One of the most remarkable local achievements has been the city of Davis’ success in avoiding the haphazard urban sprawl that characterizes so much of California. Sound planning has enabled Davis to accommodate growth while preserving the city’s unique character.
By enacting Measure O in 2000, voters established an ongoing source of funding dedicated to open space preservation. Over the years, successive City Councils, city staff and the city’s Open Space and Habitat Commission have worked with various organizations and numerous willing landowners to establish easements and other protections to conserve agricultural land in the Davis region.
In November 2010, the City Council voted to use Measure O money to help purchase the 391-acre Leland Ranch property east of the Mace Boulevard curve through an arrangement with the Yolo Land Trust and the National Resources Conservation Service. Upon resale of the property subject to a conservation easement, Davis will be reimbursed with $1.125 million in federal funds.
Leland Ranch meets all criteria for Measure O funding and continuing its present use will help maintain a well-defined agricultural buffer east of town. It’s not surprising that each time the project has come before the City Council over the past three years, the council approved various stages of the purchase and resale proposal.
Recently, however, a group calling itself Capital Corridor Ventures has urged the city to decline available federal funds for the Leland Ranch conservation easement based on CCV’s contention that the farmland involved would make a great business park. In response, the City Council asked staff to report on all potential uses of the Leland Ranch property at the council’s Nov. 19 meeting.
It would be extremely disappointing if, at this late date, the council chose to reverse a three-year process, forego a million dollars in federal funds and waste city resources pursuing the illusory benefits of a vaguely defined business park on property outside the city limits.
In view of past controversies surrounding much better development proposals, it is very doubtful that building a business park on Leland Ranch would ever be approved by Davis voters. In any event, a decision to pursue commercial development on agricultural land purchased with Measure O funds would be of dubious legality and would constitute a breach of trust with citizens who have dutifully paid Measure O taxes to fund open space preservation.