring they bear their fare share of costs and do everything possible to avoid sprawl. Developers can be quite innovative if gently herded in the right direction!

  20. Another view

    I agree w DPD – this is a subtle (or not so subtle) attempt to gently herd Davis citizens into a corner, where the change in the “sphere of influence” is used as “justification” for things Davis citizens have been against – such as peripheral growth. Remember, developers are not going away, but rather chipping away at the resolve of citizens. Developers use politicians to get what they want. Too often developers make a killing financially, then walk away fat and happy – leaving the city saddled with a fiscal mess.

    By the way, I am not anti-developer – just for “smart growth” – which makes developers a part of the process requiring they bear their fare share of costs and do everything possible to avoid sprawl. Developers can be quite innovative if gently herded in the right direction!

  21. Davis Renter

    LAFCO is in the process of forcing unincorporated residential areas all over the state to be annexed by adjacent cities. This action has been decreed by the Governator.

    This is a huge hot button issue presently in Orange County, where the areas in question have been developed already – in some cases as much as 75 years ago. However, theoretically, in a LAFCO sphere of influence an undeveloped area on the Davis periphery could be developed (and it would be easy to finagle by a few developers) and then LAFCO could force Davis to annex as part of its mission. This is an easy back door to profits by developers.

    LAFCO needs to be fought every step of the way.

  22. Davis Renter

    LAFCO is in the process of forcing unincorporated residential areas all over the state to be annexed by adjacent cities. This action has been decreed by the Governator.

    This is a huge hot button issue presently in Orange County, where the areas in question have been developed already – in some cases as much as 75 years ago. However, theoretically, in a LAFCO sphere of influence an undeveloped area on the Davis periphery could be developed (and it would be easy to finagle by a few developers) and then LAFCO could force Davis to annex as part of its mission. This is an easy back door to profits by developers.

    LAFCO needs to be fought every step of the way.

  23. Davis Renter

    LAFCO is in the process of forcing unincorporated residential areas all over the state to be annexed by adjacent cities. This action has been decreed by the Governator.

    This is a huge hot button issue presently in Orange County, where the areas in question have been developed already – in some cases as much as 75 years ago. However, theoretically, in a LAFCO sphere of influence an undeveloped area on the Davis periphery could be developed (and it would be easy to finagle by a few developers) and then LAFCO could force Davis to annex as part of its mission. This is an easy back door to profits by developers.

    LAFCO needs to be fought every step of the way.

  24. Davis Renter

    LAFCO is in the process of forcing unincorporated residential areas all over the state to be annexed by adjacent cities. This action has been decreed by the Governator.

    This is a huge hot button issue presently in Orange County, where the areas in question have been developed already – in some cases as much as 75 years ago. However, theoretically, in a LAFCO sphere of influence an undeveloped area on the Davis periphery could be developed (and it would be easy to finagle by a few developers) and then LAFCO could force Davis to annex as part of its mission. This is an easy back door to profits by developers.

    LAFCO needs to be fought every step of the way.

  25. Sue Greenwald

    Point of clarification:

    The pass-through agreement covers the Davis planning area AS DEFINED BY A SPECIFIC MAP THAT IS PART OF THE PASS-THROUGH AGREEMENT.

    The pass-through planning area is very large–much larger than the sphere of influence.

    That said, the pass-through protection declines over time, because the penalty for violating it is only the withholding of the redevelopment agency tax increment, which will decline and eventually disappear.

  26. Sue Greenwald

    Point of clarification:

    The pass-through agreement covers the Davis planning area AS DEFINED BY A SPECIFIC MAP THAT IS PART OF THE PASS-THROUGH AGREEMENT.

    The pass-through planning area is very large–much larger than the sphere of influence.

    That said, the pass-through protection declines over time, because the penalty for violating it is only the withholding of the redevelopment agency tax increment, which will decline and eventually disappear.

  27. Sue Greenwald

    Point of clarification:

    The pass-through agreement covers the Davis planning area AS DEFINED BY A SPECIFIC MAP THAT IS PART OF THE PASS-THROUGH AGREEMENT.

    The pass-through planning area is very large–much larger than the sphere of influence.

    That said, the pass-through protection declines over time, because the penalty for violating it is only the withholding of the redevelopment agency tax increment, which will decline and eventually disappear.

  28. Sue Greenwald

    Point of clarification:

    The pass-through agreement covers the Davis planning area AS DEFINED BY A SPECIFIC MAP THAT IS PART OF THE PASS-THROUGH AGREEMENT.

    The pass-through planning area is very large–much larger than the sphere of influence.

    That said, the pass-through protection declines over time, because the penalty for violating it is only the withholding of the redevelopment agency tax increment, which will decline and eventually disappear.

  29. Sue Greenwald

    Point of history:

    The council majority has monopolized the positions on LAFCO AND SACOG, by appointing themselves, and exluding the council minority.

    I don’t yet have a complete understanding of the implications of this move this very specific LAFCO map, or the dynamics that created it. I have asked for a complete analysis by staff and our city attorney.

    It does seem that it directs growth away from the Shriner/Guidaro property, and towards Covell Village and the Northwest Quadrant.

    I was curious as to why this was happening in advance of a community discussion and city decision to grow on Covell and the Northwest quadrant.

  30. Sue Greenwald

    Point of history:

    The council majority has monopolized the positions on LAFCO AND SACOG, by appointing themselves, and exluding the council minority.

    I don’t yet have a complete understanding of the implications of this move this very specific LAFCO map, or the dynamics that created it. I have asked for a complete analysis by staff and our city attorney.

    It does seem that it directs growth away from the Shriner/Guidaro property, and towards Covell Village and the Northwest Quadrant.

    I was curious as to why this was happening in advance of a community discussion and city decision to grow on Covell and the Northwest quadrant.

  31. Sue Greenwald

    Point of history:

    The council majority has monopolized the positions on LAFCO AND SACOG, by appointing themselves, and exluding the council minority.

    I don’t yet have a complete understanding of the implications of this move this very specific LAFCO map, or the dynamics that created it. I have asked for a complete analysis by staff and our city attorney.

    It does seem that it directs growth away from the Shriner/Guidaro property, and towards Covell Village and the Northwest Quadrant.

    I was curious as to why this was happening in advance of a community discussion and city decision to grow on Covell and the Northwest quadrant.

  32. Sue Greenwald

    Point of history:

    The council majority has monopolized the positions on LAFCO AND SACOG, by appointing themselves, and exluding the council minority.

    I don’t yet have a complete understanding of the implications of this move this very specific LAFCO map, or the dynamics that created it. I have asked for a complete analysis by staff and our city attorney.

    It does seem that it directs growth away from the Shriner/Guidaro property, and towards Covell Village and the Northwest Quadrant.

    I was curious as to why this was happening in advance of a community discussion and city decision to grow on Covell and the Northwest quadrant.

  33. Matt Williams

    You are only partially right.
    LAFCO cannot force Davis to annex, and even if they could, each LAFCO handles such situations somewhat uniquely. Yolo County’s LAFCO has a history of very little interference. For example, Willowbank is surrounded on three sides by Davis, and has been for a very long time. Davis could file a unilateral annexation request with LAFCO, but hasn’t. Similarly, Willowbank could file a request to be annexed, but hasn’t. Yolo LAFCO has chosen to take those cues and do absolutely nothing.

    What does that mean vis-a-vis the peripheral properties? 1) If the owners of an individual property filed for annexation, then Davis would have the right to inform LAFCO that Davis wants to either 1) annex, or 2) not annex. Davis would also have the right to tell LAFCO what terms they are willing to annex under. In the current environment of Measure J and the Pass Through Agreement, Davis would almost surely insist that the parcel be annexed into Davis with Ag zoning.

    In addition, Yolo County could and would petition Yolo LAFCO to receive some portion of any revenues generated by the parcel. LAFCO is not a County agency. It is created by the State, and the County would be an interested party coming before it with opinions on a prospective decision.

    Bottom-line, what you are familiar with in Orange County is highly, highly unlikely to happen here.

  34. Matt Williams

    You are only partially right.
    LAFCO cannot force Davis to annex, and even if they could, each LAFCO handles such situations somewhat uniquely. Yolo County’s LAFCO has a history of very little interference. For example, Willowbank is surrounded on three sides by Davis, and has been for a very long time. Davis could file a unilateral annexation request with LAFCO, but hasn’t. Similarly, Willowbank could file a request to be annexed, but hasn’t. Yolo LAFCO has chosen to take those cues and do absolutely nothing.

    What does that mean vis-a-vis the peripheral properties? 1) If the owners of an individual property filed for annexation, then Davis would have the right to inform LAFCO that Davis wants to either 1) annex, or 2) not annex. Davis would also have the right to tell LAFCO what terms they are willing to annex under. In the current environment of Measure J and the Pass Through Agreement, Davis would almost surely insist that the parcel be annexed into Davis with Ag zoning.

    In addition, Yolo County could and would petition Yolo LAFCO to receive some portion of any revenues generated by the parcel. LAFCO is not a County agency. It is created by the State, and the County would be an interested party coming before it with opinions on a prospective decision.

    Bottom-line, what you are familiar with in Orange County is highly, highly unlikely to happen here.

  35. Matt Williams

    You are only partially right.
    LAFCO cannot force Davis to annex, and even if they could, each LAFCO handles such situations somewhat uniquely. Yolo County’s LAFCO has a history of very little interference. For example, Willowbank is surrounded on three sides by Davis, and has been for a very long time. Davis could file a unilateral annexation request with LAFCO, but hasn’t. Similarly, Willowbank could file a request to be annexed, but hasn’t. Yolo LAFCO has chosen to take those cues and do absolutely nothing.

    What does that mean vis-a-vis the peripheral properties? 1) If the owners of an individual property filed for annexation, then Davis would have the right to inform LAFCO that Davis wants to either 1) annex, or 2) not annex. Davis would also have the right to tell LAFCO what terms they are willing to annex under. In the current environment of Measure J and the Pass Through Agreement, Davis would almost surely insist that the parcel be annexed into Davis with Ag zoning.

    In addition, Yolo County could and would petition Yolo LAFCO to receive some portion of any revenues generated by the parcel. LAFCO is not a County agency. It is created by the State, and the County would be an interested party coming before it with opinions on a prospective decision.

    Bottom-line, what you are familiar with in Orange County is highly, highly unlikely to happen here.

  36. Matt Williams

    You are only partially right.
    LAFCO cannot force Davis to annex, and even if they could, each LAFCO handles such situations somewhat uniquely. Yolo County’s LAFCO has a history of very little interference. For example, Willowbank is surrounded on three sides by Davis, and has been for a very long time. Davis could file a unilateral annexation request with LAFCO, but hasn’t. Similarly, Willowbank could file a request to be annexed, but hasn’t. Yolo LAFCO has chosen to take those cues and do absolutely nothing.

    What does that mean vis-a-vis the peripheral properties? 1) If the owners of an individual property filed for annexation, then Davis would have the right to inform LAFCO that Davis wants to either 1) annex, or 2) not annex. Davis would also have the right to tell LAFCO what terms they are willing to annex under. In the current environment of Measure J and the Pass Through Agreement, Davis would almost surely insist that the parcel be annexed into Davis with Ag zoning.

    In addition, Yolo County could and would petition Yolo LAFCO to receive some portion of any revenues generated by the parcel. LAFCO is not a County agency. It is created by the State, and the County would be an interested party coming before it with opinions on a prospective decision.

    Bottom-line, what you are familiar with in Orange County is highly, highly unlikely to happen here.

  37. Anonymous

    This annouced LAFCO change sounds like calculated rhetoric that is being offered to try and reinstill the fear factor in Davis voters now that the low “fair-share” numbers are out and cannot be used by Developers’ political proxies in their attempt to terrorize us into submission.

  38. Anonymous

    This annouced LAFCO change sounds like calculated rhetoric that is being offered to try and reinstill the fear factor in Davis voters now that the low “fair-share” numbers are out and cannot be used by Developers’ political proxies in their attempt to terrorize us into submission.

  39. Anonymous

    This annouced LAFCO change sounds like calculated rhetoric that is being offered to try and reinstill the fear factor in Davis voters now that the low “fair-share” numbers are out and cannot be used by Developers’ political proxies in their attempt to terrorize us into submission.

  40. Anonymous

    This annouced LAFCO change sounds like calculated rhetoric that is being offered to try and reinstill the fear factor in Davis voters now that the low “fair-share” numbers are out and cannot be used by Developers’ political proxies in their attempt to terrorize us into submission.

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