This November, Alameda County voters will once again vote on Measure D, or the “Save Agriculture and Open Space Lands” initiative, this time with amendments aimed at increasing profits for agriculture business while simultaneously preserving the county’s open land.
The proposed amendments come from the Alameda County Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCo, to allow equestrian centers, greenhouses and wineries more flexibility in their building plans.
Due to the industries in the valley voicing their concerns, LAFCo issued a report on the effects the measure has had in the region throughout the past 20 years, according to a report by the Alameda County Community Development Agency’s planning department. It discovered that while the industries are stable, the current floor aspect ratio is too limiting and has resulted in stagnation.
According to Victor Flores, a climate resilience manager for the East Bay Greenbelt Alliance, the measure was originally approved in 2000 to establish an “Urban Growth Boundary,” an area delineated to preserve open, undeveloped or agricultural land from urban sprawl specifically in the tri-valley region, which encompasses the natural regions of Danville, Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton.
The purpose of Measure D is to “to preserve and enhance agriculture and agricultural lands, and to protect the natural qualities, the wildlife habitats, the watersheds and the beautiful open space of Alameda County from excessive, badly located and harmful development,” according to the Alameda County Community Development Agency’s planning department.
However, since the measure’s passing, the agricultural and equestrian communities of Alameda County argue that the strict square footage limitations hinders their business performance.
“What we worry about in general is just the fact that if these industries don’t succeed, there’s a lot of market pressure to convert land, especially ‘greenfield developments’ into more sprawling, suburban development, which is horrible for the environment,” Flores said.
If the amended measure passes, the maximum floor area ratio for agricultural buildings in Large Parcel Agriculture areas will be increased from .01 to .025 and equestrian riding areas will be able to build covered structures to a maximum of 60,000 square feet, which will allow for more space for large events, thereby increasing revenue, according to Flores.
Flores noted that the largest supporters of the measure are industry advocates and the Tri-Valley Conservancy, a land trust aimed at preserving and advocating for the open spaces in the East Bay. According to Flores, there does not seem to be many who oppose the measure as the amendments will likely not be “super drastic.”
Flores noted that though Berkeley residents can vote on the measure, it will not impact them directly. In fact, he said it will likely only affect Livermore residents who live or work in the valley itself.