Limoneira, East Area I, LAFCO And The Future Of Santa Paula
The Limoneira Company was founded in 1893 in Santa Paula, California and for the past 118 years has been working on its mission to preserve and promote its tradition, heritage and legacy in agriculture, community development and stewardship to maximize value for its shareholders. Limoneira's objective is to provide high-quality products and services. While in pursuit of that objective, Limoneira strives to adhere to the highest standards of integrity and fairness in its relationships with its employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers and community. Furthermore, it is its obligation to protect and expand its asset base to assure long-term profitability; to be responsible trustees in the protection and improvement of the environment; to provide leadership and resources for the betterment of the community; and to encourage and support the development of its employees.
In 2004, at the urging of Santa Paula's City Manager, Limoneira executed a Letter of Cooperation with the City of Santa Paula to sponsor and begin the massive undertaking of changing Santa Paula's sphere of influence, expanding the eastern boundary of the City of Santa Paula, moving the existing CURB line (Community Urban Restriction Boundary) to the east, annexing the East Area 1 property into the City of Santa Paula, and planning, organizing and entitling a Master Planned Community for the benefit of the overall Santa Paula community. The City of Santa Paula reached out to Limoneira at that time because, even then, it was felt that Santa Paula's future prosperity lay in balanced growth, and that the best place for the City to grow was to the east.
The road to responsible and balanced growth is long and, at times, trying. Our process involved conducting over a year of public outreach within the Santa Paula Community, to decide what benefits should be incorporated in the City's expansion area based on input provided by our entire community. Once these benefits were identified and decided upon, a specific plan was created and a development agreement was negotiated between the Limoneira Company (the developer) and the City of Santa Paula.
The East Area 1 plan is a positive game changer for Santa Paula. It includes new schools, parks, recreational playing fields, hiking and biking trails, public safety buildings, water, water storage facilities, many different types of residential housing, senior living facilities, commercial property, light industrial property, an outdoor amphitheater and a new community center. Add to this Santa Paula's perfect weather, spectacular vistas towards the ocean and islands to the west, the beautiful Santa Clara Valley to the east and majestic Santa Paula Peak towering above the property to the north, and the vision for successful growth becomes complete. The bottom line is that people will want to live in this new part of Santa Paula. The economic benefit of the project for Santa Paula is immense and the quality of life addition to the community of Santa Paula is great as well.
The specific plan, as well as a thirty year development agreement, required an arduous process governed by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which led to a comprehensive Environmental Impact Review (EIR) for the project. As one can imagine there are many impacts (literally hundreds . . . maybe even thousands) to our environment with a project of this size, and we not only studied these impacts to determine what they were but also mitigated each one to the best of our abilities. For over four years and millions of dollars of expense, all reimbursed by the Limoneira Company, the Santa Paula City staff and experts conducted and managed the Environmental Impact Review (EIR.) For years experts studied and mitigated, studied and mitigated, studied and mitigated. The Santa Paula City staff employed the "best and the brightest" experts to evaluate the environmental impacts of this project. We are proud of the job that was done on the EIR as well as our collective ability to achieve equitable solutions for the mitigation of all impacts identified. The process was long, complicated and expensive but, in many ways, lots of fun. As one might imagine, finding equitable mitigating solutions for the many impacts created by a project of this size between the City of Santa Paula, the Limoneira Company and the County of Ventura was challenging. However, collaboration and good faith negotiation by all allowed us to accomplish a well-conceived, well-designed, properly mitigated master-planned community for Santa Paula's future.
After completing the EIR and putting some finishing touches on the specific plan and development agreement, the Santa Paula Planning Commission and City Council unanimously approved the project! The next hurdle was getting the project accepted by the voting community of Santa Paula in a SOAR vote.
On June 3, 2008, Measure G went to the polls during a special election to satisfy the City of Santa Paula's SOAR (Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources) vote requirement. Measure G asked for voter's approval to move the CURB line from Santa Paula Creek to Haun Creek and build a development consisting of more than 81 acres. Measure G passed with an 81% approval and Santa Paula voters celebrated the fact that the East Area 1 project would soon become a reality. This extremely successful result is, to this day, unprecedented in California land entitlement and development history and demonstrates the effective collaboration between Limoneira, the City of Santa Paula, the County of Ventura, the many agencies involved in the EIR and, ultimately, the citizens of Santa Paula.
The final entitlement hurdle is now to complete and satisfy all of the terms and conditions governed by LAFCO - the Local Agency Formation Commission. LAFCO is responsible for the orderly path of development and is a California State-wide organization with specific county representation. Ventura County LAFCO commissioners will have to vote to approve the East Area 1's inclusion into the City of Santa Paula's sphere of influence and to annex the East Area 1 property into the City of Santa Paula. To better understand LAFCO's role in the entitlement process their stated objectives and authorities are included.
LAFCO's stated objectives are to:
Encourage the orderly formation and expansion of local government agencies
1) Preserve agricultural land resources
2) Discourage urban sprawl
LAFCO's stated authorities are to:
Regulate boundary changes
1) Establish spheres of influence
2) Conduct reviews of public services and special studies
3) Initiate special district consolidations and dissolutions
4) Act on out of agency service agreements between public agencies and between public __ _agencies and private parties
For the past three years the Santa Paula City staff and LAFCO staff have met and worked on satisfying the many terms and conditions that exist, to satisfy LAFCO's objectives. The biggest hurdle to clear initially was the establishment of a Greenbelt Agreement between the cities of Santa Paula and Fillmore. Following two years of constructive interaction between Santa Paula, Fillmore and the County of Ventura, a Greenbelt Ordinance between Haun Creek to the west and Sespe Creek to the east was successfully negotiated and implemented between these two cities, and unanimously approved in 2010 by the Supervisors of Ventura County. Interestingly, when the concept of a Greenbelt was first conceived in Ventura County (circa 1970) the first Greenbelt boundary established between Santa Paula and Fillmore, in those days formed with a handshake, was between Haun Creek to the west and Sespe Creek to the east.
The Santa Paula City staff has worked diligently with their internal team, as well as their many hired experts and consultants, and the LAFCO staff to find reasonable solutions to all the issues identified by LAFCO. I've attended several meetings over the past three years and they have been positive, constructive and solution-oriented. I maintain that collectively we haven't encountered a situation where an equitable solution wasn't found for all issues discussed to date.
When the East Area 1 project was scheduled for its LAFCO hearing on January 19, 2011, the Santa Paula City staff and I, along with all of our advisors, were convinced that all issues identified by LAFCO in our three years of interaction, collaboration and negotiation had been addressed to the satisfaction of LAFCO's staff, and that we were prepared to address any concerns brought forth by the LAFCO Commissioners during the upcoming hearing. You can imagine how surprised the Santa Paula City staff, Santa Paula City Council, and everyone at Limoneira was when, just two business days before the East Area 1 scheduled LAFCO hearing was to take place, the City of Santa Paula received a copy of a 54 page LAFCO staff report sent to LAFCO Commissioners identifying "issues" related to the East Area 1 project - many of which were either surfacing for the first time ,or addressing issues previously identified, discussed, negotiated and, in our minds, resolved. It was at this point that the City of Santa Paula determined it was in the best interest of all parties involved for Santa Paula to "request a continuance" (postpone) the LAFCO hearing in order to provide adequate time to respond to the issues raised in the LAFCO staff report. A new LAFCO hearing date has now been set for March 16, 2011, and Santa Paula's city staff is well prepared to address each of the issues and concerns listed in the recent LAFCO staff report. As mentioned earlier I maintain that collectively we haven't encountered a situation or an issue where an equitable solution couldn't be found for all issues involved in the East Area 1 project, and I am confident that we will do so for all issues raised now and in the future.
Like most cities in California, Santa Paula is experiencing the effects of the national and state recession. And, like most cities in California, Santa Paula is trying to overcome budget shortfalls. The East Area 1 project is a crucial part of the community's recovery from this difficult economic time. The revenues generated from new property, and sales taxes, as well as many up-front development fees provided to the City per the terms of the East Area 1 development agreement, will provide needed revenue. In addition, the many jobs created throughout the development and build-out of the East Area 1 project will allow the Santa Paula community to roll up its sleeves and get back to work. Companies will establish themselves within the East Area 1 project further enhancing job and wealth creation and further enhancing Santa Paula's prosperous future. These results won't all come at once, but they will begin in time for positive impacts to be felt soon, if not immediately.
The Limoneira Company's mission involves community development, and we stand prepared and fully committed to work alongside our many friends in the Santa Paula community to make the East Area 1 project successful, and the City of Santa Paula prosperous. Our company has the capital resources to successfully execute the development and build-out of East Area 1 and we stand committed to doing so while keeping the City of Santa Paula moving forward - financially and spiritually. We stand fully committed to this project. We stand fully committed to the welfare of the Santa Paula community and the City of Santa Paula. Finally we stand committed to delivering on the many commitments and promises made to Santa Paula, to LAFCO and to Ventura County. For 118 years our word has been our bond.
Harold S. Edwards
President & CEO