LAFCO decision on controversial expansion to wait after hours-long hearing

January 26, 2000
Santa Paula News
The long awaited hearing on the controversial expansion of Santa Paula isn't over as those supporting and opposing the sphere of influence change will have to wait to hear a decision after the almost day-long hearing was continued. About 100 Santa Paulans including city staff attended the Jan. 19th meeting of the Local Agency Formation Commission but learned they were bumped for a hearing on an Oxnard land use plan.About 90 minutes later - and after protestations from audience members when the LAFCO chairman announced Santa Paula had requested that the hearing proceed after lunch - LAFCO Executive Director Arnie Dowdy presented the staff report on the request.What followed was hours of heated testimony by about 50 people, including city staff, who offered input on the planned expansion to include Adams Canyon (5,413 acres), Fagan Canyon (2,173 acres approved by LAFCO last year when Adams Canyon was rejected, but taken off the table by the city's appeal), and two smaller areas targeted for industrial/commercial property.“We are probably the poorest city in the county,” said City Manager Peter Cosentini. “. . .we need a little economic growth to climb out of the hole we find ourselves in.” Other cities have viable sales tax bases and big box shopping malls, but Santa Paula must rely on “quality residential development” to bring funds into city coffers.If approved, the expansion would open the way for up to 3,600 homes, 4.4 million square feet of commercial space; Adams Canyon would also have a golf course, hotel and school. Opponents of the move are supportive of Fagan Canyon being opened up for development, as well as approximately 33 acres on the corner of Peck and Foothill Road.Various members of city staff addressed specific concerns regarding fire, sewer, water, traffic, flooding, geographical hazards and other issues related to the expansion.During public comment, Cyndy Smith said the city “attempted to address the traffic issues but there is no acceptable mitigation,” to numbers; noise levels were not addressed by the city, she added, nor cumulative impacts countywide. Economic need is not a lawful reason for expansion, she noted.It’s a mistake to assume the General Plan was a community effort, said Martha Harris, and the sessions were later dominated by city staff and developers; flash card voting on questions that “seemed to lead to preconceived conclusions,” that led to the expansion effort. “The General Plan that was adopted I consider a bogus document.”John Wisda said one developer had opted out of Adams Canyon due to highly expensive infrastructure needs. The city’s motive for expansion is not about housing, “it’s about bigger government spending. . .”Santa Paula is “strangled for growth,” said expansion supporter Sam Braslaw. “Without orderly, well-planned moderate growth,” the city will continue to deteriorate. “Development presents the only possible increase in the economic base and is critical for the very survival of Santa Paula.”Jess Ornelas said a LAFCO advisory committee sanctioned by the City Council had rejected Adams Canyon and the “city plans to reward developers, but not protect the citizens,” who will pay for massive public improvements.Nancy Malvasio sent a letter noting Santa Paula has been a good steward of the land but now must grow.
“I’ve been a resident of Santa Paula all my life,” said Nancy Deines. “I urge you to vote yes. . .we all know this is just for sphere of influence, not just for development that would scrutinized. We have time and room to grow.”Adams Canyon is not “contiguous to Santa Paula,” said Mike Miller, who said the recent combining of Adams and Fagan canyons on the application was side-stepping issues. In addition, the map of the area offered by the city at the hearing is inaccurate, he added.“The hazards are still there,” said Joe Nesbitt, a former County Planning Commissioner and LAFCO member.Bill Mensing echoed many of those who spoke in support of the application, noting “we need industrial land and housing, high, medium and low,” the expansion would provide.Councilman Jim Garfield said Santa Paula needs controlled growth, both for residential and industrial uses.“We need your held,” said Chamber of Commerce President-Elect Richard Garcia. “It’s been a good 30 years that the city hasn’t done anything it needs to grow. . .”The fears of opponents “may someday be proved correct,” said Bill Glenn, but opponents have not offered a “positive alternative plan. . .I suspect their underlying hoopla is affordable housing,” when what is needed is “more affordable people.”Councilwoman Laura Flores Espinosa said a majority of people oppose the full expansion but city staff did not prove their case. “It was turned down unanimously the first time and still does not meet the criteria,” for approval. “I request a denial; there is no new and compelling evidence.”In all, about 50 people spoke, mostly split for and against, as the day hearing wore on and one LAFCO member and alternate slipped out and another member said he had to leave.“I would like the whole panel here,” to decide the issue, said Supervisor Kathy Long. “I think it’s an issue important to the whole community.”The hearing was rescheduled until Feb. 2 at 9 a.m. No comment will be allowed but letters sent to LAFCO on the issue will be considered.

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