SB CAN Files Lawsuit to Preserve Prime Farmland
LAWSUIT FILED TO PRESERVE PRIME FARMLAND
IN SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
Santa Barbara County Action Network Challenges Lompoc General Plan Revision Opening Door to Large-Scale Urban Development
of Prime Agricultural Land on City’s Western Boundary
Santa Maria, CA – On behalf of Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN), nonprofit law firm Environmental Defense Center filed a lawsuit in Santa Barbara Superior Court today, alleging that the City of Lompoc violated the California Environmental Quality Act in its decision to include the “Bailey Avenue expansion area” in its 2030 General Plan Update approval. Opposed by both environmental and farming groups, the Bailey Avenue development proposal would transform the 270 acre piece of prime agricultural land into an urbanized development consisting of nearly 2,700 homes and more than 225,000 square feet of commercial space. The Bailey Avenue area lies within some of the most productive agricultural land in the state, and is currently farmed largely for lucrative row food crops including broccoli, lettuce, artichokes, and celery.
“The City not only ignored its own long-standing agricultural protection policies in its General Plan, but also voted against the desire of its citizens who have fought the expansion of the City into this area for over a decade” stated Joyce Howerton, Advocacy Director for SB CAN.
SB CAN’s decision to bring the litigation was driven largely by concerns regarding the future pattern of agricultural land conversion within Santa Barbara County. SB CAN views the City of Lompoc’s decision as the most important, precedent-setting annexation ever considered by the City of Lompoc, one that has County-wide implications for the future of agricultural land. The development of Bailey Avenue has long been opposed by many Lompoc residents, as evidenced by the recent City Council elections in which the two Council members who voted to include the project as part of the General Plan update were voted out of office. The City’s approval is the first step towards ultimate annexation, which also requires LAFCO approval.
“The City’s action puts the entire future of agricultural land in Santa Barbara County at risk, by setting a precedent for unnecessary conversion of prime agricultural land into urban uses at a time when the City of Lompoc should focus on revitalizing its existing downtown area,” said Brian Segee, EDC Staff Attorney representing SB CAN in the case.
As determined by the recent Housing Element update which is also a part of the City’s 2030 General Plan, the City of Lompoc has sufficient infill vacancies to meet State housing mandates, and the project is not needed to meet the City’s projected growth numbers. This unnecessary development would expand the City’s boundaries to outlying areas that currently contain irreplaceable prime farmland, creating urban sprawl and exacerbating the City of Lompoc’s current economic problems within the existing downtown area.