Voters could see a ballot measure this November that would change some aspects of Alameda County’s East County Area Plan, South Livermore Valley Area Plan and Alameda County Zoning Code by amending Measure D.
According to a city staff report from the June 27 Livermore City Council meeting, "the South Livermore Valley’s agricultural economy is largely stagnant. For that reason, Alameda County is considering a November ballot initiative to amend Measure D."
Measure D was passed by voters in 2000 and aims to preserve agricultural land and open space in eastern Alameda County. The passage of the measure amended portions of the County General Plan, including the East County Area Plan.
The ballot initiative to amend the measure is separate from the city’s South Livermore sewer extension ballot initiative.
During last Monday's regular meeting, the City Council heard a summary of a 20-year report prepared by the Alameda County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo), which analyzed Measure D’s effectiveness at balancing open space preservation and agriculture.
Based on the report and recommendations they received from the Tri-Valley Conservancy and other stakeholders -- including Measure D’s co-author Dick Schneider -- LAFCo is recommending text changes to Alameda County’s planning documents which aim to continue to protect and enhance agricultural and open space land, but allow more flexibility for the size and location of buildings and expand the permitted wine country visitor-serving uses, according to city staff.
Some of the current recommendations LAFCo suggests following its 20-year review include, adding clarifications that wineries are permitted agricultural uses but tasting rooms are visitor serving uses, amending the South Livermore Valley Area Plan to increase floor-area ratios to allow larger agricultural buildings and allow for clustering of development and amending the East County Area Plan to add new definitions for "Subordinate," "Agricultural Building" and "Promote."
LAFCo also recommends amending the Alameda County Zoning Code to allow for development clustering and to increase the types of visitor-serving uses in the Cultivated Agriculture Combining District. Proposed conditional uses include hot air balloon operations, day spas, artisan furniture workshops, boutique cannabis dispensaries and a 140-room resort hotel.
Three people spoke in favor of the recommendations during the public comment portion of the discussion, including Lori Souza and David Epstein of the Tri-Valley Conservancy and David Rounds of citizen group Friends of Livermore.
The City Council also expressed support for LAFCo's proposed recommendations with consideration to city staff's suggested clarifications, which include clarifying the number and type of cannabis dispensaries that would be permitted in the South Livermore Valley. City staff also requests that final text amendments include provisions about airport compatibility as it relates to hot air balloon operations, among various other clarifications and requests.
While there aren't any cannabis dispensaries currently in operation in the area, there are three currently in progress, which is the number specified as the limit in the East County Area Plan. Councilmember Bob Carling, Vice Mayor Gina Bonanno and Mayor Bob Woerner all expressed in their comments that in considering the proposed amendments to the plan, they request keeping the current limit at three.
Councilmember Trish Munro also shared concern about the agricultural impacts of growing and cultivating cannabis.
"(Cannabis cultivation) is extremely soil-depleting, it is extremely water intensive. As a member of Alameda County and the planet, as we are looking at enabling that cultivation to take place, I'm hoping that we are able to ensure that it is climate-friendly and soil-friendly," Munro said.
Following the receipt of comments and direction from the City Council, LAFCo will review and incorporate feedback into the recommendations accordingly and then present an updated version to the LAFCo commission for adoption at its July 14 meeting. After that, the recommendations will be presented to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors for consideration.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors has previously considered at least two amendments to the East County Area Plan since Measure D was adopted, none of which have been implemented, according to city staff.
A complete recording of the City Council's June 27 meeting is available here.