Monterey County Planning Commission
County Governmental Center, 240 Church Street
Salinas, CA 93901
Proposed DArrigo Brothers Agricultural Processing Facility
Date: December 10, 2003 Agenda Item #112
Chairperson Sanchez and Members of the Planning Commission:
Monterey County urges the Planning Commission to make no decision
on the proposed DArrigo Brothers agricultural processing facility
until the Commission has reviewed a full Environmental Impact Report,
as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. If the
Commission determines to take action on the proposed project without
a full Environmental Impact Report, then we urge the Commission
to deny the project.
you know, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires
a public agency to prepare a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR)
prior to making any decision that might have a significant negative
impact on the environment. The proposed construction of a 219,000
square foot agricultural processing facility, including a separate
24,000 square foot office building, on twenty-seven acres of commercially
productive agricultural land, utilizing hazardous chemicals, and
generating over 900 heavy truck trips a day, certainly qualifies
as a project that might have an adverse environmental impact.
The Planning Commission Should Require A Full EIR
follows is a list of our most significant reasons for urging the
preparation of a full EIR. I have had an opportunity to review both
the Staff Report for your December 10, 2003 meeting, and the Notice
of Intent To Adopt A Mitigated Negative Declaration, along with
other documents relating to the proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration.
project is described (sometimes using different terminology) as
an agricultural processing facility. In fact, the
project includes a stand alone office building of
approximately 24,000 square feet in size. The project has thus
not been properly described, with the result that it has not been
the Initial Study states on Page 3 that the proposed project is
one mile southeast of the Town of Spreckels. Page
20 says that the Town of Spreckels
is locate [sic]
over _ mile
from the site. What is the actual distance
between the proposed project and the Town of Spreckels? Adequate
environmental analysis cannot properly be based on an inaccurate
project description, or on estimates.
Checklist found on Page 4 of the Initial Study indicates
that Monterey County believes that none of the following environmental
factors would be potentially affected by this project: hazards/hazardous
materials; public services; cultural resources; land use planning;
and population/housing. In fact, as noted in this letter, there
are likely to be potential and significant environmental and other
impacts in every one of these categories.
7 of the Initial Study outlines (in Section V.) how the County
is supposed to evaluate potential environmental impacts. Among
other things, the County must take into account the whole
action involved, including offsite as well as onsite, cumulative
as well as project-level, indirect as well as direct, and construction
as well as operational impacts. The Initial Study and the analysis
that is supposed to support the proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration
consistently fail this test.
also noted on Page 7 (in Section V.), when the use of a Mitigated
Negative Declaration is proposed, CEQA requires the County to
describe the mitigation measures, and briefly explain how
they reduce the effect to a less than significant level.
The documents circulated for public comment do not include an
actual mitigated negative declaration, and the proposed mitigated
negative declaration has not been submitted to your Commission.
Neither you nor the public have had an opportunity to determine
that all of the identified impacts have been reduced to the point
of insignificance. This reinforces the basic CEQA requirement
that a full EIR be prepared.
Environmental Checklist says, on Page 9, that there are no potentially
significant impacts with respects to the aesthetics
of the proposed project. This is simply not true. While the subject
property may not be located within a designated visually sensitive
area, CEQA requires that the County independently analyze the
possible aesthetic impact of the proposal. Putting a factory into
an area largely devoted to field agriculture, and that is nearby
the scenic and historic town of Spreckels, may have a significant
negative impact on the aesthetics of the area. There must be a
real analysis of what the visual and aesthetic impacts of a huge
new industrial facility (and a parking lot) will have in this
area. Furthermore, the Initial Study does note that the facility
will create a new source of substantial light or glare, and dismisses
this (with no analysis) as having less than significant
impact. CEQA requires a real analysis of these issues, in
a full EIR.
the Agricultural Resources section of the Environmental
Checklist the County indicates that the farmland conversion proposed
will have a less than significant impact. No adequate
analysis underlies this claim, particularly when potential cumulative
impacts are considered. Page 11 of the Initial Study claims that
development of the proposed facility [on 27 acres] would
result in the displacement of less than 1% of the owners
land under the Farmland Security Zone Contracts (2,312 acres).
Aside from the factual error (27 is more than 1% of 2312), this
does not address the concern of using land that is designated
as Prime Farmlands (under the Greater Salinas Area
Plan) for the construction of an agricultural processing plant.
These lands are scarce, and an owner like DArrigo, who holds
about 10,250 acres, may well be able to find twenty-seven acres
that are not Prime Farmlands, and that can be
developed without Monterey County losing yet more of its most
commercially productive lands. There may well be alternative sites,
within existing industrial areas, that could avoid some of the
impacts that will be generated if the proposed project goes forward.
The discussion of other options is part of a full EIR, and is
clearly needed here.
obvious alternative to building a new facility at the proposed
location (on commercially productive agricultural land) would
be to expand operations in some way in Castroville, where DArrigo
Brothers currently carries out agricultural processing. This alternative
has not been studied, or measured against the proposed project.
CEQA requires such an analysis. Locations in industrial areas
in Salinas might also be available, and environmentally superior.
is informed and believes that most of the produce that would be
processed in the proposed facility will come from properties located
south of the proposed location in the Spreckels area. CEQA requires
an environmental analysis that will actually examine the flow
of the produce, from field, to processing facility, and to market,
to see if there are alternatives that could reduce environmental
impacts. While an obvious alternative is to expand the current
facility, or to locate in an industrial area in Salinas, industrial
sites within the City of Gonzales should be specifically examined
as a possible alternative. When a full analysis is done, it
may well be that overall truck trips, and air and traffic impacts,
could be reduced by building the proposed facility on a different
site, not to mention the possibility that a different site could
eliminate the need to pave over twenty-seven acres of commercially
productive agricultural land.
addition, if this agricultural area is now going to be an area
in which factories are permitted, the implications for adjacent
lands must be evaluated. Clearly, the agricultural land conversion
proposed is a potentially significant impact, and
a full EIR is required to evaluate this impact.
the County wishes to claim that the admitted loss of this land
is proposed to be mitigated in some way, then they
need to demonstrate how such mitigation is to be effectuated.
Why isnt a condition proposed requiring the property owner
to place binding restrictions on his other land, preventing further
factory development? That would be a possible mitigation, but
its not proposed, or even analyzed. Simply saying that twenty-seven
acres isnt much, which is essentially what the County claims,
is absolutely inadequate. The same reasoning would apply to every
other twenty-seven acres of land proposed for factory development,
and so the cumulative impacts could be considerable.
A full EIR is required.
Initial Study claims on Page 10 that there is no potentially
significant impact with respect to a conflict with
a Williamson Act contract. In fact, as an attachment
to the Initial Study indicates (represented as Exhibit B to Farmland
Security Zone Contract #00-011), the current contract covering
the property would not allow the proposed factory use.
The contract says, in Paragraph 1, that [only] the following land
uses would be compatible with agricultural use:
drying, packing or other processing of an agricultural commodity
usually performed on the premises where it is produced
The proposed factory on the DArrigo Brothers property is
intended to process materials from all over the Salinas Valley.
Such processing is currently being carried out in an industrial
facility located in Castroville (an urbanized setting).
Clearly, the processing proposed is not usually performed
on the premises where the agricultural commodity is produced,
and this proposal is not for processing materials produced on
the premises where production occurs. This failure to conform
the project to the binding Farmland Security Zone Contract is
an independent reason to deny the project. With respect to CEQA
review, the Checklist under Agricultural Resources is clearly
wrong when it says that there is no impact with respect
to conflict with
a Williamson Act contract.
Full EIR analysis would examine the provisions on all Williamson
Act and Farmland Security Zone contracts now in effect in Monterey
County. If (as may be guessed) they all contain similar language,
and the same construction could be placed on those contractual
provisions as is being placed on these, then mammoth numbers of
acres, throughout the County, could be opened to agricultural
factory development. This potential cumulative impact needs to
be reviewed in a full EIR.
On Page 14, in the Cultural Resources section, the
County claims that there would be no possible impact whatsoever.
The justification for this totally erroneous conclusion is a reference
to Chapter IV of the Initial Study. In fact, this
statement is contained in the Initial Study, which does not have
a Chapter IV. At any rate, it is clear that there
could be a possible substantial adverse change to a significant
historical resource. The Town of Spreckels is such a historical
resource. The construction of a mammoth agricultural factory nearby,
covering 27 acres, might adversely affect the historic
character of Spreckels. When the likelihood of massive new truck
traffic going through and adjacent to the Town is taken into effect,
it is clear that the impacts could be truly huge. These possible
impacts deserve full analysis in an EIR.
section of the Environmental Checklist directed at the possible
impacts of Hazards and Hazardous Materials has been left blank,
with another erroneous reference (to Chapter V of the Initial
Study). The Hazardous Materials Questionnaire prepared by the
applicant states that the plant will be using hazardous materials
(such as oil, fuel, solvents, compressed gases, acids, corrosives,
pesticides, fertilizers, paints or other chemicals, and particularly
including ammonia, chlorine, sulfuric acid, formaldehyde, hydrogen
peroxide, and methyl bromide). The factory will be using them
in quantities of 55 gallons/500 lbs/200 cu. ft. and above. It
will be generating some quantities of hazardous wastes (such as
waste oil, waste solvents, etc.). Yet in spite of all this, the
Initial Study does not check Hazards/Hazardous Materials
as even being potentially affected by this project. The fact that
the facilitys operation would be subject to compliance with
various laws (Title 19 and Title 22 of the California Code of
Regulations and Chapters 6.95 and 6.50 of the California Health
and Safety Code) does not mean that the County doesnt have
to do a full CEQA analysis. It does. It is incredible for the
County to claim zero potential for impact, given that the plant
will be using these hazardous materials. A full EIR is definitely
required under state law.
Environmental Checklist section on Hydrology and Water Quality
follows the pattern of claiming no potentially significant impacts.
Yet, the potential for adverse water quality impacts is obvious
even to a layperson Water will be provided by agricultural wells
on site. Wastewater, in large amounts, will be sent back to the
very same aquifer. What analysis convinces the County that this
isnt going to be a problem for long term water quality?
Materials in the project file indicate that the County Health
Department has done percolation testing on the property, and found
a number of areas that are not adequate or suitable. Again, an
analysis of the issues is required. The Initial Study notes a
possible alleviation of current groundwater extractions, but does
not analyze water quality impacts at all. In order to comply with
CEQA, a full EIR is required.
Land Use Planning section of the Environmental Checklist
again indicates no potentially significant impacts. However, the
cumulative impact of allowing large scale agricultural processing
facilities on commercially productive agricultural land, demands
a full EIR analysis. The Countys land use plan indicates
that this area is to be used for growing crops. Factories related
to agricultural use are located in areas like Pajaro and Castroville
(where the current DArrigo facility is, in fact, located).
The land use implications of a project approval for this project
are very significant. This is a precedent-setting application.
The possible impacts demand analysis in a full EIR.
discussion of possible Noise impacts in the Initial
Study is woefully inadequate. First, the County claims on Page
20 that there will be only a slight increase in traffic
volumes. Yet, if the project were approved, over nine hundred
large trucks a day would begin driving into and out of the factory,
along roads adjacent to (and in) the historic Town of Spreckels,
and into the City of Salinas. What analysis indicates that the
truck and factory noises are not even potentially
significant? None. What mitigations are proposed?
No specific mitigations are included. CEQA demands better, and
an EIR undertaking the required analysis should be prepared.
November 22, 2003 comment letter from Robert Russell, Deputy City
Engineer for the City of Salinas, attached to the Planning Commission
staff report, clearly requires a response that can only be provided
by a full EIR.
applicant indicates that up to 200 persons would be employed in
the proposed new factory. If so, why is there not going to be
a possible housing impact? On Page 21, the Initial Study simply
claims, without analysis, that there is no potentially significant
impact. CEQA requires that if there might be an impact,
a full EIR should be done. Thats whats needed in this
case, particularly in view of the affordable housing crisis affecting
all lower income persons in Monterey County (especially farmworkers).
The Initial Study Environmental Checklist claims, at Page 21,
that there is no potentially significant impact with respect to
fire protection. This is a project that, if approved,
would bring significant quantities of highly toxic and volatile
chemicals (ammonia, as an example) into fairly close proximity
to the residential Town of Spreckels, and into a factory environment
in which up to 200 persons might be employed. What fire protection
response could and would be provided in the event of a hazardous
materials emergency, or a fire? What agency is responsible, and
what are their current capabilities? A full EIR is needed to evaluate
an impact that is definitely potentially significant.
Perhaps the most egregious and obvious deficiencies of the Initial
Study are found in the section dealing with Transportation/Traffic.
Massive numbers of new truck trips will occur is the project is
approved. Heres the mitigation measure proposed: No
traffic from the project shall go through the Town of Spreckels.
This is not a mitigation measure. This is a completely
unsubstantiated and unenforceable assertion. CEQA demands that
if the impacts of the project are to be mitigated,
then a full set of mitigation measures that have a chance of being
effective need to be made conditions of the project. As published,
the Notice of Intention To Adopt A Mitigated Negative Declaration
is totally inadequate under state law, and a full EIR is legally
works on land use policy issues, and we do everything we can to
insist that local governmental agencies follow the environmental
review requirements of state law. This proposed project would cover
twenty-seven acres of prime farmland with a new agricultural processing
factory. Its a huge project. It is not an appropriate candidate
for a Negative Declaration.
concern is not only with the direct impacts of the proposed projectwhich
appear considerablebut also in the possibly adverse impact
of the proposed project on the future of the Spreckels area. This
area contains some of the most productive agricultural land in the
world. It also is home to the historic town of Spreckels, and the
proposed project would have an extremely and very negative impact
on that community.
Public Resources Code Section 21082.2 is the provision of state
law that determines when an Environmental Impact Report must be
The lead agency shall determine whether a project may have a significant
effect on the environment based on substantial evidence in light
of the whole record.
The existence of public controversy over the environmental effects
of a project shall not require preparation of an environmental
impact report if there is no substantial evidence in light of
the whole record before the lead agency that the project may have
a significant effect on the environment.
Argument, speculation, unsubstantiated opinion or narrative, evidence
which is clearly inaccurate or erroneous, or evidence of social
or economic impacts which do not contribute to, or are not caused
by, physical impacts on the environment, is not substantial evidence.
Substantial evidence shall include facts, reasonable assumptions
predicated upon facts, and expert opinion supported by facts.
If there is [any] substantial evidence, in light of the whole
record before the lead agency, that a project may
have a significant effect on the environment, an environmental
impact report shall be prepared. (Emphasis and brackets added.)
Statements in an environmental impact report and comments with
respect to an environmental impact report shall not be deemed
determinative of whether the project may have a significant effect
on the environment.
courts have been very clear that if a proposed project may
have a significant impact on the environment, a full EIR must be
prepared. State law is also clear that substantial evidence
means any substantial evidence. The Initial Study and
Notice of Intention To Adopt A Mitigated Negative Declaration do
not include an actual mitigated negative declaration, demonstrating
that all of the identified impacts have been reduced to the point
of insignificance, and do not, in any other way, demonstrate the
lack of any possible negative environmental impact. Given this,
and as we hope this letter makes clear, CEQA requires that a full
EIR be prepared.
Proposed Project Is Inconsistent With the Farmland Security Zone
and FSZ Contract
December 2, 2003, the Board of Supervisors (without environmental
review, and certainly over our objections) made a determination
that building the proposed facilities on property subject to a Farmland
Security Zone contract was permissible, because the proposed facilities
were consistent with the purposes of the contract. While
the Planning Commission has not been asked to pass on the consistency
of the proposed project with the Farmland Security Zone contract
covering the land, we think that the Commission needs to understand
the issues involved, and that the Commission can and should consider
whether it is appropriate to build the kind of facilities proposed
on lands that have been enforceably restricted to maintain their
agricultural production. The Planning Commission has an independent
duty to make sure that the County of Monterey follows state law
requirements, as it makes decisions about whether or not to approve
a proposed project.
strongly believe that developing a large scale agricultural factory
(including a major office building) on prime, commercially productive
farmland covered by a Farmland Security Zone contract is not
consistent with the purposes of the Farmland Security Zone,
nor is it consistent with the provisions of the contract. We also
think it is clear that the Countys list of compatible uses
does not allow the construction of the proposed large scale agricultural
processing facility and office building on property subject to a
Farmland Security Zone contract.
staff report presented to the Planning Commission says that the
proposed use would be consistent with the Principles of Compatibility
stated in Section 51238.1(a) of the California Government Code regarding
development on lands subject to the Williamson Act. The text of
that section is reproduced below. We believe that the Commission
will find, upon reading the language of the Code, that the staff
report has reached an erroneous conclusion:
(a) Uses approved on contracted lands shall be consistent with
all of the following principles of compatibility:
The use will not significantly compromise the long-term productive
agricultural capability of the subject contracted parcel or
parcels or on other contracted lands in agricultural preserves.
The use will not significantly displace or impair current or
reasonably foreseeable agricultural operations on the subject
contracted parcel or parcels or on other contracted lands in
agricultural preserves. Uses that significantly displace agricultural
operations on the subject contracted parcel or parcels may be
deemed compatible if they relate directly to the production
of commercial agricultural products on the subject contracted
parcel or parcels or neighboring lands, including activities
such as harvesting, processing, or shipping.
The use will not result in the significant removal of adjacent
contracted land from agricultural or open-space use.
evaluating compatibility a board or council shall consider the
impacts on noncontracted lands in the agricultural preserve or
believe that it is obvious that the proposed factory and office
building will significantly compromise the long-term productive
agricultural capability of the
parcel, and that it will
parcel. In fact, the project will take twenty-seven
acres of prime, commercially productive agricultural land out of
production. This is the opposite of what the FSZ is supposed to
have had an opportunity to review the memo of County Counsel, included
in the Agenda Packet for the Board of Supervisors December
2, 2003 meeting. If the Commission has not reviewed this material,
it should. Among other things, the County Counsels memo says,
The Department of Conservation concurs with the County
Counsels recommendation that development of the proposed agricultural
processing plant is consistent with the Countys approved compatible
uses within Farmland Security Zones. In fact, this is not an
accurate representation of what the Department of Conservation said
in its letter, and the Department of Conservation has now asked
for an opportunity to review the proposed project. The Planning
Commission should (at the very least) delay its decision on this
proposed project until after the County has heard from the Department
original Department of Conservation letter says that the County
has asked for an official determination. It then immediately
indicates that it is providing the following comments.
In other words, the original Department of Conservation letter is
a comment letter, and is not an official determination
Further, and contrary to what the County Counsel says, the Department
of Conservation does not agree with County Counsels recommendation.
Their letter states, the expanded cooler facility could be
considered a compatible use
(emphasis added). They most emphatically
do not say that it is a compatible use. Further, the
proposed project is not only for processing facilities. It also
includes a 24,000 square foot office building, and parking to support
such office uses, a fact clearly not understood by the Department
think that the Commission should closely review the language of
the Countys list of compatible uses, for lands subject to
a Farmland Security Zone contract. Unless a use is specifically
included on this list, the use is not compatible. Here is
the language relied upon by DArrigo Brothers:
The drying, packing or other processing of an agricultural commodity
usually performed on the premises where it is produced
but not including slaughter houses, fertilizer yards, bone yards
or plants for the reduction of animal or vegetable matter (emphasis
is obvious that the processing proposed is not usually performed
on the premises. In fact, as the application materials submitted
to the County show, processing of commodities produced on the premises
is now (usually) performed in Castroville, an urban and industrial
areaand just the kind of area in which agricultural processing
facilities are appropriate, and permitted. Not only are the products
grown on the premises not now processed on site, but the proposal
is to process commodities grown throughout Monterey County.
the County contract were construed to say what DArrigo wants
it to say, then this would mean that all agricultural lands located
in Monterey County on which a Farmland Security Zone contract has
been recorded would be deemed appropriate for large scale agricultural
processing. The requested determination would also mean that farmland
owners could build large office buildings on lands subject to a
Farmland Security Zone contract. Such an interpretation would fundamentally
change the nature of land uses throughout the County. The possible
impacts of this change (one not legally supportable under the current
contract) would be extremely significant, and must be analyzed in
a full Environmental Impact Report, prior to any decision that could
have this result.
the Planning Commission undoubtedly knows, DArrigo Brothers
has received significant property tax benefits by promising to abide
by the provisions of state law relating to a restriction of possible
uses in Farmland Security Zones. The letter from the Department
of Conservation properly cites what the state and the county are
supposed to receive in return for the tax benefits provided. As
state law has been cited by the Department of Conservation, compatibility
exists only when (a) the use will not significantly compromise
long term productive agricultural capability of the subject contracted
parcels or other contracted land in preserves; 2) obstruct or displace
potential agricultural operations, or 3) induce non-agricultural
development of prime farmland. These principles are to achieve
the original purpose of Williamson Act contracts to preserve
the maximum amount of the limited supply of agricultural land [Government
Code Section 51220(a)].
the placement of the proposed processing facility and office building
on the DArrigo lands, which are encumbered by a Farmland Security
Zone contract, would violate each one of the above principles. Approval
would immediately displace existing agricultural production on the
contracted parcels. It would displace future agricultural use of
this prime land. And the interpretation recommended by County Counsel
would induce nonagricultural development of prime farmland.
original comments of the Department of Conservation were clearly
not a statement determining that what is proposed is acceptable,
or consistent with either state law or the existing contracts. Furthermore,
it is clear that the Departments comment letter was based
on an erroneous or partial understanding of what is being proposed.
The Department, once it learned how its original letter was used,
officially asked the County for time to do a review of the proposal,
so that its opinion could properly reflect what DArrigo Brothers
is actually proposing. The Commission should get that analysis
before proceeding to a decision.
The Commission Acts on the Project, It Should Deny It
we hope the foregoing comments have made clear, the law requires
the Commission to have reviewed a full EIR prior to acting on the
proposed project. CEQA is intended to provide decisionmakers with
the kind of information they need to make good decisions. Because
you dont have the right information, you cant really
evaluate this proposed project in any proper way. The stakes for
Monterey County agriculture, and for the Town of Spreckels, are
very large. All we are asking is that you require that a full
EIR be prepared, and presented to you for your study, before making
such an important decision.
the Commission determines to make a decision without the legally-required
EIR, we urge the Commission to deny the project.
the project as proposed includes a stand alone 24,000
square foot office building, and there is no justification for proposing
to build such an office building on prime, commercially viable agricultural
land. The Farmland Security Zone contract governing
the use of this property does not in the most remote way authorize
such an office structure. The structure is not incidental,
and cannot and should not be approved. Since the proposed project
proposes this inadmissible element, it needs to be redesigned, at
the very least. The Commission should deny the project in its current
we believe, as a matter of policy, that the County of Monterey should
not approve a project that would set a precedent for the future
conversion of the commercially productive agricultural land surrounding
Spreckels, or that would undermine the provisions of Williamson
contracts designed to protect commercially productive agricultural
land throughout the entire county. The Farmlands zoning
designation does not give a property owner the right
to place an agricultural processing plant on prime, commercially
productive farmland. Whether or not to approve the current application
is a matter within the discretion of the Commission. If the Commission
proceeds to consider the project on the merits, without the required
EIR, and without hearing further from the Department of Conservation,
we urge the Commission to deny the project.
you for taking our views into consideration.
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
Spreckels Residents Association
State Department of Conservation
City of Salinas
City of Gonzales
Other Interested Persons
to Spreckels Issues and Actions]