The principal idea of the Solano County Orderly Growth Committee is to promote a high quality of life for our residents. We define that as a healthy mix of urban and rural amenities. Life in our cities offers good jobs, good schools and a mix of housing, shopping and entertainment.
Nearby, we have access to farm-fresh produce, wines, and public open spaces for the enjoyment of nature.
But urban development often destroys this balance by sprawling on to agricultural land. Los Angeles is the prime example of the urban sprawl that damages quality of life.
Urban sprawl occurs in two ways. First, from the edges of the city, and second, by “leapfrogging” to farmlands not adjacent to the city. Leapfrogging, especially, can be enormously lucrative for developers but it harms agriculture and thus the overall quality of life of the county.
There is constant danger to quality of life from developers in the huge profits to be made. We often say, “Developer money never sleeps” meaning that while we sleep developers remain alert and working to maximize profits by buying cheaper outlying farmland. Often the public good is ignored, especially when developer donations becomes involved in political decision-making.
We Oppose Urban Sprawl
Both cities and counties should work together to make the Orderly Growth idea work to prevent urban sprawl and the encroachment on to agricultural land.
Solano County is a pioneer in the state of California in using Orderly Growth policies to affect a high quality of life.
Solano County’s General Plan, approved by the voters, includes the Orderly Growth “element” which restricts the conversion of agricultural lands to urban uses without a vote of the people. (The original Orderly Growth Initiative, Measure A, was approved by the voters in 1984 and renewed by the voters in 1996 and 2007. Now it is part of the county General Plan.)
Voter approval is important. Developer money is attractive to elected politicians and “sweetheart” deals often occur. A simple majority of a board of supervisors can begin the “Los Angelization” of a county. A vote by the people on a conversion petition prevents sweetheart deals.
Cities must do their part, too.
We advocate voter-approved “Urban Grown Boundaries” or “Urban Limit Lines” for cities. These lines, placed in a city’s General Plan, show builders where they can and cannot build. Again, voter-approval is important. A simple majority of a city council can begin urban sprawl. A vote by the people on an annexation petition prevents sweetheart deals.
Throughout the Bay Area, many cities have voter-approved boundaries. In Solano County, Benicia and Vacaville have them. Unfortunately, Fairfield’s boundary expired on December 31, 2020. The Orderly Growth Committee advocated for Fairfield to extend its UGB while a new General Plan was being prepared. The Fairfield City Council, instead, approved a moratorium on annexations until the new General Plan is complete.
We also support existing local government policies which have created separators between our cities. A joint powers authority between Solano County, Benicia, Vallejo and Fairfield protects 10,000 acres in the hills between these cities. A joint powers agreement between Vacaville and Fairfield has established a separator between the two cities along Peabody Road. Finally, an agricultural conservation easement between Vacaville and Dixon protects some of the farmland along the east side of I-80 between those two cities.
Separating urban and rural areas makes sense. Agricultural operations are more efficient when farmers are not dealing with urban influences such as commuter traffic and complaints about pesticides and herbicides drifting onto subdivisions.
The Orderly Growth idea also allows Solano County to spend less on rural sheriff, fire services, and roads because most county residents live in Solano’s seven cities.
In turn, compact cities are more efficient in terms of responding to calls for police and fire services. And cities are more efficient when roads, sewer and water lines and the like aren’t extended to remote subdivisions.
Our Orderly Growth motto is, “What is urban should be municipal, and what is rural should be county.” California would look much more attractive if the Orderly Growth idea had been adopted throughout the state.
Taken together, County policy, city urban growth boundaries, and community separators have been important factors in Solano County’s quality of life. We stand ready to defend them if challenged by policymakers or developers.
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