You Can Help
THE MONTEREY BAY AREA
WHO'S DOING WHAT AND HOW YOU CAN HELP
by Nicki McMahan
For those of us who grew up on the Central Coast, a trip
to the San Francisco Bay Area used to be a grand adventure.
Not too many years ago, Highway 101 hugged the coast range
as it meandered through the small valley towns of Gilroy and
Morgan Hill and the farms south of San Jose. The road wound
past orchards dense with blossoms in the spring and in
summer, past family fruit stands selling their produce.
Nancy Garrison, Farm Advisor for Santa Clara County, says
the Santa Clara Valley was the premier fruit growing area in
the world at that time. Today urban development has paved
most of that rich land and growing fruit is generally a
hobby pursued by backyard orchardists. The region once known
as the "Valley of our Heart's Delight" has been renamed for
a common element--silicon.
The Monterey Bay area and the Santa Clara Valley share a
number of similarities. Both were blessed with rich soil and
benign climates. Both could grow a great diversity of crops.
The food grown in these areas helped feed California and the
rest of the world. Today the Monterey region can do this;
Santa Clara cannot. And, like the Santa Clara Valley, the
Monterey Bay area is experiencing increasing urban pressures
and loss of prime agricultural land.
Today there is essentially no farmland left in the Santa
Clara Valley. The question is, should we or can we allow
this same thing to happen in the Monterey Bay area.
The current situation in the Monterey Bay area is
serious. Many of the problems are ongoing, but the
negotiations surrounding the city of Watsonville's attempt
to annex surrounding prime farmlands and convert them to
light industry have sharply focused the issues.
What's at risk is the future of the Pajaro Valley. Many
feel the Pajaro Valley is now the world's premier fruit
growing region. Its range of micro climates, produces a rich
diversity of plants. Growers consider it a horticultural
Jeff Rosendale, owner of Sierra Azul and Rosendale's
Nursery in Watsonville, estimates that between his and the
nurseries of two other colleagues in the area, they raise
five to six thousand different varieties. He says, "Beside
growing fruits, vegetables and flowers, we can grow plants
indigenous to the Mediterranean region and to Australia.
This is truly a unique growing area."
The Salinas Valley, long regarded as the world's salad
bowl, is another vital agricultural resource. The cool
weather row crops grown in that long valley are shipped
across the country and around the globe. The less fertile
slopes are being planted in vines and the wine from the
region is making a name for itself. However, the valley is
feeling increasing urban pressure. Housing developments are
being built on good farmland north of Salinas and farther
south around Soledad and Chualar.
One thing that may help slow urban sprawl is agriculture
continuing to be big business. The report entitled, "State
of Monterey County 1998," just released by LandWatch, a
nonprofit corporation dedicated to promoting better land use
planning in Monterey County, states, "Agriculture remains
the largest sector of Monterey's economy. Gross sales of
agricultural products totaled $2.2 billion in 1997, a 17
increase from 1996."
At the same time, the loss of agricultural land to urban
development is a growing concern. LandWatch reports, "Since
1982, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors has
redesignated 1,968 acres of farmland to urban uses. Of the
7,520 dwelling units approved yet unconstructed, 68 will be
built on farmland. All these units will be built on farmland
"Of the 7,880 dwelling units under consideration but not
yet approved, 61 would be built on farmland with 24 in
cities and 37 in the unincorporated areas. Close to 4.6
million square feet of commercial/industrial
development--either approved and unconstructed, or
pending--would be built on farmland."
One of the primary causes for this trend is economics.
Brian Rianda, Trustee and chief force behind the Monterey
County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy, Inc.,
is a lifelong resident of Salinas and a real estate agent
specializing in farm and ranch sales. In his experience, if
a parcel of agricultural land is rezoned for residential use
at five units per acre, the value can increase as much as
The possibility of profits like these can be a tremendous
incentive to attempt rezoning. The issue then becomes one of
finding ways to keep the land in agriculture. The
Conservancy has used a variety of means to preserve land,
including Federal income tax deductions, reduced estate tax
liability, property tax advantages and outright
Population growth is the other key factor leading to
urban sprawl. LandWatch reports the population of Monterey
County has increased 33 since 1988 and is projected by the
Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG) to grow
another 39 by 2020 to a total of over 536,000. Santa Cruz
and San Benito counties will also be experiencing tremendous
The issue will be how to achieve a balance between
population, economics and preservation of farmlands. Some of
the most active groups and individuals currently working on
the problem are as follows:
LANDWATCH MONTEREY COUNTY
Landwatch, established in 1997, states it is "dedicated
to improving the quality of life through land use
planning, citizen monitoring, policy development and
public education." The group's efforts are confined to
Monterey County. Landwatch is quickly becoming the most
important watchdog in the area, especially since the
release of their "State of the County" report in May
Landwatch welcomes members. All donations are tax
deductible. Levels of support include Student at $15,
Friend at $25, and on up. Mike DeLapa, President of the
Board of Directors, has been instrumental in starting the
organization. Donna Kaufmann is the office manager.
Landwatch can be reached at: P.O. Box 945, Pacific
Grove. CA 93950. (408) 375-3752. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
MONTEREY COUNTY AGRICULTURAL LAND
The Conservancy, founded in 1984, is designed to protect
prime growing properties in the Salinas Valley and
environs. The Conservancy, with the help of the Packard
Foundation and Proposition 70, the California Wildlife,
Coastal and Parkland Conservation Bond Act, has purchased
and preserved the 192 acre Armstrong Ranch north of
Marina and the 60 acre Azevedo Ranch in Elkhorn
The funds from these leases provide the economic base
that allows the Conservancy to hold easements on other
properties or make future purchases. The group also has
close to 3,000 acres under easement.
The Conservancy isn't actively seeking members at this
time. Instead they are looking for landowners who would
like to preserve their agricultural land while receiving
tax benefits or other financial incentives and who could
use some help accomplishing this.
The Conservancy can be reached at P.O.Box 1731,
Salinas, CA 93902. (408) 422-5868.
The Packard Foundation has played a very important role
in preserving agricultural land on the Central Coast and
intends to provide even more significant leadership in
the coming years. The Packard Foundation has made the
commitment to spend $175 million in California for land
preservation over the next five years. Annually they will
distribute $30 million for land transactions and $5
million for policy and planning.
Their areas of greatest focus will be the Sierras, the
Central Valley and the Central Coast. Locally they will
emphasize the preservation of agricultural land and hope
to help keep it in private hands. Salinas and Pajaro will
be high priorities.
Mike Mantell, California Coordinator for Conservation
can be reached at the Packard Foundation, 300 Second St.,
Los Altos, CA 94022. (650) 948-7658.
COMMUNITY ALLIANCE FOR FAMILY FARMERS
C.A.F.F. is a statewide nonprofit established
approximately twenty years ago to encourage "family scale
agriculture, care for the land, and to help sustain local
economies and encourage social justice." The local
chapter is based in Santa Cruz. C.A.F.F. has created
adjunct organizations, including:
LIGHTHOUSE FARM NETWORK
The Farm Network provides a setting for farmers in the
Santa Cruz, Hollister, Salinas and Watsonville areas
to share pertinent information, much of it about
better ways to farm biologically. The public can
attend their meetings.
PAJARO VALLEY FUTURES NETWORK
The Futures Network grew out of the proposed
annexation by Watsonville of approximately 1,000 acres
of prime agriculture land. The Futures Network
received a $25,000 grant from the Packard Foundation
to undertake an inventory of all vacant agricultural
parcels of land and under-utilized buildings in the
unincorporated areas in the greater Pajaro Valley and
in the cities of Pajaro and Watsonville.
The Futures Network wants to get a clear picture of
lands that have the potential for development and to
encourage the community to be involved in the planning
process for their future use. The group's goal is to
avoid urban sprawl, especially onto agricultural land
Members of the Futures Network now include the City
of Watsonville, the Santa Cruz Farm Bureau, the real
estate community, C.A.F.F. and the Watsonville Wetland
Watch. These representatives of agricultural,
environmental and planning groups have been able to
meet and hear each other's concerns in an open
The study has expanded to include research on
employment/ unemployment patterns, demographics on
where people working in the community actually live,
and on what industries are appropriate to the area and
how to attract them--in short, the group is creating a
comprehensive overview that will provide the
background for sound planning.
The Network's report of their findings is due to be
released June 15, 1998. All monies for this study,
with the exception of the initial Packard grant, have
been raised from donations. At this time, the group is
actively seeking $20,000 to complete their
All inquiries about or contributions to any of these
three organizations can be directed to: Reggie Knox,
Regional Coordinator for C.A.F.F. at 735 Chestnut St.,
Suite C, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. Phone 457-1007, Fax
CAMPAIGN TO SAVE PAJARO VALLEY FARMLANDS AND
The campaign, is a grassroots organization that also grew
out of Watsonville's annexation efforts. The group's goal
is to deal with immediate events while developing long
term solutions to community needs for housing and jobs
without jeopardizing farmlands and wetlands.
Currently Watsonville is hoping to expand its sphere
of influence by annexing 212 acres of prime agricultural
land in the Riverside Drive area. The city would like to
use this land for light industry. Opponents, many of them
from the unincorporated areas, feel that such valuable
growing land should remain in agricultural use.
The issue went before L.A.F.C.O. (Local Agency
Formation Commission) who rendered a compromise decision
that pleased no one--94 acres were granted to Watsonville
with conditions that the city not expand its boundaries
west of Highway 1. Watsonville didn't like these
conditions and proceeded to sue L.A.F.C.O. and there the
issue currently rests.
This group welcomes volunteers. All inquiries should
be made to Sam Earnshaw, the Director, P.O. Box 2965,
Santa Cruz, CA 95063. 471-9915.
SAVE OUR AGRICULTURAL LANDS
SOAL is a newly arrived environmental group created to
fight the installation of a biotech goat farm on prime
farmland approximately five miles north of Santa Cruz.
S.O.A.L. feels that the 1600 resident goats, who will
provide anti-bodies for cancer research, should not have
been allowed on prime growing land and do not constitute
an actual agricultural use. On May 21, 1998, the Santa
Cruz County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance
allowing the farm to remain. S.O.A.L. has vowed to fight
on and Santa Cruz Biotechnology, the goat farm's official
name, must now submit a master plan to the
Jodi Frediani is the founder and can be reached at
426-1697. Jonathan Wittwer, former chief deputy of Santa
Cruz County Council, is the secretary. His phone number
is 475-0724. S.O.A.L.'s address is 365 Lake Ave., Santa
Cruz, CA 95062.
The message to be gained from the efforts of these groups
is that those of us living in the Monterey Bay Area are
poised on the brink of our own future, a future that will be
of our making. Hopefully, with vigilance, we will be able to
avoid "Santa Clarafication," because as Lester Brown said,
"We have not inherited the earth from our fathers, we are
borrowing it from our children."
Copyright 1998, by Nicki McMahan
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