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Sara Barz

$7 Million settlement for farmland in East Bay

Five-year legal battle in Oakley ends in settlement, creates fund for conservation

Greenbelt Alliance, along with The San Francisco Foundation, announced today the resolution of a settlement in Contra Costa Superior Court that holds up the requirement to compensate the surrounding environment when developing on prime farmland.

“The Bay Area is at the center of the local food movement, and eating locally is an integral part of sustainable living and food security. It’s essential to have farms close to urban centers,” affirms Greenbelt Alliance Executive Director Jeremy Madsen. “We’re excited that this settlement sends a clear message not only in the Bay Area but all over the state that if farmland is lost to development, additional farmland should be preserved.”

Today marks the successful end of a case that began in 2006 when Greenbelt Alliance challenged the City of Oakley’s approval of a development on San Francisco Bay Delta land. The settlement calls for a fund to support the permanent protection of farmland similar to the lands that will be lost to development.

At stake: 828 acres of prime farmland of statewide importance within Oakley. The landowners want to convert the farmland and other acreage in the area of the East Cypress Corridor Specific Plan into over 3,000 housing units. However, the City’s original proposed development plan did not adequately mitigate impacts to threatened wildlife habitat, air quality, and farmland. After being sued by Greenbelt Alliance and losing, Oakley reapproved a plan that still did not compensate for the loss of agricultural land. Greenbelt Alliance pressed on with the lawsuit, and in October 2009, Superior Court Judge Barry Baskin denied the City of Oakley’s request to move forward with the project without any mitigations for loss of land.

As houses are being built over the next several years, the fund is expected to generate approximately $7 million. The City will send the funds to The San Francisco Foundation which will issue grants to organizations for the fee title acquisition of eligible farmland, conservation easements, and other related causes. Protecting farmland in Contra Costa County will be prioritized, but the money can also be used to protect lands in parts of Solano, Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Yolo counties.

“In the race to protect our remaining farms, forests, and watersheds, every acre counts,” says Greenbelt Alliance Senior Field Representative Matt Vander Sluis. “The settlement is a reminder that each decision we make about growth in the Bay Area must be done with an eye toward how it affects the environment and our own quality of life.”

To read the official Greenbelt Alliance press release, click here.

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