Environmental and Affordable Housing Advocates
A nearly decade old farmworker housing advocacy group and a land use group that seeks to preserve agricultural lands have joined forces to assure that Monterey County's agriculture-related industry continues to flourish, and that the farmworkers who fuel the industry's success find adequate affordable housing.
The Center for Community Advocacy (CCA), a Salinas non-profit group that trains farmworkers how to advocate for improved housing conditions, and LandWatch Monterey County, a non-profit land use advocacy group that seeks to preserve agricultural lands in the Salinas Valley, announced their joint effort at a press conference on Thursday. The groups held their press conference at a dilapidated farm labor camp adjoining productive agricultural fields near the City of Soledad, deep in the fertile Salinas Valley. The labor camp stands as a tribute to the need for improved farmworker housing. An investor from the Monterey Peninsula owns the labor camp.
The two groups maintain that providing safe, affordable housing for agricultural workers goes hand-in-hand with preserving agricultural lands. "You can't have one without the other," observed Juan Uranga, the CCA Executive Director. "Believe me," continued Uranga, "no one can play a more vital role in preserving the agriculture related industry than the farmworkers whose strenuous labor makes agriculture a powerful economic force in the Valley." Agriculture is a $2.5 billion industry in the Salinas Valley. "Accordingly," concluded Uranga, "providing safe housing for farmworkers must be a vital part of the strategy to preserve ag lands."
Gary Patton, LandWatch Executive Director, describes the pact between the two agencies as historic. "For years," Patton notes, "people have pitted natural resource protection efforts and affordable housing initiatives against each other. This agreement puts an end to that by defining goals and objectives that both preserve agricultural land and also provide affordable housing opportunities to Valley residents. CCA and LandWatch are pledging to work together to coordinate these efforts."
The two groups found common ground after negotiating for almost one year. CCA and LandWatch began negotiations after they opposed each other last year over the Rancho Chualar II housing project in Chualar, a small, unincorporated farm worker community in the ag rich Salinas Valley, located between the cities of Salinas and Gonzales. CCA supported the development, arguing that it helped to address a severe farmworker housing shortage. LandWatch opposed the project, arguing that it fomented urban sprawl.
The negotiations yielded an agreement based on the following premises:
The agreement calls upon the two organizations to advocate for policies that:
In the upcoming months, both LandWatch and CCA will seek to gather additional support from other key groups and leaders in Monterey County. Uranga and Patton feel that community leaders would be wise to join their collaborative effort. "This area will undoubtedly see the establishment of a process that both controls growth and provides housing opportunities for working families," Patton noted, "because that is, without question, the political will of the area's residents." Uranga added that, "in the end, people who collaborate with each other will make the important decisions and people who insist on protecting only their own parochial interests&emdash;be they developers, environmentalists or anyone else&emdash;will be left out."
A copy of the full agreement is available upon request from the LandWatch Monterey County office, (831) 375-3752
LandWatch Monterey County and the Center for Community Advocacy
July 29, 1999
This agreement represents a cooperative effort between LandWatch Monterey County (LandWatch) and the Center for Community Advocacy (CCA). LandWatch and CCA agree to work together in support of the objectives listed below. Although this agreement defines a "shared" strategy, it does not preclude LandWatch or CCA from advocating projects or policies that are consistent with each organization's unique objectives.
We intend to solicit additional support of this agreement from other nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, and key leaders in the community.
1. Revitalize and sustain existing communities by targeting public and private investments toward existing communities and ending subsidies and other policies that facilitate sprawl.
The needs of existing communities for housing, physical and social infrastructure, natural resources protection, air quality, transportation, energy, economic and community development, and social equity should be given priority in planning, investment and infrastructure development decisions.
Local communities should have adequate financial resources to invest in quality schools, safe neighborhoods, and a rich array of libraries, parks, shopping districts, and other community services and amenities. Providing recreational space and maintaining natural systems must be recognized as fundamental infrastructure needs.
Taxpayer subsidies, premature extension of infrastructure, and other policies that facilitate and encourage urban and suburban sprawl should be ended. Economic development and transportation investments should provide economic and other benefits for working families, low-income residents and communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by sprawl and economic degradation.
2. Provide a clear edge between urban and non-urban land uses.
Local communities should be required to adopt a land-use designation system, such as urban growth boundaries, identifying areas for compact and efficiently designed development to accommodate 20 years of growth. The system should also identify land needs for housing low income working families, resource based industries such as agriculture related industries, mining, and grazing, and lands required for wildlife habitat, flood control, watersheds, and other environmental purposes.
Areas identified for development and redevelopment should receive fiscal incentives to pay for infrastructure, while areas identified for agricultural production, resource conservation or environmental protection should be prohibited from development over the long term.
Once the land use designation system has been adopted and certified as consistent with local conservation and development goals, projects consistent with the plan should receive expedited review and approval.
Recommend that the County identify agricultural lands of significant value to the state for protection from urban level development.
3. Create Livable Communities
Neighborhoods, communities and regions should plan compact, safe, livable land use patterns that ensure a mix of uses, minimize the impact of cars, and promote walking, bicycling and transit access, providing mobility for all segments of the public, including children, seniors, and working families. Economic development and transportation investments should reinforce these land use patterns.
Communities should have an appropriately scaled and economically healthy center focus. At the community level, a wide range of commercial, residential, cultural, civic, and recreational uses should be located in the town center or downtown. At the neighborhood level, neighborhood centers should contain local businesses that serve the daily needs of local residents. At the regional level, regional facilities should be located in urban centers that are accessible by transit throughout the metropolitan area.
Streets and pedestrian paths should contribute to a system of connected and interesting routes to destinations. Residential street design should encourage pedestrian and bicycle use and should discourage high-speed traffic.
4. Make housing more available and affordable to all segments of the county's population, especially to families and individuals of average, low and very low income.
A fundamental purpose of these principles is to promote and reinforce more equitable housing opportunities. For example, housing opportunities would be enhanced if public agencies targeted investments to existing communities, ended subsidies for sprawl, promoted the social and economic development of historically disenfranchised populations, expedited approval of housing projects consistent with local plans for compact, efficient development, and reformed the state/local planning and fiscal systems to promote better land use decisions.
In addition, the state should provide one or more significant on-going revenues sources for the development of affordable housing, through periodic bond measures and/or dedicated sources of funding, beginning with a major bond measure in the near future. To encourage the development, reuse and rehabilitation of housing in existing communities, state and local agencies should provide financial assistance, priority infrastructure funding, and expedited review of housing projects in areas identified for revitalization and redevelopment in local land use designation systems.
5. Ensure the long-term viability of the state's agricultural economy and agriculture related industry
Commercially viable agricultural land should be permanently protected from conversion to other land uses. Agriculture related operations should be supported, with appropriate opportunities to expand. Buffers should be required on urban edges in cities and unincorporated communities to protect agricultural land use from urban uses and vice versa. Increased funding and technical support should be provided for agricultural conservation easements, farmland mapping and monitoring, and other agricultural land conservation strategies.
Cities and counties should jointly develop land use plans with policies and incentives that keep urban uses in urban areas and encourage city centered development by using existing urbanized land more efficiently through infill, higher density development, and revitalization of existing urban areas.
State laws and planning procedures should be strengthened to ensure that proposals to covert agricultural land to other uses, impact water supplies available to agriculture, or develop incompatible uses in or adjacent to agricultural areas, area subject to full review and analysis. Before local agencies approve additional urban development, a proven water supply for the development should be identified and established. These water supplies should not include taking water necessary for agricultural production. The cost of developing new water supplies should be borne by those responsible for creating the new demand.
6. Promote economic prosperity based on reinvestment and revitalization.
Funding for local, regional economic development efforts should be targeted at reinvestment and revitalization in existing areas. Land use patterns that direct investment into existing communities will help create economic opportunity for working families, low income residents and communities of color which are disproportionately impacted by sprawl and environmental degradation. At the same time, support for local enterprises and entrepreneurs will help create the longer-term basis for job growth and economic opportunities. State, regional, and local economic development policies and decisions should reward those enterprises that contribute to the communities and regions where they operate, protect the natural environment, and provide workers with good pay, benefits, opportunities for upward mobility, and a healthful work environment.
7. Protect environmental quality, natural resources and human health by preserving ecological communities, conserving natural resources, protecting the air, land water from pollution and degradation.
Areas and resources of statewide, regional and local importance should be identified and permanently protected for productive agriculture and agriculture related industry, for recreation and open space, and to preserve biological diversity and habitat. Private landowners and businesses should be required to combine compatible economic activity with pollution prevention and good land stewardship, and to invest in alignment with the community's vision for the future.
8. Reform the state/local land use planning and finance systems to encourage better planning and land use decisions.
The state should reform the current site-based system of allocating the local share of the sales tax to reduce the incentive to approve retail development at the expense of need manufacturing, housing, or other development. Options include capping the current allocation of sales tax and distributing the growth in sales tax by population or some other formula and replacing a portion of the local sales tax with a share of the state personal income tax or other revenue sources.
The state should restore the property tax base shifted from local agencies to schools earlier this decade and provide other fiscal incentives such as planning and infrastructure grants and authority to issue bonds by majority vote to those cities, counties and special districts that adopt land use designation systems that provide a clear, long-term or permanent edge between urban and non-urban uses.
To encourage local coordination of growth, development, infrastructure and conservation programs, a process for cities and counties to jointly plan for growth should be established. Incentives such as more authority to transfer job and housing allocations among jurisdictions, expanded fiscal and planning authority, and preferences in receiving state grants and loans should be given to agencies that coordinate their local plans in ways that achieve compact development and the long-term protection of natural resources.
State and local agencies should be required to achieve compact development and the long-term protection of natural resources in making annexation, incorporation, and other decisions regarding governmental organizations.
It is the objective of LandWatch and CCA to work together to garner additional support for local policies and programs that will lead to the implementation of the goals and principles identified in this agreement.
1. LandWatch and CCA agree to support the update of general plans and zoning ordinances to:
A) Establish Urban Growth Boundaries for cities (city-centered growth);
2. LandWatch and CCA agree to develop recommendations to amend specific policies that will:
A) Strengthen inclusionary housing ordinances;
3. LandWatch and CCA agree to support methods to secure financial resources that will provide adequate infrastructure in existing communities, such as:
A) Incentives to help private, non-profit and public sector agencies construct affordable housing for farmworkers and other low income working families;
4. LandWatch and CAA agree to work towards assuring that elected officials and appointed boards follow local and state laws and policies by encouraging:
A) The Monterey County Board of Supervisors to amend, strengthen and follow its General Plan, including the Housing Element;
5. LandWatch and CCA agree to develop initiatives that:
A) Establish "urban growth boundaries" (city-centered growth);
Executed on July 29, 1999 at Camphora Labor Camp, Soledad, California.