Davis City Council will be asked on Tuesday to evaluate the suitability of the City-owned 25-acre parcel for a Community Farm and if council determines that the parcel is not suitable for a Community Farm, staff anticipates entering into an agreement with the Mace Ranch Innovation Center applicant to explore an alternative, superior site for consideration.
Staff argues while the 25 acre site provides the city with “a known quantity” in terms of being a city-owned asset, “staff believes that the site may not be ideally suited for the purpose of a Community Farm.”
Staff believes instead, that in the idea, a Community Farm would be more centrally located geographically in order to provide a stronger visibility to the broader community and have bicycle and pedestrian access.
Furthermore staff argues, “this 25- acre site is uniquely situated to provide for a range of potential uses surrounded to the north and east by agricultural conservation easement and to the west by Mace Boulevard.”
Staff concludes, “while the 25-acre site provides the convenience of being City-owned, the driving factors in the consideration of potential Community Farm(s) should be based on a broader array of factors, including accessibility, integration with the community, and opportunity cost.”
The City acquired the 391 acre Leland Ranch in 2011 (also known as Mace 391) as part of its efforts to conserve open space. In 2013, the City resold approximately 365 acres of the Leland Ranch to a farming interest while retaining a permanent agricultural conservation easement on this property. The City retained ownership of approximately 25 acres of the Leland Ranch.
In 2013, the city was approached with a proposal to develop an innovation park on the 391 acre property, but in June 2013, the council voted 3-2 to continue with the process of turning the land into permanent ag easement. The council briefly reconsidered the move in the fall, but opted to not change the plan.
The city has since focused on the adjacent Mace property owned by Ramco, Buzz Oates, and Barbara Brunner who filed an application in September 2014 for the Mace Ranch Innovation Center on roughly 218 acres of land.
Inclusion of the 25-acre parcel in the MRIC application was discussed at City Council meetings held in July and October of 2014 as a part of Innovation Center agenda items.
During the discussion over the acquisition of Leland Ranch, the Open Space and Habitat Commission identified the 25-acre site as a potential location for a Community Farm. During the discussion over Mace 391, this was cited by opposition to the innovation park proposal at that time, as a chief reason in addition to the need to continue processing the conservation easement.
The Community Farm concept was discussed in general terms back in December 2013 at a joint meeting between the City Council and the Open Space Commission, however the current City Council has not taken up specific discussion of the Community Farm concept.
The Council has four options at this point:
- Develop a Community Farm at this site (existing OSHC recommendation)
- Retain the parcel as open space, but not a Community Farm (City retains parcel)
- Swap the parcel for another equivalent or superior parcel for a Community Farm (City owns new parcel)
- City sells the 25-acre property and retains conservation easement (similar to remainder of Leland Ranch)
Staff recommends further exploration of the issues and “suggests that the City Council direct staff and the Open Space and Habitat Commission to explore alternative sites consistent with Open Space and Habitat Commission option #3.”
One idea is “owning or leasing smaller vacant parcels within the community that could be farmed by local organization(s) – such as Center for Land Based Learning (CLBL) – to provide positive demonstrations of connecting local food sources to the community and education?”
This is an idea being employed in West Sacramento and the “7.5 acre Cannery Farm currently under development, and to be operated by CLBL, provides another model that is “intermediate” in scale.”
Staff would also like to determine what the general level of community support and receptiveness for the various proposals, locations, and consideration of whether “as part of a Development Agreement, one or more Innovation Centers may help provide access to alternative sites/infrastructure/funding not otherwise being considered for community farms.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
See also Staff Report: 07 Mace Curve Parcel