Environmentalists and housing activists join forces to promote new growth principles.
Thursday, July 29, 1999
The agreement between the land use watchdog group LandWatch Monterey County and the farmworker housing activist organization Center for Community Advocacy (CCA) embodies a set of principles directed toward preserving ag land and open space while promoting economic and planning incentives to better provide for low-income housing needs.
At a joint press conference scheduled for 11am on Thursday at the Camphora Labor Camp near Soledad, LandWatch Executive Director Gary Patton and CCA Executive Director Juan Uranga will sign and outline the agreement''s key proposals. For Patton and Uranga, the agreement represents an historic opportunity to build a consensus on how best to meet the county''s critical housing needs while preserving and promoting the critical role ag plays in the health of the local economy.
"It really is a genuine effort to find a middle ground on development issues," says Uranga. "With LandWatch associated with an environmental agenda and the CCA closely connected to a development agenda as it pertains to affordable housing, for people with the appearance of a conflicting agenda to come together is historic and real important. It makes the environmental and social justice movements equal partners once again."
The agreement between LandWatch and CCA represents more than a year of work between the two organizations, which found themselves at odds politically over the proposed Chualar II housing project. That project, which would have provided much needed affordable housing, was dropped by the developer after a successful referendum drive to block the project. LandWatch opposed the project while the CCA supported it.
"CCA has been frustrated by the environmental justice people opposing the social justice issue of finding affordable housing for farmworkers," comments Uranga. "This gets us back to the point where we view both struggles as equal struggles, and we either win together or lose together. This is a good first step toward that effort."
Among the agreement''s primary goals and objectives are adoption of Urban Growth Boundaries, a key principle promoted by LandWatch, identification of residential land for housing for low-income working families, an economic incentive system to direct growth and development in cities, the strengthening of inclusionary housing ordinances, and encouraging the renovation and rehabilitation of existing farmworker housing sites.
From a political perspective, the agreement advocates the development of intitiatives to encourage revenue sharing between the County and cities, preserve agriculture as an economically dominant industry, and provide equal access to low income working families to open spaces and environmentally enhanced areas in the County and cities.
"Everyone feels this is a good a statement where we can mutually support each other," adds Patton. "Working together we''ll make the details come true, and we''re hoping this working relatiosnhip will result in policy changes in the next year."
Acknowledging that the ag industry, which has often regarded land use proposals from the environmental community with a high degree of suspicion, might view this agreement with some degree of skepticism, Uranga insists that LandWatch and the CCA consider the future health of ag as critical to their agenda.
"Keeping ag as a viable industry in the Valley is an important part of the agreement," says Uranga. "You can''t preserve ag land if you can''t preserve the economic dominance of ag related industry. The agreement exhibits tremendous deference toward the ag industry and its continued vitality. I hope growers will consider that when they pass judgment whether the agreement is good for them."
For more information contact LandWatch at 375-3752 or www.landwatch.org/.