Council Reaffirms Support in the Abstract For a Community Farm Concept

Mace-25The Davis City Council, while reaffirming their commitment to creating one or more community farms, left open the question of where that farm would be located. Council unanimously passed a motion deeming that the 25-acre Mace parcel was suitable for the development of a community farm. However that left open a lot of questions about where this process would go.

Councilmember Brett Lee wanted to take the 25-acre Mace property owned by the city out of the innovation park proposal. He said “Item three is a little bit of a dodge.” He made a motion that the parcel not be included in the East Innovation Park proposal.   It was seconded by Robb Davis.

Councilmember Lee felt that the big question was should the parcel be included in the proposal before they decide its usage. “I think the danger of including the 25-acre parcel is there would be I believe additional opposition created to this east innovation park proposal that includes as part of the proposal turning this open space parcel into tech park. It creates an added opposition to the plan.”

He added, “In general we have this opportunity for extremely low cost to have this open space fully accessible.”

Brett Lee clarified, “I don’t think this is hostile to the east innovation park, I think there are advantages to have it included or not be included.”

Lucas Frerichs said he was not comfortable voting on that decision at this time, but he wanted to see it analyzed first. “I would rather actually see that process (play out),” he said. He would later say, “Generally speaking I agree with you.”

Community Development Director Mike Webb told the council that they had told the developers for purposes of the EIR to plan for the 25 acres to be included, noting that for planning purposes it is easier to reduce the size of the proposal than increase it.

EIR Consultant Heidi Tsaudin said, “It’s not that we can’t back it out, but we’ve gone pretty far down the road to back it out.” So she said it created a bit of a scheduling issue. She would add, “Keeping it in the proposal would give you a little more flexibility to learn more about it, think more about it, still have it on the table to take it out later.”

“If you take it out now, I won’t be able to add it in later without implications,” she said.

Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis said that he seconded this because this motion preserves the default for the property as a community farm. “My second to this motion is basically to say, we retain control of what we do with this property,” he said. “I don’t think that has any implications for the EIR or the review at all.”

“I’m trying to reaffirm that this is still on the table as a potential community farm,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Davis said, “It’s not ready to be made into a farm just yet – it’s just not.” He noted, “It’s not connected to anything. It’s not connected to our city.”

However, if the innovation park goes forward, suddenly it could be connected to the city. Robb Davis acknowledged that that is a “big if” because the innovation park would have to be approved by a vote from the people.

“But what I want to signal very clearly is that I want that option to remain on the table,” he said.

He wanted to retract his second based on the statement by Harriet Steiner about the need to leave this in the EIR so they could study it, and they could always remove later but it was very difficult to add after the fact.

He wanted a “strong affirmation that our default still remains with has been presented to us as the community farm. That’s the message I want to send.”

Lucas Frerichs said that “I want to leave (the 25 acres) in for the purposes of the EIR. It does not in any shape or form abandon the notion of the community farm either at that location or some other location in the city.”

He disputed the notion that this vote would signal the abandonment of the notion of community farms.

Robb Davis would add, “This may provide options that we don’t even see today.”

Mayor Dan Wolk said, “Maintenance of the flexibility is very important.” He added, “I don’t think it would be smart of this council to close off that possibility or limit our flexibility.”

Councilmember Frerichs expressed concern about the suitability of the 25 acre site in general, due to lack of access. He said there is really no pedestrian and bike access “So it’s untenable for me moving in the direction of the community farm.”

Rochelle Swanson commented that there are now other sites that make more sense “This particular site causes me concern because of the distance, the lack of bike and ped access.”

Robb Davis, however, moved that we affirm that this site is suitable for a community farm. Lucas Frerichs made a friendly amendment that this meant that it has the potential for a location as a community farm.

“I think what we want to say that it is a suitable site,” Robb Davis said. But he reiterated that the site is not connected and therefore not currently ready to be a community farm. He also left open the possibility that the site gets swapped – “there are other options and we’re not ruling them out,” he added. “We are keeping it very much on the table to say yes, this is something that we can think about.”

Brett Lee expressed some concerns that we own this parcel of land. “It’s not about whether it should be a community farm or part of the east innovation park, it’s we own a parcel of land, what should we do with it.” However, he argued, “It gets harder for us to pull this parcel out of the east innovation tech proposal as we go along.”

The question for Brett Lee was what is the best use of the land for the people in the community. He argued to keep it open space and later they can decide the best use of the open space.

—David M. Greenwald 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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  1. Davis Progressive

    so the council is saying that the urban farm is fine, but they will include the property in the eir and won’t commit to the urban farm location – why do i get the distinct impression that the urban farm is never going to happen?

    1. Matt Williams

      DP, the urban farm will have a whole lot greater chance of happening if three things happen … (1) a funding plan (revenue source) for the urban farm is identified and committed, (2) an operational plan for the urban farm is settled on, and (3) a public relations initiative is undertaken to help the Davis community know what the urban farm is, and is not.

  2. Roberta Millstein

    Speaking for myself (and not for the OSHC – I was out sick for Monday’s commission meeting and had to miss Tuesday’s CC meeting for the same reason), I appreciated the CC’s thoughtful discussion of the issues.  I am glad to see their explicit reaffirmation of the idea of having a community farm in Davis, and what I heard (after watching the video) as a genuine openness to continue to consider the Mace 25 property as a possible community farm — I thought all five councilmembers expressed that openness. I thought Brett’s points were particularly interesting, both his suggestion that including the 25 acres in the innovation park proposal might make that proposal more controversial as well as his suggestion to leave the 25 acres as open space for now (and not as part of the innovation park proposal), leaving decisions about whether to give the public open access to the land (which seemed to be his preferred option) or a community farm to the future.  In my view leaving the 25 acres as open space (in some form) best respects the City’s purchase of that land with Measure O (open space) funds and the process that it started when it decided to go forward with the easement on Leland Ranch.

    One question I have (and I imagine this will come up at some future OSHC meeting) is whether a community farm would need to be annexed (sorry if this is the wrong word) to the City, because as was mentioned during the meeting, it cannot currently be annexed because it is not contiguous to the city.  Must it be annexed in order for there to be a community farm on it?  Sorry for my ignorance on this issue.

    1. Don Shor

      I don’t think a community farm would change the zoning or even require any kind of conditional use permit. The fact that they’re subdividing the property to make one parcel less than 40 acres (lower than the minimum zoning for A-40) is the only issue I can think of. That might be of interest to the county, but it wouldn’t trigger or necessitate annexation.

    2. Robb Davis

      Roberta – I asked this question on Tuesday night and the answer is “no”, a community farm on the 25 acres does [not] require annexation, it is not subject to a Measure R vote and would not involve LAFCo or the County in any way.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          Thanks to you both.  I had thought that some members of the council said that the lack of continuity with the city was one reason that they were concerned about a community farm at Mace 25 (suggesting that there could only be a community farm there if the innovation park went forward, which would make the property contiguous), but perhaps I misunderstood.

  3. Robb Davis

    Roberta – My comment on the lack of connection of the property to the city was not about about the legality of putting a farm there but rather about the stated goal of the farm (based on the OSHC’s concept paper) that the farm should be within or clearly connected to the City.  I expressed concern about being able to accomplish the goals of the farm given that it is not connected.  Hope that helps.  I cannot, of course, speak for what other CC members may have meant but that was my point.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      Ok, thank you, Robb — that helps.

      And thank you also for your insistence that the Council be clear in its support for the idea of a community farm!

  4. Robb Davis

    For example.  Under Implementation/Organization (in the Goals from the 2009 concept paper) the OSHC wrote:

    Location: ideally the farm would be located well-within City limits. Given the lack of available land, the priority is to locate the farm at the edge of town where the farm remains accessible via walking, biking, and/or bus.

    As it currently is, I don’t think this parcel is accessible in the ways you describe.   That was my point.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      Yes.  The Commission looked at a number of properties within the City, but as Marc and Greg indicated on Tuesday, they all had prior uses and/or were contiguous with properties that had uses that would conflict with agricultural uses, and so all seemed destined for conflict and ultimate defeat.  So, having a community farm on a piece of property that was already farmland seemed to make the most sense.  It’s true that access could be better, but perhaps if the farm started to be successful that would give us reason to add better access over time.

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