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Watsonville
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September 26, 2022

Guest View: Protect farmland, prevent sprawl

Social issues being faced by Watsonville are being encountered by every town and city in California and across the country. Rising real estate prices, housing needs and homelessness are not solved by paving over farmland.

Watsonville is a special and unique place and does not need to become another sprawling city like San Jose. Our world-class farmland can produce food forever; our agricultural businesses and industry provide thousands of jobs; our city has vacant and under-utilized lots available for all levels of housing and mixed-use development.

Our Downtown Specific Plan is a robust plan, which identifies many potential housing units and is a model for the type of community-based planning that can occur at other defined areas throughout the city. Organic agriculture and mixed-use developments are on the rise. New and innovative businesses will find opportunities to locate here.

In 2002 and again in 2013, our citizens reaffirmed the vision to protect our valuable farmland and create housing and jobs that suited the location of our city, situated on the highly desirable flatlands of the Central Coast of California. Measure Q enables the city to grow within its boundaries for another 18 years, when the citizens can decide a future path.

Urban Limit Lines are a way to prevent that. We can join the 54 other Central Coast and Bay Area cities and jurisdictions in doing exactly what this measure does: Renew our Urban Limit Line and concentrate development on the many existing vacant and under-utilized sites.

As the city begins work on the 2050 General Plan, we can come together to have community meetings and give our input in crafting the next years for us.

However, the city’s deceptive Measure S is a loophole to sprawl. Read the language:

“Shall the City of Watsonville maintain the restrictions on growth approved by the voters in 2002 until 2040, with the exception of any property identified by the City Council during the General Plan update…”

“With the exception of any property identified by the City Council,” means that future City Councils may identify any property, including farmland, outside the established Urban Limit Line for development and sprawl without approval from voters.

Measure Q already has language that enables the City to annex lands: “This Initiative requires voter approval to change the ULL except that the City Council may change the ULL…if the change is necessary to comply with state or federal housing law…”

In other words, Measure Q contains language that enables them to do what they may have to without putting their conflicting measure on the ballot. Measure S is a stairway to sprawl and will confuse voters.

Measure Q, Watsonville Planned Growth and Farmland Protection Initiative, keeps Watsonville healthy and growing in a way that will give us a livable city into the future. The city has 18 years to focus on infill development, to put together a robust community visioning process like Action Pajaro Valley, and then in 2040 revisit the existing Urban Limit Line. This is what the 3,000 people who signed the petition want to see put before the voters.

Watsonville resident Sam Earnshaw was an organic vegetable farmer for more than 15 years and was co-founder of the Watsonville Farmers’ Market. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.

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