Counties and cities throughout the Bay Area have been leading a national trend away from suburban sprawl and toward reinvestments in our urban centers. This smart growth makes economic sense, helps protect our natural and agricultural lands, provides multi-family housing near transit for a growing demand, and even helps fight drought. But just south of San Jose, the City of Morgan Hill is trending in the wrong direction.
Morgan Hill is asking the State of California to approve a request that will pave the way for the City to pave over 215 acres of farmland. Greenbelt Alliance has been fighting this ill-conceived effort for over a decade.
Morgan Hill wants to expand its boundaries so it can convert that farmland into a “Sports Recreation Leasure District” for suburban uses, which could include a 1,600 student private religious high school, indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, retail and office space, hotels, and a gas station.
The City claims that a key goal of this project is to preserve agricultural lands through a mitigation program. The program would encourage the purchase of an acre of farmland for every acre of farmland converted to urban uses. Using a formula of a 1:1 ratio, this ensures that at least 50% of all remaining farmland will be paved over.
And Morgan Hill doesn’t want to stop there—it expects to apply for more expansions in the future to build more housing on current farmland. According to the city, it will need additional homes to achieve a jobs-housing balance after building the Sports Recreation Leisure District.
Bay Area farming and ranching is at risk of a death of a thousand cuts. Approving this application will not single-handedly destroy our agricultural industry. Yet, each effort to pave farmland adds up to a slow and painful demise.
Greenbelt Alliance will continue to oppose this effort when the Santa Clara Local Agency Formation Commission hears the city’s application in 2016. Please contact Sara Fain for more information.
Photo: Taylor Hanigosky ©