Candidates Respond to Yolano Group Questionnaire – Part 3

by Alan Pryor, Chair – Sierra Club Yolano Group

This article is the 3rd in a 4-part series on questions presented by the Sierra Club Yolano Group to candidates in the Yolo County District 4 Supervisor race on the March 2020 ballot and the candidates’ responses. This article covers questions and responses in the areas of Land Use and Development. The order of the candidate responses are changed with each article. 

See article 1 of 4 here,  which gives an introduction explaining the article series, announces that the Yolano Group is not making an endorsement in this race, and covers questions and responses in the areas of Reductions in Carbon-Based Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

See article 2 of 4 here, which covers questions and responses in the areas of Solid Waste Management, Water Management and Conservation, and Toxics in the Environment. 

Issue 5-1 – Agricultural Land Preservation

BackgroundAgricultural land has been rapidly converted for commercial and housing development at an alarming rate throughout California.

Question 5-1 – What specific steps would you propose to preserve and protect farm land in Yolo County from such future development?

David Abramson Response

Yolo County is unique in that sprawl is very much limited and development of cities are directed to infill within the cities. I am very grateful that Yolo County has protected farmland and development of natural lands, and I will continue to fight for open space preservation and infill development.

Farmland needs to continue to be protected, and we must provide support for helping farmers transition to regenerative, habitat-friendly and economically-sustainable practice. We must build collaboration between cities and our county to promote ecologically-minded infill development and support a local food system that provides economic security our local farmers and protection of habitat and ecosystems.

Jim Provenza Response

I was responsible for Yolo County’s AG land preservation ordinance. It is one of the toughest in the state. It requires 3 to 1 mitigation for loss of farmland in rural areas and 2 to 1 in areas close to cities. Unlike the City of Davis ordinance, it does not permit stacking of agricultural and habitat easements. Enforcement of this ordinance will help us to protect farmland in the future.

In addition, it is important to help farmers stay in business. For example, I have worked to assure that state and federal water and fish projects do not hinder agricultural production in the Yolo bypass. I successfully advocated for a change in these projects that considers the planting schedules of local rice farmers. This will allow for the protection of both fish and farmland. This change also benefits the Yolo Wildlife Area since the wildlife area depends upon rice farming to fund its operations.

Agricultural economic development will also help farmers stay in business. I have helped raise millions of dollars for agricultural sustainability projects in the Yolo Bypass. Major drainage projects and agriculture crossings needed for years will now be funded.

Going forward, I plan to support more local processing of farm products. This will promote the long-term viability of our local agricultural operations. An example of a successful processing project is the olive press provided by Yocha De He.

Linda Deos Response

As part of my Climate Action Plan, I believe it is critical that we ensure that rural counties like Yolo that have committed to preserving farmland and avoiding sprawl, are fairly compensated by the state. The fact is, each acre of agriculture and open space conserved saves nearly 100 times the amount of GHG emissions that would result if the land were converted to urban use. But our tax code benefits communities with big box stores at the same time it penalizes communities with large amounts of farmland. These perverse incentives must be changed.

I would also seek to secure state and federal support for farmers seeking to transition to regenerative agricultural practices.

Issue 5-2 – Open Space Conservation

Background – The quality and environmental values provided by Open Space in Yolo County are under threats due to climate change and land use policies.

Question 5-2 – What specific steps would you propose to enhance the environmental benefits of Open Space in Yolo County?

David Abramson Response

I very much support the great work being done by the Yolo Habitat Conservancy, the Resource Conservation Investment Strategy/Land Conservation Plan, Sierra Club, and other participants in the conservation and protection of open space and habitat in the County.

The challenges we face from climate change are unprecedented and require whole systems solutions for addressing them that involve every sector of public life. We need to be protecting everything from large species all the way down to soil microbiology, which we are finding to be key in addressing issues related to climate change. We need to transition our economy away from fossil fuels towards one supporting a strong, healthy, habitat-friendly, hydrated, and resilient local food system.

I would support increasing agricultural easements and helping farmers develop habitat and ecosystem-friendly farming practices that also provide economic benefit to the farmers themselves.

Jim Provenza Response

I helped Sierra Club with a proposed ordinance that would prohibit the location of major solar and wind projects in county parks. I requested the placement of the item on the Board agenda and made the motion to move the proposed ordinance forward. It passed by a vote of 5-0. There are many locations for solar and wind projects, we should protect our limited public land by locating major energy operations elsewhere.

I chaired the Yolo Conservancy for the three years while the final habitat conservation plan (HCP/NCCP) was developed. This required substantial negotiation with state and federal fish and wildlife agencies. We developed a plan that will permit us to obtain conservation easements on working farms to protect endangered and threatened species. Both habitat and farmland will be permanently protected.  This is a model plan for other counties in California

Significantly, we also included a plan to protect local species. Implementation of this plan will significantly enhance the environmental benefits of our open space.

As originally proposed, the state and federal salmon project threatened the continued viability of the Yolo Wildlife Area as a haven for migrating birds. I successfully advocated for changes in the project that will regulate the timing additional flooding of the bypass so as to permit the protection of both birds and fish. Supervisor Sandy and I are currently negotiating for mitigation measures that will offset any unanticipated impact on agriculture or the Yolo Basin Foundation’s conservation and education projects.

I would also like to see more educational and recreational access tied to preservation of open space. When members of the public have access to open space, they are much more likely to fight to protect it and assure that it is used in a way that is protective of the environment.

Linda Deos Response

Being on the Board of Yolo Basin Foundation, I think it is critical that we educate children and adults as to the environmental wonders we have here in Yolo County. Studies show that this not only helps the individual gain respect and love of the land through education and exposure to these wonders, it can also help conservation efforts.

Issue 5-3 – Renewal of Measure J/R in Davis

Background – For the last 20 years, Measure J/R allows any annexation by the City of Davis of county land on the periphery of the City to be subject to a vote of approval by the citizens of Davis. It is scheduled to expire in 2020 unless renewed.

Question 5-3 – Do you support or oppose the renewal of Measure J/R and why? If you support renewal do you propose any modifications of the ordinance?

David Abramson Response

I 100% support renewal of measure J/R. We have done a great job protecting agricultural lands and preventing sprawl on city edges. Continuing this trend is vital for meeting our climate and community goals.

We should be collectively looking at ways of improving our ordinances to take into account the needs of the people and the needs of the land in balance.

Jim Provenza Response

I support Measure J/R in its current form. County land on the periphery of Davis is mostly farmland. A decision to develop it for other purposes should not be made lightly. Any loss must be fully mitigated. I trust the voters to decide.

Linda Deos Response

I support the renewal of Measure J.

Issue 5-4 – Aggie Research Center

Background – The Aggie Research Center (ARC) is proposed for 185 acres of Yolo County farmland just east of Mace Blvd. in east Davis. It is a mixed-use project with a projected 2,654,000 sq ft for & business park and conference center with a total of 4,340 parking spaces and an additional 850 residential units and associated parking. If approved, the project would be annexed into the Davis City limits.

Question 5-4 – Do you support or oppose the development of the ARC business park as proposed and why?  If you support it, do you propose any mitigations for the impacts of the  project? 

David Abramson Response

Let’s look at all of the climate and community impacts. We are at a moment where the City of Davis has declared a climate emergency, and recognizes the need to offer a just transition towards a green economy. How does new development either help or hinder that goal?

I think any project of this size should be carbon-neutral and include the requisite affordable housing units built. We need to create supportive pathways for carbon-neutral, transit-oriented, and equitable development.

Environment Impact Reviews must take into account the most up-to-date climate science and projects must fit in with our goal for a decade of climate action.

Jim Provenza Response

I cannot express a position on the Aggie Research Center (ARC) at this time as issues related to taxes, annexation, and mitigation will come before the Board of Supervisors if the project is approved by the city council and the voters. It is important that I consider information from all sides before deciding. While I support economic development, I have concerns about the project and have raised these concerns to the developer and the city. As with any development, I will apply the following principles to my consideration of the project:

Farmland– The benefits of the project should outweigh the loss of farmland. Mitigation should be real and require permanent protection of other farmland of equal or better quality in the county.  The land designated for permanent protection must be actually threatened with development.

Traffic– It is important that the project not result in a net increase in traffic congestion. Traffic mitigation measures should be real and well documented.

Housing– Proposed workforce housing should be used mostly by persons working at or near the proposed development. The developer should explain how this can be implemented. Affordable housing requirements should be maintained.

County issues- Tax sharing and mitigation for county costs need to be discussed as part of any annexation.

Linda Deos Response

I don’t support ARC at this time. I need to see more traffic studies and less parking spaces. I also don’t want the developers to get credit for open space by using City-owned land. My other concern is the type of housing that will be built. What the County needs built are smaller (affordable by design) multi-family units; not more single-family homes.

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About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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1 Comment

  1. Sharla Cheney

    This series of articles have been excellent – invaluable in evaluating how knowledgeable the candidates are about environmental issues in the County.  I think David Abramson has lived up to his reputation of his New Green Deal platform with pragmatic problem solving ideas.   It is clear that Jim Provenza understands the challenges in balancing needs of urban centers, agriculture, fish and wildlife, and environmental sustainability and has a track record of good stewardship in this regard.

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