OCEANSIDE — Measure Y on Oceanside’s ballot has generated confusion, contention and allegations against both sides of misleading the public — warranting a breakdown here of what it says and what’s at stake.
What is Measure Y?
Measure Y would require a majority vote of the people of Oceanside to authorize rezoning open-space, park or agricultural land to other uses, such as commercial or dense housing. Currently, those types of development projects and zoning changes can be approved by the majority vote of the five-member Oceanside City Council.
Two exceptions exist to the voter-approval requirement: 1) If the change in land use is necessary for Oceanside to meet its “legal fair share housing requirement” or 2) if the applicant holds a “vested right” under state law that precedes the initiative’s effective date.
Lastly, according to the city attorney’s impartial analysis, Measure Y would amend the Land Use Element of the General Plan to permit agritourism and residential development on agricultural land without voter approval — as long as those uses preserve open-space character and do not interfere with agricultural operations. Appropriate minimum lot sizes would be determined by factors such as topography and adjacent land use, but the lots could be no smaller than 2.5 acres, which is the size currently allowed by existing agricultural zoning.
How long would Measure Y be in effect?
If adopted, Measure Y would remain in effect for 20 years, culminating on Dec. 31, 2028.
Who proposed Measure Y and why?
The measure sprang out of a citizens’ initiative petition started by a group called Save Open Space and Agriculture Resources, or SOAR. SOAR initiatives have been passed in other parts of the state.
According to reporting by The San Diego Union-Tribune, Measure Y “is the result of a groundswell of opposition to a mixed-use development proposed for 177 acres owned by the Self-Realization Fellowship Church in the rural Morro Hills area along North River Road in northeastern Oceanside.”
Integral Communities, the developer, seeks to build in an area that has long been associated with farming. The proposed development, North River Farms, would consist of commercial buildings, a boutique hotel and about 700 homes.
To be approved, zoning changes and an amendment to the General Plan would be required. Important components of the project could go before City Council by the end of 2018. SOAR strongly opposes North River Farms.
What are the ‘Yes on Y’ people saying?
Proponents of Measure Y say it will protect parks, farmland and open space. They argue that citizens should be given the right to vote on whether to convert those lands to other uses.
In an op-ed, supporters Diane Nygaard and Dennis Martinek wrote, “We get to decide if a proposed project is a benefit to our community or will degrade our quality of life with more traffic congestion, air pollution and increased emergency response times.
“Do we want to grow crops on our farmland — or thousands of more homes? We want to see … our community protected from inappropriate development that will cost us all dearly.”
Which organizations support Measure Y?
ACTION (Alliance of Citizens To Improve Oceanside Neighborhoods), Friends of El Corazon Park, League of Conservation Voters of San Diego, Sierra Club North County Coastal Group, League of Women Voters, Buena Vista Audubon Society and Preserve Calavera support Measure Y.
What are the ‘No on Y’ people saying?
Opponents to Measure Y say it will hurt farmers and diminish their property rights.
Neil Nagata, a third-generation Oceanside farmer and president of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, has been a leading voice in the opposition. Nagata contends that the measure will decrease the value of farmland, which in turn would make it difficult for farmers to secure loans to keep their operations afloat.
Nagata thinks Measure Y places an unfair burden on farmers that will impact them financially and reduce their options. He has stated that the measure’s legacy will be to replace farm fields with 2.5-acre estates because that is what struggling farmers will have to resort to in the face of land-use restrictions.
The ballot’s “Argument Against” states in part, “This deceptive measure will undercut private property rights, drive farmers out of business, reduce jobs and weaken economic vitality in Oceanside.” The “no” camp likens the initiative to eminent domain.
Which organizations oppose Measure Y?
The Republican Party of San Diego County, San Diego County Farm Bureau and Oceanside Chamber of Commerce oppose Measure Y. The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board is also against it. Integral Communities, the Building Industry Association of San Diego County and the two largest farming families in Oceanside, the Mellanos and the Nagatas, have contributed funding to defeat the measure. As of Sept. 22, Integral alone had spent $478,705, according to a filed campaign statement.
How is each side accusing the other of misleading the public?
The “yes” camp says Integral is deliberately misleading the public because major profits are at stake — and that all the measure does is give Oceanside voters the right to decide if open-space or agricultural land can be rezoned to another use. Nygaard describes such a zoning change, which could lead to dense housing developments that impact traffic and quality of life, as “a privilege, not a right.”
SOAR says that the Nagatas and Mellanos want to be able to build high-density housing developments on their land, which Measure Y could potentially hinder. The opposition’s argument that farmers would be unable to secure loans is misleading, SOAR argues, because loans are based on land’s agricultural production value, not on the potential for housing or industrial development.
The “no” group says the measure will do the opposite of what it claims. It points to Point Loma Nazarene University economist Lynn Reaser’s conclusion that Measure Y would likely result in “the eventual demise of active farms in Oceanside, with land either being left to go to fallow or sold into large estates for the wealthy.”
Opponents accuse the SOAR group of “not in my backyard” NIMBYism and say the initiative does not actually put measures in place to help farming. By locking in existing zoning, Nagata argues that Measure Y would push failing farms to become 2.5-acre estates affordable only to affluent buyers.
What happens if Measure Y is defeated?
The current law would stand. Any application seeking to rezone agricultural or open-space land gets received by city staff and undergoes an environmental review. Staff then make recommendations to the Planning Commission, which in turn advises the City Council whether to approve or deny the application. The City Council holds a public hearing and votes. A simple majority carries.
Alison St John hosted a special episode of KOCT North County Roundtable to discuss both sides of the SOAR Initiative: