Comments on the LAFCO ag mitigation guidelines

We submitted the following comments


Dear LAFCo Commissioners;

Per the message below, the Committee for Green Foothills supports the LAFCo staff proposal on agricultural mitigation guidelines. We additionally support the Greenbelt Alliance position:

That no less than one acre of farmland be protected for every acre paved over.

That the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Act definition of prime farmland be used instead of the LESA model which has failed to protect farmland in Gilroy. In other words, fallow farmland should trigger mitigation.

Cities should craft their own ordinances that assure LAFCO that mitigation will be fulfilled at the time of development and that the mitigation requirement be recorded against the property

Finally, we note that one sentence in the staff report should be clarified by the LAFCo Commission. On page 4, the last sentence in the second paragraph reads “LAFCO’s decision on the proposal will not be based solely on the issue of impacts to agriculture or consistency with LAFCO’s agricultural mitigation policies.” While it is correct that LAFCo may make its decision based on other criteria, this sentence unintentionally suggests that agricultural impacts are insufficient grounds, standing alone, to deny an application. LAFCo retains the authority to decide that even if all other criteria are met, impact to agriculture can be so severe as to justify denial. In staff’s attempt to clarify that compliance with guidelines is not mandatory, this statement became overbroad. I suggest LAFCo state their understanding to be the following instead:

“LAFCO’s decision on the proposal will consider all criteria, not solely the issue of impacts to agriculture or consistency with LAFCO’s agricultural mitigation policies.”

Please contact me if you have any questions.


Brian Schmidt

(650) 968-7243

From: Committee for Green Foothills [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 2:10 PM
To: Committee for Green Foothills
Subject: HelpPreserveSanta ClaraCounty‘s Remaining Farmlands!

The Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) is deciding whether to clarify agricultural mitigation guidelines that call on developers to legally protect at least one acre of farmland for each acre they convert into city land. Please contact the LAFCo Commission and tell them to support the guidelines as a significant step forward in protecting our remaining farmlands!

What’s Happening

Santa Clara County LAFCo decides whether cities can expand and extend city services to new areas, such as City of San Jose is proposing to do in CoyoteValley.
This means LAFCo is a crucial agency for controlling suburban sprawl and policies it develops that require environmental mitigation for expansions that do occur are critical to reducing the impacts of suburban sprawl. This Wednesday, April 5th, LAFCo will decide whether to adopt a policy that clarifies how it will consider the loss of farmland in evaluating a proposed city expansion. This policy includes a guideline that cities mitigate for farmland converted to suburban uses through legally protecting other nearby farmland from future development.

Why this is Important

Santa Clara County used to be called The Valley of Hearts Delight because of the miles and miles of farms and orchards that used to cover the valley. Then cities raced each other to see which one could annex and develop the most farmland, a runaway process that resulted in the state law creating LAFCo as a means to referee and slow down the expansion process.

LAFCo must consider the impact on farmland when deciding whether to approve city expansions, but the guidelines for considering this impact, and whether preserving other nearby farmland on a permanent basis would make up for the farmland lost to development, were all unclear. LAFCo staff now proposes guidelines suggesting that at least one acre should be preserved for every acre lost. While the guidelines could be stronger, they are a significant improvement over current policy. The proposed guideline also clarifies that even if cities comply with this one-to-one replacement factor, they would have no guarantee of approval of the annexation, because the loss of farmland can still be significant. The guidelines are also stiffer than those proposed or in place by some cities.

What you can do

The Santa Clara LAFCo Commission meets on Wednesday, April 4th, to decide whether to approve the staff recommendation. At the same meeting, LAFCo will decide whether to approve an expansion of Morgan Hills boundaries that seems likely to violate the new policy. Please tell LAFCo to support the staff recommendation on agricultural mitigation guidelines, and also to either reject the Morgan Hill expansion proposal or send it back for analysis under the new guidelines.

1. Please fax or email LAFCo and ask them to support the staff agricultural mitigation guidelines, and to deny the Morgan Hill expansion or apply the new guidelines to the expansion. Send your comments to:

Emmanuel Abuello, LAFCo Clerk, and request that he distribute your comments to all the LAFCo Commissioners.

Fax: (408) 295-1613
2. Please send a copy of your message to CGF so we can track our efforts on this issue:

Fax (650) 968-8431 or

To learn more,
read the LAFCo staff report on agricultural mitigation.

And read the CGF letter on ways to improve the mitigation.

Thanks for speaking up for open space. Your voice does make a difference!

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