Commentary: Is Measure J Under Threat from the State?

Share:

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis has long been a poster child community for anti-growth policies—culminating with the 2000 passage of Measure J.  But with the city out of compliance with current state housing laws, having had the Builder’s Remedy imposed, and facing doubts about whether it can meet state housing needs in the next decade—there is a real question as to whether the state will see Measure J as a barrier to housing and attempt to take it out.

This weekend, William Fulton of the California Planning and Development Report asked, “Is The Era Of Ballot-Box Zoning Over?”

Fulton notes at least 60 others cities have some form of ballot box zoning.

He writes, “Now, however, ballot-box zoning is running up against the recent state-level push to allow more housing production. And it may be that ballot-box zoning will lose.”

As Fulton explains, “Not all development projects are subject to the initiative process, of course. Only legislative matters can go on the ballot – not ministerial projects. For 40 years, however, the courts have ruled that this means any general plan amendment or zone change is a legislative matter and therefore can go on the ballot.”

He argues, “The Davis situation seems like(ly) to be the flashpoint for the issue.”

In my view much of this is self-inflicted.  When it was enacted, the idea of Measure J was to provide a community check on the approval authority of city council while at the same time providing the community with a brake on what at the time seemed to be runaway growth.

Instead, activists have used Measure J to quash almost every approved project that has come before the voters.  In the 23 years since the passage of Measure J in 2000, only two projects have been passed by the voters, and none built.

That has put the city into a bind.  The cost of housing has exploded.  Young families, teachers, UC Davis professors have been priced out of the market, putting a strain on schools.

The question is whether there is still a middle path that the community can take?  A way to get some housing, while preserving the ability of the voters to exercise a measure of control.

Over the last few years I have suggested a pre-approval process in conjunction with the General Plan update.  The council is currently looking to widen the Measure J exemptions to include possibly projects that are 50 percent affordable housing.

Currently, exemptions only exist for one hundred percent affordable housing—which has generated zero projects.  While 50 percent is a high threshold, it is worth noting that the cost of pushing through a Measure J project is high and the chances for approval are low.  A tradeoff of cost for certainty might make the move worthwhile.

But every time someone has suggested looking at changing Measure J, a group of citizens comes out in force to demand that Measure J be renewed as written with only technical updates.

We saw it again in 2020 when the council put a renewal on the ballot that was supported with 83 percent of the vote.

We have seen signs of opposition to proposals to amend Measure J.  And we saw opposition to projects coming forward to contend potentially for the 2024 ballot.

If ever there were a time to get proposed amendments passed, it would be now.

At the last council meeting, two weeks ago, the council declined to put any of the four projects on the ballot for 2024.  At the same time—unbeknownst to most of the community and the council—HCD was rejecting the current housing element and placing the city under the auspices of the Builder’s Remedy.

Fulton notes: “The city said the fixes required to be found in compliance were minor…”

I’m more skeptical of that—as I have been for some time.  Whether the city can find the zoned land to replace the proposal for housing at University Commons remains to be seen—a good idea might come tonight at the scheduled meeting.

But I think it’s a dubious proposition that the city can build a total of 1000 units in the downtown in the next five years.  I have still not found a single person outside of city staff that believes that is possible and some have noted that, even if it is, the city won’t be able to use the downtown units for future housing elements.

At the last meeting, council acknowledged their inability to meet RHNA measures—not for this time, but for the next cycle—without some peripheral projects.

But a big question now is whether the city council will even get the opportunity to attempt a middle path.

Fulton notes the efforts of the developer at Palomino Place—first reported by the Vanguard on Friday.

This is a much more dangerous move than I think a lot of residents understand.

As Fulton points out, “The Palomino Place move will almost certainly trigger litigation with the City of Davis over whether the builder’s remedy provision in the Housing Accountability Act pre-empts local voters’ power to require that voters approve legislative actions on development projects.”

Fulton cites a tweet from UC Davis Law Professor Chris Elmendorf who tweeted, in response to the news from the Vanguard, “Looks like there will be meaty legal questions about whether BR allows (a) developer to bypass local voter-approval requirements.”

Fulton notes, “Remarkably, despite the long history of ballot-box zoning in California – and the fact that the builder’s remedy has been on the books for more than 30 years – this (precise) question has never been litigated.”

This is a point I keep making as well—Measure J has never been tested in the courts and apparently neither has ballot-box zoning itself.

I still believe that the best approach for Davis is a “mend it, don’t end it” approach that could preserve the Measure J brake without stopping every single peripheral project that comes forward.  That would take community cooperation with reform efforts.

And now that remedy might be out of the hands of the city—if this does end up going to court, it could be that Davis will have no citizen initiative process at all.

I have been warning for the last few years of this possibility—the citizens and perhaps even the council have largely ignored the risk.  Now that issue is upon us.

Davis clearly needs the ability to approve and build more housing.  But I don’t think the council wants to lose its local land use authority in the process.

Share:

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.

Related posts

51 thoughts on “Commentary: Is Measure J Under Threat from the State?”

  1. Ron Glick

    “But I don’t think the council wants to lose its local land use authority in the process.”

    The CC has already lost its land use authority. Measure J took it away from them.

        1. Keith Olsen

          The people get to vote separately on several different issues regardless of who is elected.  Why not something as important as housing sprawl in their communities?  I say Yay to Measure J.

          Over and Out!

      1. Keith Y Echols

        Yes, it gave it to the people, where it belongs.

        Yes it gave it to the plebians, the unwashed masses, the hoi polloi.  The everyday person that is ignorant of civic long term fiscal and urban planning.  There’s a reason why we’re supposed to be a REPRESENTATIVE democracy and not a direct democracy.   Voters are supposed to choose leaders they want to lead that represents them but can also lead them; convince them of the proper decisions for the people’s own good.  Voters aren’t supposed to micromanage important processes for the civic leaders.

        1. Keith Olsen

          Yeah, the elitists should be making all the decisions.  Far be it for a lowly commoner to decide something as important as construction sprawl.

          The hoi polloi is a way of referring to common people, and it is an elitist term usually used by people who consider themselves to be above the masses.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Voters are supposed to choose leaders they want to lead that represents them but can also lead them; convince them of the proper decisions for the people’s own good.  Voters aren’t supposed to micromanage important processes for the civic leaders.

          Do you actually believe that some of those on the council are knowledgeable regarding land use issues, for example?

          These people came from (and are part of) the “unwashed masses” – as you put it.

        3. Keith Y Echols

          Yeah, the elitists should be making all the decisions.  Far be it for a lowly commoner to decide something as important as construction sprawl.

          You’re right, the next time you need surgery, why don’t you put the decision to a vote to the public for to make healthcare decision.  I’ll volunteer to do the surgery!  I’m sure I can get on some volunteer commission surgery board!   I mean if lowly commoners are going to make decisions about every little thing for everybody…why not?

          And yes I agree you’re a lowly commoner when it comes to your lack of understanding of urban and fiscal planning.  As the cool kids say….”stay in your lane”  Let the grown ups do their work.  You can vote the leaders in and out based on the promises (kept or broken) and the results.

        4. Keith Olsen

          You’re right, the next time you need surgery, why don’t you put the decision to a vote to the public for to make healthcare decision.  I’ll volunteer to do the surgery! 

          But you’re willing to let the public make the decision by vote on who your doctor is even though they aren’t medical experts.  What’s the difference when politicians are elected to make construction sprawl decisions when they likely aren’t real estate or planning experts?

        5. Keith Y Echols

          But you’re willing to let the public make the decision by vote on who your doctor is even though they aren’t medical experts

          I’m not sure what you’re talking about….I suspect some idiotic national political garbage that you lack understanding of the topic….but on to the subject at hand.

          What’s the difference when politicians are elected to make construction sprawl decisions when they likely aren’t real estate or planning experts?

          The leaders devote their time to long term planning and have a staff of urban planners, financial and administrative professionals to provide them information.  The leaders may get it wrong but they have the information and to a degree the 2nd hand expertise to work with.  That’s why there are staff AND advisory commissions.

        6. Ron Oertel

          The leaders devote their time to long term planning and have a staff of urban planners, financial and administrative professionals to provide them information.  The leaders may get it wrong but they have the information and to a degree the 2nd hand expertise to work with.  That’s why there are staff AND advisory commissions.

          Much of the time, staff and advisory commissions are either ignored, or criticized.  Regardless, that information is also available to the public.

          But more importantly, it’s not exactly rocket science regarding whether or not to continue sprawling in the first place. I believe we’ve all seen plenty of “expert” conclusions around the region (and elsewhere) regarding THAT choice.

        7. Richard_McCann

          Keith O

          The difference is that Council members are elected to devote much more of their attention to the subject matter so that are conversant in the many tradeoffs. Whether they are an expert doesn’t really matter (although some background in the subject helps). That allows the rest of us to focus on the other aspects of our lives that require our own specific expertise. This has nothing to do with “elitism”–it has to do with usefully passing around responsibility so each of has a manageable amount of information and tasks. And if someone doesn’t have the time or resources to focus on this type of decision then, just as with surgery and flying a plane, it should be delegated to someone who we’ve all chosen to process through that decision because they do have the time and resources.

    1. Keith Y Echols

      The CC has already lost its land use authority. Measure J took it away from them.

      Well, the city council lost land use authority for ag land and peripheral (because it’s ag land) projects because of Measure J. They still technically had land use authority over property inside the city limits (“technically” because neighborhood groups like the ones that opposed Trackside and the Umall still exist to throw monkey wrenches in the plans).  But now with the Builder’s Remedy, the City Council has completely lost authority over projects INSIDE the city limits that aren’t designated for ag uses.

  2. Don Shor

    The council cannot be unaware of the gravity of this situation. They should reverse course and put at least one housing proposal on the next available ballot. City voters have twice voted, by substantial margins, in favor of housing projects that are geared toward specific groups (Nishi, WDAAC). They need the opportunity to vote for a normal housing subdivision that does not restrict or focus on just one target demographic. There are at least two, possibly more, such projects ready to go before the voters if the city can develop sufficient staffing to review them in time.

    If the voters approve a normal residential subdivision, the state would likely back off. If the voters reject it, the state would likely step in somehow. That would be one of many issues in the campaign, but the city voters would have a clear choice and could decide whether they want to continue to have veto power over residential growth.

    The current council decision to forego the next election opportunity for more housing is likely to backfire badly. They and the voters have the power to retain Measure J by demonstrating that it is not simply a growth-suppression tool.

    1. Ron Oertel

      The scenario you’re putting forth “approve it, or else” would eventually result in the demise of Measure J (e.g., if the city was “counting on” approval to address RHNA requirements).

      The city will never, ever be able to count on an annexation that hasn’t been approved. They have to plan for RHNA requirements within city limits – as just about every other city along the coast is required to do, as well.

      It seems that no matter how many times its pointed out, the fact that many of the cities subject to these requirements are NOT expanding outward is purposefully overlooked on here. Why do you suppose that is?

      Now, if voters approve a development shortly before the next round of RHNA requirements come out (in several years from now), it may be that the timing would coincide with those requirements. But the approval has to come BEFORE the requirements, and the timing of the development would have to coincide with the timing of the requirements (in terms of completion of units, occupancy, or whatever other measure is used to determine if those units fall within the next cycle). The current process that the city pursues is not considering any of these factors.

      1. Don Shor

        It seems that no matter how many times its pointed out, the fact that many of the cities subject to these requirements are NOT expanding outward is purposefully overlooked on here. Why do you suppose that is?

        San Francisco: “The planning commission unanimously approved legislation designed to increase density on November 19. About 60 percent of San Francisco’s residential areas are zoned for single- and two-family homes, largely in the western half of the city. The legislation also allows up to four units on lots now zoned for one-, two- and three-family homes.”
        That’s certainly an option for Davis.

        1. Ron Oertel

          I’m pretty familiar with San Francisco, and have noticed that even in areas with single-family housing, there is very little change going on.  Even when the existing housing is not in good shape (and is located in a desirable neighborhood), the most that seems to occur is remodeling of the existing housing (or similar replacement).

          I suspect there’s (also other restrictions in place, preventing wholesale knocking down of existing housing.  Perhaps height restrictions, etc.

          And if this isn’t occurring in San Francisco (where there’s supposedly a lot of “demand”, and valuable land) – you can be sure it’s not going to happen in mass in a much-less expensive locale like Davis.

          https://48hills.org/2022/09/the-states-local-housing-goals-are-nothing-more-than-a-farce/

          You know where it would happen? On land that’s been annexed into the city (in conjunction with a Measure J vote), but which hasn’t been developed yet.

          1. Don Shor

            I’m pretty familiar with San Francisco, and have noticed that even in areas with single-family housing, there is very little change going on. Even when the existing housing is not in good shape (and is located in a desirable neighborhood), the most that seems to occur is remodeling of the existing housing (or similar replacement).

            I suspect there’s (also other restrictions in place, preventing wholesale knocking down of existing housing. Perhaps height restrictions, etc.

            And if this isn’t occurring in San Francisco (where there’s supposedly a lot of “demand”, and valuable land) – you can be sure it’s not going to happen in mass in a much-less expensive locale like Davis.

            None of this is relevant to what I posted. Their housing element was approved without annexation because they voted to allow for greater density in areas presently zoned for single-family homes. You asked a question and I answered it by looking up the answer for you.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Don:  The point being that San Francisco (and I would think just about every other city along the coast) isn’t expanding outward to address those mandates, and there’s every indication that the mandates will fail in those locales.  Regardless of whether or not HCD approves those plans.

          Check back in five years and you’ll see. Again, this isn’t just “my” opinion.

          The state already has its hands full with cities that are blatantly challenging the state’s mandates, let alone those which are at least trying to put something on paper.

          If the state really goes after these cities (for lack of “progress” – when the YIMBYs report that to them), they’re going to have to hire an army of lawyers to follow-through on whatever they threaten those cities with.

          My guess is that HCD and the attorney general’s office would have to become the largest, best-funded agency in the entire state to do so. They’re going to have more trouble than Russia does with Ukraine (which was also “unexpected”). With figurative “arms suppliers” consisting of cities and citizens across the entire state.

          1. Don Shor

            Don: The point being that San Francisco (and I would think just about every other city along the coast) isn’t expanding outward to address those mandates,

            The point being that San Francisco achieved their housing element approval by allowing higher densities in existing neighborhoods. Davis could certainly do that as well.

            there’s every indication that the mandates will fail in those locales.

            The state doesn’t build housing. Cities don’t build housing. The whole purpose of this housing element exercise is for cities to remove the impediments to private construction of housing in order to achieve the state’s housing goals.
            The state will certainly achieve their goal of getting every city in compliance by having an approved housing element, or the builders remedy will become an option in cities where that fails. Whether the housing will get built is subject to private financing in most cases. If they don’t meet their housing goals one way, I feel quite certain the legislature and the governor will move to increase housing some other way.

        3. Ron Oertel

          The state will certainly achieve their goal of getting every city in compliance by having an approved housing element, or the builders remedy will become an option in cities where that fails.

          Based upon what I’ve heard on here (and elsewhere), the “builder’s remedy” isn’t necessarily penciling-out.

          But it will be interesting if this occurs to any substantial degree, as it essentially puts all planning responsibility on the state which created this exemption.  As such, if it ends up harming the cities that state officials are supposed to be representing, it seems unlikely that citizens will tolerate this, in the long run.  I can think of a lot of ways that forcing a builder’s remedy would have negative impacts on cities, with resulting and entirely-predictable backlash.

          Fortunately, we don’t yet live in a dictatorship, though it sometimes takes some “suffering” for folks to respond.  As they did with Proposition 13, when they removed control from the state in regard to property taxes.

          I suspect it will be several years for this to play out, and will include various legal challenges which delay or derail any result.

          Whether the housing will get built is subject to private financing in most cases. If they don’t meet their housing goals one way, I feel quite certain the legislature and the governor will move to increase housing some other way.

          They probably will “try”, but they’ve failed miserably so far.  And with the housing/economic/population downturn underway, cities and organizations actively fighting them (including the League of California Cities), they’ll have their work cut out for them regarding their war against their own constituents.

          And by the time this all plays out, my guess is that the political landscape (and leaders) will change by then.

          My guess is that if there was some kind of online odds-making (betting) organization examining this situation, the “house” (the state) would be facing some incredibly long odds – despite their authority (which also can be removed from them).

          Again, I just don’t see success arising from threats against massive numbers of constituents. But the key (as always) for these constituents is to band together to fight “mother Russia”. I don’t think they’re organized enough (or have suffered enough) to really take this on, so far.

          And the leaders in Davis are pretty much on the side of the state in the first place, in regard to the war against constituents. With no sign of change, so far.

  3. Ron Oertel

    It seems unlikely that the state would “force” cities to annex land, whether it’s through something like Measure J or via a council.

    It seems more likely that once land is annexed, state mandates will override baseline features and development agreements.

    The state and the court system is not going to look too kindly toward local measures which attempt to override state mandates (for land annexed into a city). And given that annexed land takes years or decades to develop, it’s more enticing for developers to pursue options such as the “builder’s remedy” before anything is actually built on the annexed land.

    If anything, the state’s mandates are going to make it much less likely that voters will approve ANY annexation at all, given that they will have no assurance whatsoever that what they approve is actually what is built.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “It seems unlikely that the state would “force” cities to annex land,”

      The state would not be forcing the city to annex land by taking out Measure J.

      1. Ron Oertel

        By that same reasoning, the state would not take out Measure J in order to force annexation.  As such, it is not in danger to a lack of annexations. (Actually, it’s the court system we’re probably referring to, unless the city simply did not challenge whatever the state might decide.)

        The restrictions (e.g., baseline features and development agreements) that Measure J and the city creates on annexed land is more likely in danger.  Perhaps the state would nullify those restrictions, but leave the ability to approve/reject annexations in the hands of the voters.

        As an example, it seems unlikely that the state (or court system) would agree that a 400-acre Covell Village II is “off limits” to the builder’s remedy, or other state mandates. And those options would more likely be pursued on undeveloped land, after it’s been annexed into the city via a Measure J vote. The reason being that there’s no existing building(s) or infrastructure that would need to be removed to pursue those options.

        Which (in my opinion) would be an even-better outcome than the current situation.  The reason being that I don’t think it’s likely that voters would approve ANY annexations, under that scenario. Assuming they understand what’s at stake.

      2. Keith Y Echols

        Just as the city is caught between a rock and hard place with it’s refusal to expand but limited infill…..the state could be at philosophical rock and a hard place with this specific issue.  All the legislation (as far as I know) has concerned streamlining the development of infill property.  As soon as the pro housing groups push for peripheral expansion for (in theory) affordability reasons….they’re going to likely lose the environmentalists who have supported the new infill housing measures.

        1. Richard_McCann

          I think environmentalists are OK with prudent expansion if its for well planned neighborhoods. Here’s a coherent definition of sprawl rather than ill defined assertions:

          Characteristics of Sprawl

          The phenomenon of sprawl has been described in various ways, ranging from development aesthetics to local street patterns (Galster et al., 2001). While there is no universally accepted definition of sprawling land development, there are several common characteristics pervading the literature that can help us understand and even measure its occurrence. These include:

          1) Low-density, single family dwellings. The most frequently cited feature of sprawl is the abundance of large-lot (usually 1-5 acres depending on the development context), residential housing developments that consume large amounts of previously vacant or productive land. Density, in this sense, can be represented by median lot size, the number of dwelling units per neighborhood, or median floor space of single-family units (Song & Knaap, 2004).
          2) Automobile dependency even for short trip. Because sprawling development patterns create large distances between dwelling units and segregate different land uses, residents are forced to rely on automobiles at the expense of alternative forms of transportation. Also, the cul-de-sac dominated street patterns within these neighborhoods foster a lack of connectivity and serve as an obstacle for walking and biking to nearby destinations (Benfield et al., 1999). Reliance on the automobile also encourages the development of homogeneous neighborhoods that lack a mixture of land uses (Song & Knaap, 2004).
          3) Spiraling growth outward from existing urban centers.Sprawl is also conceptualized as low-density development rapidly expanding away from more compact urban cores. Approximately 80 percent of the acreage used for recently constructed housing in the U.S. is land outside urban areas; almost all of this land (94%) is in lots of 1 acre or larger (Heimlich & Anderson, 2001).
          4) Leapfrogging patterns of development. Another well-known characteristic of sprawl is dispersed development, which favors the development of parcels situated further out in the countryside over the vacant lands adjacent to existing development.(Torrens & Alberti 2000). Leapfrogging creates a haphazard development pattern that consumes large amounts of land.
          5) Strip Development. “Ribbon” development, in which residences or commercial properties line roads extending outward from urban centers is another prominent characteristic of sprawl (Tsai, 2005). Homes arranged along rural highways present hazards related to traffic safety; commercial strips comprised of fast food chains and large retail stores cater to automobile access and are often fronted by expansive parking lots.
          6) Undefined edge between urban and rural areas. Sprawling residential development extending outward from urban centers tends to blur the division between urban and rural domains (Heimlich & Anderson, 2001). This development pattern is often associated with the encroachment of open space and agricultural lands.
          It is important to note that sprawling development patterns are tied to the context of the urban-suburban landscape. Low-density residential units may mean different things in the city of Houston than in a small town in coastal Maine. Also, one development project or neighborhood does not make for sprawl; rather, sprawling development must be assessed as an overall pattern at the regional level. as an overall pattern of development.
          https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/the-characteristics-causes-and-consequences-of-sprawling-103014747/

        2. Keith Y Echols

          I think you forget that development and urban planning is my area of expertise.  Giving me a definition of “sprawl” is like giving a 20 year surgeon a copy of Grey’s Anatomy.

          Anyway….I find it hilarious that just as you post this; a project is submitted that meets all of these requirements for sprawl.  But hey….renewable energy!

  4. Jim Frame

    By that same reasoning, the state would not take out Measure J in order to force annexation.

    Note that Measure J has nothing to do with annexation, it only pertains to rezoning.  Also, the city cannot refuse an annexation unless the population of the land proposed for annexation is at least 50% of the city’s population, in which case a vote is required.  Annexation is driven by the owner of the proposed annexation land, not by the city.  (In most cases both are pushing for annexation, but that’s not always the case.)

     

    1. Ron Oertel

      Thanks, Jim – but I don’t understand some of this:

      Note that Measure J has nothing to do with annexation, it only pertains to rezoning.

      How would a city have the authority to rezone land outside of its boundaries? Does this have something to do with “sphere of influence”?

      And, can the city rezone land outside of its boundaries without subsequently including it in the city at some point? If it can remain outside of city boundaries indefinitely, what would the result / ramifications be? (Including, but not limited to whether or not the units would be counted toward city RHNA requirements?)

      Annexation is driven by the owner of the proposed annexation land, not by the city.  (In most cases both are pushing for annexation, but that’s not always the case.)

      Related to my first question, but also – don’t ALL Measure J votes include annexation?

       

      1. Don Shor

        Summary of Measure J:

        An ordinance of the City of Davis amending the city’s general plan to add a policy requiring voter approval for certain changes to the land use designations or entitlements of properties shown on the general plan land use map and enacting the citizens’ right to vote on future use of open space and agricultural lands ordinance to provide for voter approval of (1) any general plan land use map amendment that changes a land use designation from an agricultural or urban reserve designation to an urban designation or from an agricultural designation to an urban reserve designation and (2) any proposal for development on the last two large vacant properties designated for urban use commonly known as the Covell Center and Nishi properties; this ordinance to be adopted by the voters and effective upon adoption by the voters of the city.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Thanks – but that doesn’t answer the questions I asked of Jim, and may bring up other questions.

          Yes – I’m already aware of the status of Palomino Place (regarding your comment below).

          1. Don Shor

            Ron: “don’t ALL Measure J votes include annexation?”
            Don: “No, Palomino Place is not an annexation. It would only be subject to a vote because it’s still zoned ag.”
            Ron: “Yes – I’m already aware of the status of Palomino Place.”

            So you asked a question to which you already knew the answer. Got it.

        2. Ron Oertel

          So you asked a question to which you already knew the answer. Got it.

          You “got me” Don – congratulations (as I wasn’t thinking of that one).

          What about the other four development proposals, in regard to the questions I asked of JIM? Of which there was more than one question.

        3. Keith Y Echols

          Jesus guys….it’s technicality.  Measure J pertains to rezoning Ag land inside or outside of city limits. But because nearly all the land that surrounds Davis is zoned for Ag; pretty much any annexation for development would require a Measure J vote.

          This is why I think someone should go through the county and rezone property adjacent to the city through the county.  Get services agreements with the city.  Then propose the property’s annexation which would no longer be subject to Measure J.  If I recall (I think it was Don that told me) I think that’s sort of how Davis ended up with Wildhorse.

          1. Don Shor

            (I think it was Don that told me) I think that’s sort of how Davis ended up with Wildhorse.

            It’s how Davis ended up with Mace Ranch.

      2. Don Shor

        don’t ALL Measure J votes include annexation?

        No, Palomino Place is not an annexation. It would only be subject to a vote because it’s still zoned ag.

        1. Jim Frame

          Measure J pertains to rezoning Ag land inside or outside of city limits

          Nope.  It only pertains to land inside the city limits.  The city has no zoning authority over lands outside its corporate boundary.

          What many don’t appreciate – and until a few months ago I was one of them – is that the city doesn’t control annexations, LAFCO does.  LAFCO – a state agency, not a county agency – is charged with promoting orderly development, and one of its guiding principles is to encourage development within cities.  If a land owner petitions LAFCO to annex his land to an abutting city, and LAFCO finds annexation to be consistent with orderly development, LAFCO will approve the annexation even if the city opposes it, and the city is out of luck.  This has been tested at the state Supreme Court level.  (The one exception is the 50% population criterion I mentioned earlier.)

          What keeps adjacent land owners from annexing is city taxes and regulation.  Absent an intent to immediately develop the land, there’s no reason for an ag owner to annex, and financial reasons not to annex.  But at any time an abutting land owner can petition LAFCO for annexation, and barring a negative finding by LAFCO, annexation is likely to be approved.

          Important:  I’m not an expert on annexation, I’ve just been doing enough reading to be reasonably confident in what I’ve written above.  If someone more knowledgeable finds a mistake in any of this, I’d be grateful if they would let me know.

        2. Keith Y Echols

          What many don’t appreciate – and until a few months ago I was one of them – is that the city doesn’t control annexations, LAFCO does.  LAFCO – a state agency, not a county agency – is charged with promoting orderly development, 

          That’s kind of a one sided understanding of  LAFCO.  No annexation can happen if the city doesn’t initiate the annexation process with LAFCO.  As far as I know, LAFCO can’t force a city to annex land.

          I’m not sure I’d call LAFCO a state agency.  It’s empowered by the state.  But it’s run by local officials.   But each county’s LAFCO is run a little differently but generally with the same task of managing land and development between cities and counties.

          Yolo LAFCo is composed of five regular Commissioners; two county supervisors selected by the Board of Supervisors; two city council representatives selected by the City Selection Committee within Yolo County; and one public member selected by the other members of the Commission. For each category of members represented (county, city, and public) there is one alternate.

  5. Ron Oertel

    Jesus guys….it’s technicality.

    Then propose the property’s annexation which would no longer be subject to Measure J.

    This is absolutely NOT a technicality.

    Measure J pertains to rezoning Ag land inside or outside of city limits.

    Here’s the questions I asked Jim, repeated below:

    How would a city have the authority to rezone land outside of its boundaries? Does this have something to do with “sphere of influence”?

    And, can the city rezone land outside of its boundaries without subsequently including it in the city at some point? If it can remain outside of city boundaries indefinitely, what would the result / ramifications be? (Including, but not limited to whether or not the units would be counted toward city RHNA requirements?

    To further clarify, what would the point be of the city rezoning land outside of its boundaries, if it’s not going to also annex that land?

    And again (other than Palomino Place – which is already within the city’s boundaries), would Measure J allow rezoning WITHOUT inclusion in the city’s boundaries?

    Palomino Place is interesting, in that inclusion within the city’s boundaries is apparently what allows them to pursue the “builder’s remedy” – regardless of how its zoned. Which is what I suggested may happen in regard to any development agreement or baseline features for parcels which are annexed to the city, as well. The zoning matters less than inclusion in the city.

    Seems that property which remains outside of the city’s boundaries is safe from state mandates, unless the county forces something (which seems unlikely to occur again, given the pass-through agreement with the city, etc.).

    1. Ron Oertel

      And all of this is the reason that I suspect the state’s mandates (and threat thereof) will ultimately encourage voters to reject peripheral proposals altogether.

      The state’s mandates may have virtually ensured that most peripheral proposals fail, since promised baseline features and development agreements may be rendered moot (if a given parcel is approved for development, via Measure J).

      And thanks to Palomino Place for essentially providing a model of this. (I’d suggest renaming the entire development as “Builder’s Remedy #1”.)

      Bottom line – don’t annex land into the city, based upon any promised development agreement or baseline features. Once any parcel is annexed into the city, voters will have already written a blank check (e.g., “Builder’s Remedy #2, #3, #4 . . .).

      But hey, it should save a lot of campaign costs. “Vote for (or against) Builder’s Remedy Number 1, 2, 3 . . .”

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        ” I suspect the state’s mandates (and threat thereof) will ultimately encourage voters to reject peripheral proposals altogether.”

        How are you expecting that to happen?

        1. Ron Oertel

          As I already noted, the part of Measure J that may be struck down is the part that essentially eliminates the state’s mandates on those parcels, post-approval. In other words, the baseline features and development agreements which describe the number and types of development.

          Which by their very definition, eliminates the state’s mandates.

          It does not seem likely (for example) that a 400 acre parcel in the form of Covell Village II will be “exempt” from the state’s mandates, post-approval. And since much of the land would remain vacant for years or decades, it would be easier for developers to enact the “builder’s remedy”, or whatever else the state allows.

          It also seems likely that the state’s mandates have not been fully thought-out regarding annexed parcels, probably resulting in a chaotic result. (Again, if the state is going to assume local planning responsibilities, they’re also ultimately going to be responsible for the outcome.)

          As such, whatever voters approve may have no relationship to what’s built.  And as they come to understand (or even just “suspect”) this, it’s going to doom a lot of proposals.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Mark:  It depends upon what “portion” they might invalidate.

          If they invalidate the portion I suspect is most vulnerable, it might be “good news” regarding the likelihood of voters in the city approving ANY new peripheral proposals.

          As such, those hoping for more sprawl might (ironically) “pray” that the court system doesn’t invalidate any “portion” of Measure J.

          As for me, I’m kind of hoping that the court system does invalidate the portion that I suspect is vulnerable.

          In which case, the resulting development might resemble something out of “Mad Max”, as the state would then be in control of it. (And it doesn’t seem as though they’ve thought this through.)

  6. Jim Frame

    Minor clarification and disclosure:  While I’m not an expert on annexation generally, I *am* an expert on a very narrow technical aspect of it, and am a consultant to Yolo LAFCO in my professional capacity.

    1. Keith Y Echols

      Eh, I’ve only ever made petitions for annexation in the Merced/Manteca area…and I’ve been part of projects that were annexed in the Fresno area.

      Another thing that is interesting:  “We conclude that the state’s interest in carrying out a policy of planned, orderly community development under the guidance of the local agency formation commissions…is of compelling importance.”

      The ruling that allowed LAFCOs the power to force annexation may also be interpreted that to fulfill their duty that they can override a rezoning law like Measure J.

  7. Jim Frame

     No annexation can happen if the city doesn’t initiate the annexation process with LAFCO.

    See §56650 of the Government Code.  “Commission proceedings for a change of organization or a reorganization may be initiated by petition or by resolution of application in accordance with this chapter.”  A resolution would be from a city, a petition from a landowner.

     

    As far as I know, LAFCO can’t force a city to annex land.

    See Citizens Against Forced Annexation v. LAFCO [32 Cal. 3d 830].  “We conclude that the state’s interest in carrying out a policy of planned, orderly community development under the guidance of the local agency formation commissions…is of compelling importance. That interest cannot be achieved if residents of the affected city or their elected representatives have the power to reject an annexation endorsed by the commission and approved by the residents of the affected territory.

    I’m not sure I’d call LAFCO a state agency.

    I agree, that’s not a proper characterization.  LAFCOs are a bit of an odd duck — special commissions created by the state legislature.  However, they’re not counties, cities or special districts.  They’re definitely not county agencies or city departments.

     

    1. Keith Y Echols

      Interesting.  I stand corrected.  I think few have ever even thought about a forced annexation because the developer would piss off the city (good luck getting any further entitlements or permits).  However, I’ve said that the next step is for a developer to get county approval to rezone and entitle land….and then annex it; that would get around a Measure J Vote.  Apparently the developer doesn’t even need the city council to annex it for them.  Citizens Against Forced Annexation v. Local Agency Formation Com.

      Thus, under the 1977 Act, if the residents of an affected area desire to join a neighboring city, and that proposal accords with the pattern of orderly community development as envisioned by the commission, the city and its voters no longer have the power to defeat annexation.

      1. Mark West

         “I’ve said that the next step is for a developer to get county approval…”

        You are correct, except that what you are missing is the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that precludes the County from making an agreement of that sort. Perhaps, you are in error due to your short tenure in the area, or then again, perhaps I am, due to the turnover in the relevant governing entities. Whichever…I don’t expect any change to the status quo...

         

         

        1. Keith Y Echols

          The county is under pressure by the state to push their cities to produce housing.  It’s not a stretch of the imagination to figure they’re more than willing to work with someone to get entitlements that are adjacent to a city….especially a no growth one like Davis.  As Don mentioned: it would not be the first time this happened…it’s how Davis got Mace Ranch.

          As for new to the area?  I suppose that’s relative.   I’ve lived here for 8 years.  I’ve been coming to Davis for the weekend 1-2 times a month during the 10 years before I moved here (family commitments).  My wife was born and raised here.  As for the status quo?  The HCD is coming down like a sledgehammer on non-compliant cities (legal teeth added to the HCD back in 2018).  Look at the number of new developments suddenly popping up in Davis right now.  Davis technically under the “Builder’s Remedy”.  Somethings gotta give.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for