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Meeting Date: February 05, 2013
Agenda Item #1. Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on November 7, 2012
JOINT SPECIAL MEETING
LIVINGSTON CITY COUNCIL AND PLANNING COMMISSION NOVEMBER 7, 2012
A Joint Special Meeting of the Livingston City Council and Planning Commission was held on November 7, 2012, in the City Council Chambers with Mayor Espinoza presiding.
CITY COUNCIL CLOSED SESSION
Mayor Espinoza called the meeting to order at 5:35p.m.
CITY COUNCIL ROLL CALL
Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza
Mayor Pro-Tem Margarita Aguilar (Excused Absence)
Council Member Frank Vierra (Excused Absence)
Council Member Theresa Land (Excused Absence)
Council Member Gurpal Samra (Excused Absence)
Closed Session was cancelled due to lack of a quorum .
JOINT SPECIAL MEETING
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Espinoza called the special meeting to order at 6:00 p.m.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited.
CITY COUNCIL ROLL CALL
Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza
Mayor Pro-Tem Margarita Aguilar (Excused)
Council Member Frank Vierra (Excused)
Council Member Theresa Land (Excused)
Council Member Gurpal Samra (Late)
There was no quorum of the City Council.
PLANNING COMMISSION ROLL CALL
Chair Luis Enrique Flores
Vice-Chair Roy Soria
Commissioner Mario Mendoza
Commissioner Frank Castellanos
Commissioner Harpreet Bains (Excused)
Alternate Commissioner Manoj Bains (Excused)
City Attorney Sanchez stated that it is not necessary to have a quorum of the City Council at this joint meeting because this is only an informational meeting to provide the status on the General Plan Update and no action will be taken.
CLOSED SESSION ANNOUNCEMENTS
Mayor Espinoza announced the closed session was cancelled due to lack of a quorum. Council Member Samra arrived at 6:13 p.m.
There were no changes to the agenda.
City Attorney Sanchez said special meetings are treated a little different than regular meetings. Pursuantto the Brown Act, in a Special meeting the public can only comment on the items listed on the Agenda. The public comment period is held after the presentation of the agenda item.
DISCUSSION- GENERAL PLAN UPDATE (GPU) WORKSHOP
Public informational meeting for consultants and staff to provide an update on the status and completion of the General Plan Update (GPU), answer questions from the community, and discuss next steps.
City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez introduced Consultant Tad Stearn from PMC and Kathleen Faubion (Kit) from Meyers Nave. He explained the reason for this workshop is to educate and inform the public on the status of the GPU and allow for public comment.
Tad Stearn thanked the City Council, Planning Commission, City staff, and the public for the opportunity to make this presentation and stated this is an informal meeting to get the public involved in the City’s General Plan process which has been going on for some time. It is meant to be a transparent public process. For Brown Act compliance, this workshop was agendized as a joint special meeting.
The PowerPoint Presentation included the following: Purpose of workshop
• To provide a status update on the General Plan timeline and background.
• To refresh the public and decision-makers on the 2009 Court decision.
• To discuss the scope of the General Plan (and EIR) revisions.
• To invite public comments.
• To identify next steps.
General Plan Time line and Background
• The process of updating the 1999 City of Livingston’s General Plan started in 2005-2006.
• The 2025 General Plan was adopted in 2008.
• Adoption and approval was legally challenged and approval certification of the EIR was set aside by the court in 2009.
• The City began the process of amending documents to address the court ruling.
• The General Plan and EIR draft revisions were completed in September 2012, and were sent out for public review for a period of 45 days.
• Mandated public review of draft revised EIR concluded October 22, 2012. Overview of Court Ruling- Main Points
Consultant Stearn stated it is important to understand that the decisions that were made set the City on a course to try to rectify or identify its deficiencies in the document. The Court ruling main points included:
• The protection of prime agriculture land and farm land, specifically deferral of Mitigation.
• Growth rates, growth projections, population projections, housing projections, and project size Livingston’s projections, in terms of the overall size of the general plan, were too high.
• There was no consideration of smaller Alteratives.
• Infrastructure Master Plans- How they factored into the project description, what they were and what they were used for.
• The plan did not go far enough in protecting agricultural land consistent with the Open Space Lands Act.
Resulting Scope of General Plan and EIR Revisions after the Court Decision
• The revisions were not intended to "start from scratch." It was more focused on what was deficient in the existing plan.
• The project description and objectives were clarified.
• The role of the Infrastructure Master Plans was clarified.
• The Plan needed stronger Agricultural and Open Space policies and a revised analysis of impacts related to the conversion of prime farmland.
• The analysis of a new (smaller) project alterative was needed.
The amendments were meant to be very surgical, very strategic, and very specific to what the court ruled on. Staff needed to address the issues, but also be cost effective and efficient in making these changes and not open the entire Plan again.
Existing Livingston Planning Boundaries Map
Consultant Stearn pointed out the existing City limits and the territory that is left in the City’s Sphere of Influence (SOl).
1999 General Plan Land Use Map
This is the Plan that was updated. It shows the year 2020 boundaries, which basically take the SOI areas. This plan went through 10 year horizon lines- year 2020, 2030, 2040 and 2050. Since it is very difficult to plan that far off, one of the scope items in the General Plan Update was to stick to a 20-year plan.
Adopted 2025 General Plan (2008)
Approval of this Plan was rescinded by the Court. It had a much larger footprint. The proposed SOI areas were significantly larger. This plan also had large reserve areas. It was beyond the planning horizon of20 years.
Revised 2025 General Plan (2012)
This Plan was just updated in September 2012. It keeps that general footprint of the SO!, but it removes all of the urban reserve area beyond the 20-year planning horizon and also provides an agriculture designation which did not exist in the 2008 Plan. This is one of the items responding directly to the court decision.
Comparison of Plans- General Plan Size and Population Comparison
Consultant Stearn presented a comparison between the 1999 Plan, the Rescinded 2025 Plan, and the Revised 2025 Plan.
In the 1999 Plan, the GP Planning Area was at 5,405 acres (for a 50-year horizon); in the Rescinded 2025 Plan, it was at 8,398 acres; and in the Revised 2025 Plan, it was at 6,150 acres.
Estimated population numbers were at 23,000 in the 1999 Plan (for a 20-year horizon), l 02,958 in the Rescinded 2025 Plan (a very high assumption), and then using some more realistic and modified assumptions for growth, they came up with a range of population growth for the revised 2025 General Plan Update of54,865-74,278.
Consultant Stearn explained the different ways of doing population projections and stated these are land use based projections. They calculated houses and people and density per acre instead of just trends over time. He said this is more reflective of the City’s plan as the City is allowed to plan vs. what a county would look at region wide.
Important General Plan Land Use and Policy Revisions Included in the 2012 General Plan Update The key difference in the Plans from 2008 to 2012 is not only the map, but also the policy issues in response to the court ruling which is strengthening some of these issues and yet protecting the policies.
• Removal of "Reserve" areas and 50-year planning horizon.
• Addition of an "Agriculture" land use designation. (This is responding directly to the court.)
• Expand protection for non-conforming agriculture.
• Stronger annexation policies for more logical Planning.
• Stronger mitigation requirements for important farmland conversion.
• Standards for interim and permanent buffers to help provide some protection for land uses. Important EIR Revisions
• Key sections of the EIR were revised directly in response to the court ruling and to the General Plan. Only the chapters that were caused to be changed by the revisions to the Plan were re-circulated.
• Stronger Analysis of agricultural Impacts and mitigation measures.
• Inclusion of Alternative 5- "Reduced Planning Area/Jobs Focused Alternative." This new Alternative 5 modifies some of the land uses.
Summary of Alternative 5
• Planning area reduced by I,074 acres.
• Land area removed is mostly residential
• Changes in the River Ranch special planning area from a mostly residential planning concept to an Industrial/Commercial land use concept Also the Ranch wood area was removed from this alternative.
• As a result of those changes, the Impacts were reduced in nearly all categories by having the smaller plan.
A map of Alternative 5 was displayed.
Consultant Stearn explained this is part of the revised alterative section of the EIR. The most significant change is all the residential area that was removed. It made a considerable difference in the population projection and it reduced a sizeable amount in prime farmland.
General Plan Size and Population Comparison with Alternative 5
The existing City Limits and existing Sphere of Inf1uence is basically the same for all Plans, but when you get down to the overall size of the Plan, the Rescinded 2025 Plan is 8,398 acres, the Revised 2025 Plan is 6, !50 acres, and the Alternative 5 goes down to 5,076 acres.
Population estimates start at 102,958 in the Rescinded 2025 Plan, 54,865 – 74278 in the Revised 2025 Plan, and that number gets reduced to 36,337 – 48,012 in the Alternative 5. This is a very conservative population projection.
Invitation for Public Comments and Questions
Following the PowerPoint Presentation, Consultant Stearn noted that the formal comment period on the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report concluded on October 22, 2012. Staff received over 40 comment letters. He then invited the public to ask questions and make comments. After the comment period, he will answer questions and go over next steps.
Mayor Espinoza opened for public comments at 6:35 p.m. He allotted each comment to be up to five minutes.
Chair Flores asked if the 77 acres of annexation referred to on the "General Plan Size and Population Comparison" table was the River Ranch area.
Consultant Steam replied he will have to look back to verify what exactly those 77 acres are.
Katherine Schell-Rodriguez, P.O. Box 163, Livingston
She said some of her questions will be for the consultants, some will be for the Planning Commission and some will be for the City Council.
From 2008 through 2011, the City has spent well over $1 Million on the General Plan Update, Master Plan Updates, and Environmental Impact Report Updates. This does not count for what was spent from 2004-2008 and that number does not count for what was spent from 2012 and onward.
She wanted to remind everyone that the Planning Commission voted against adopting the General Plan, but City Council did not listen; and the City Council was warned that if they adopted the Plan as written, the City would be sued, but they did not listen. The Council was also warned about the foolishness of doing master plans at the same time as the General Plan since these master plans arc supposed to tier off of the General Plan, so it would only make fiscal sense to get the Plan straight and then write the master plans, but they did not listen.
With that in mind, there are a couple of things she would like to know:
• How much has this whole thing cost since 2005? The records that she has add up to over $1 Million, but she doesn’t have all records.
• What about these master plans? We’ve got a Parks and Recreation Master Plan that includes land not included in the study area. There is land that the City owns that was not included in the Master Plan and not included in the Revised General Plan ElR. Shouldn’t this have been included? What can you do with land that you don’t include in your ElR update?
• What about the Circulation Master Plan which includes the plan to eminent domain one whole side of Hammatt and includes a bridge over the Merced River? It’s kind of hard to see where all the roads are going to go according to this Plan because they are not in the Circulation Master Plan.
• If you are going to fix the General Plan, shouldn’t you fix all these other Master Plans so that the people who are doing Planning in the future have a document they can really go by?
She expects answers to her questions because contrary to what was repeated over and over again through this process, a General Plan is not just a plan that can be changed at anytime. It is the founding document of where this City is going to go in terms of zoning and it is what the Planning Commission has to go by when making decisions on whether or not a project does or does not match the zoning. She wants to make sure that they get it right. From what she is hearing, there are some people who are not happy with this revision. People are concerned about these master plans. If you are going to do it, get it right!
Colette Alvernaz, P.O. Box 255, Livingston
Inexcusable! Totally, absolutely inexcusable! Her father was a ceramic engineer. When you sign off on a document, it has to be accurate. There are several miscalculations in here. The percentage is wrong. There is no way this should even have gone to the public. Why do the numbers not match in your document?
From 2009-2012, there were no public meetings while the City of Livingston has been working on this General Plan, yet they talk about how they want the public included and transparency. Baloney! She submitted over 1,700 pages on the Notice of Preparation and only two pages were included. Read what she has written. There are serious flaws. There is no Ag. protection.
Her land is in a permanent agriculture easement and staff gives it a designation of urban housing. They only give agriculture designation to where the City of Livingston wants the buffer between the City and Atwater. Check the maps. There is no change in the plans. The City’s SOI is the same. The PMC consultant just stated that. The only thing different is they erased the 50-year planning horizon, but they really didn’t erase it unless this City Council and the City of Livingston is making a public statement for 30 years there will be absolutely no growth because that is what the document states and that’s what the numbers state.
In the City’s 1999 General Plan, there were 977 acres potential to annex into the Sphere of influence. Seventy-seven (77) acres have been annexed; that leaves 900 acres. Even giving the benefit of 100 acres every 10 years, you have 90 years in the existing Sphere of Influence. What is the City thinking trying to take their agricultural land?
This is hypothetical growth in the City’s alternative. This alternative didn’t reduce the planning area, it’s a hypothetical plan; it’s a proposed plan. There is no current analysis against the 1999 General Plan.
She took the highway traffic figures that were in the PMC document issued in December and .January for the Gallo annexation and she computed the highway traffic numbers that were in Alternative 5. There were 5,785,473 daily traffic trips. The traffic plan was not computed. The emergency access road will notwork. People are going to need an ambulance. It has the road going through her family’s permanent agriculture easement field, dividing it. That is not going to happen. There is no real analysis in Alternative 5.
She feels the Revised 2025 General Plan is specifically targeting the Alvernaz Farm that is in Williamson Act Land and a Permanent Agriculture Easement.
Out of 6150 acres in the General Planning area, theirs is the only land specified. "General Plan implementation could continue to increase pressure toward non-renewal, particularly for the 73 acres in the southwest corner of the Planning Area." (City of Livingston Revised 2025 General Plan draft EIR page 4.2-32).
She has been coming before the City Council for the last seven years stating her family wants to farm. She has begged; she has pleaded. The City is putting in their document and they are going to target their land and pressure them not to farm. She asked why they are being targeted.
Under Alternative 5, the two roads mentioned by name for potential widening, Washington and Westside, are two of the three roads surrounding the perimeter of her property. "For example impacts to Washington Boulevard and Westside Boulevard may still occur. .." (City of Livingston Revised 2025 General Plan draft ElR page 6.0-7).
Since 2005, the Alvernaz family has stated their intention to permanently farm. Why is the City of Livingston continuing to disregard their private property rights and wishes and continues to plan urbanization and City infrastructure on their land? What did Joe Alvernaz and Jim Alvernaz ever do to the City to go after them and t1y to drive them out of business? Why the hostile language of "continue to increase pressure" for their farm? Why is the City of Livingston actively planning the demise of their viable business? She feels the City of Livingston proposed 2025 General Plan is targeting and threatening her family.
With language used in this proposed revised 2025 General Plan, its ultimate goal is to remove agriculture. Here are a few of the hostile phrases toward Agriculture: "May impede agriculture operations," "May increase pressure to convert such land to begin the non-renewal process on the remaining (Williamson Act) acreage if urban inconsistent with the agricultural uses anticipated by the Williamson Act Contract Land." (City of Livingston Revised 2025 General Plan draft ElR page 4.2-31). The agriculture industry is a multi-billion dollar business in Merced County and the City of Livingston should be working on protecting it and not destroying it.
She added she has a critically special needs child. If the City builds out Vinewood River Road, will not be able to get an ambulance to her child fast enough and if the City thinks she is tenacious in protecting her farm, they have not seen her as a mother. The City needs to keep its emergency access roads clear.
Geraldine Martin, 16181 W. Vinewood, Livingston
She hates being here again. There are so many things wrong with this RDEIR that it would be impossible to address them all in three minutes, so she will talk about the areas she finds most glaring and that is the Sphere of influence and population.
As it has been stated by the consultant, the City was successfully sued over the original 2025 General
Plan Update. Livingston wasted thousands of dollars on a bad plan and had to reimburse the Farm Bureau for all its court costs. All of that was totally unnecessary. The City Council at that time ignored all the citizen comments; ignored the recommendations of their own Planning Commission and passed it anyway. She is not a lawyer, but she knew it. She told the City Council they were going to get sued and they did. Look at the tax payer money you wasted. This plan is going to get you sued again. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.
This plan as presented tonight has the same flaws. It’s like the court decision never happened. She asks all of the City Council members to read carefully the court decision and read the letters that are on this General Plan.
She wanted to bring up some comments that the Farm Bureau Attorney made on this plan.
The City did not respond to the court’s finding that the expanded boundary was unnecessary in light of reasonable population projections. Rather than do as directed and determine what the reasonable population projections are and propose a new boundary consistent with what will be necessary to accommodate that level of growth, the City simply kept the ILLEGAL (and enormous) boundary and reduced its population projections by approximately 25,000. This provides even less support for the huge boundary expansion and the population projections still overstate reasonable estimates.
Merced County sent a letter on this plan and said that the SOI boundary reflects the City’s desire to capture certain territory, and we all know they are talking about Sultana. That is what the City wants. That’s the reason for this plan, and the population growth rates are simply math calculations, not projections. That is exactly what the City got sued for and they are doing it again. What a waste of money.
She wants to know whose idea this is. She doesn’t know if PMC is advising the City that this is going to fly; that this is okay, but if they are, they should be responsible for the lawsuit cost that is coming. Or, did the City tell PMC to ignore the court order and do what they say? She would like to see what communication there has been on this matter between PMC, the City Council, and also the City Attorney, who the City is paying so much money to review this Plan, what are his findings? Does he think this is okay? He asked the City Council to read the letters and read the comments and the objections of lawyers responding to the City’s plan. Like Katherine Schell Rodriguez said, just do it right. People have dirty water in this town and the City is wasting so much money. It’s sad!
Mr. Sahota, 8499 Monte Cristo Road, Livingston
He lives outside City limits. He thinks the City should expand the same distance in every direction so nobody has to fight and everybody has equal rights. He bought property at a very high price very close to the City and it was not included in Alternative 5. It is on Robin and Flint, very close to the Middle School, and it was left out of the General Plan in Alternative 5. He granted three (3) acres for the placement of the sewer line and now that sewer line is not being used. They should use that sewer line and also extend it out to Magnolia on the east so that it can service many people and be less costly.
He has lived his in various places throughout his life- 20 years in India, 5 years in England, 22 years in Canada and 23 years in Livingston. Expansion is required so that prices are not too high. Don’t go against anybody. Look after everybody’s needs. We should not speak against expanding. It has to be done to improve the City.
Luna Jamero, 14253 Magnolia Avenue, Livingston
Her property is sandwiched between the Alvernaz property and the Arakelian property. She has been neighbors with many of the farmers in the Livingston area for several years. Her family has owned this property, about 40 acres, since 1944.
She moved away in 1967 and she moved back in 1997 and when she was here in 1967 it seemed like Livingston had more businesses and more cooperation with the City. She comes back in 1997 and she finds out that the farmers are not really being treated properly, but yet this is the bread basket of the Central Valley. She doesn’t understand why the City is targeting agriculture land when they should be talking about what they need to do within the City limits that they have now. We have a broken City. We hardly have any business here. We have people that shop in other cities because there is nothing here.
She joined the City Chamber of Commerce and she tried to work with some of the local people. The Chamber of Commerce put on the Sweet Potato Jamboree for a while then things started to fall apart because what we have in this town are people that have their own little turf. We need to start talking about what we have in common with the City of Livingston we should all share and protect that which has made this City grow in the past. We cannot tear that down. Agriculture land is a treasure. She drives to Merced everyday and she sees agriculture land with a bunch of wires sticking out, a bunch of houses that have not been built yet and a bunch of concrete jungles that may never be houses and she finds the same thing here in Livingston, so let’s talk about repairing and resolving some of the problems we have in front of us instead of coming up with a bunch of numbers and projections.
She realizes that consultants have spent a lot of time on this study, but when she is sitting out here and she is hearing these numbers and spending millions of dollars on something that are bogus numbers, just projections- Hello! We have real problems today. She wants to see a real Council that is dealing with some real problems. She doesn’t see that anymore.
Back in the day, there used to be discussion about trying to keep a business going. Now, we just sell out to all the big boxes and what do we have left in the City of Livingston? She has been here now since 1997 and she still has seen very little growth in the City. She thinks we need to begin to look at how the economy has impacted us. We were pretty much down the tubes even before the market crashed. We really need to look at how to regenerate. How do we really capitalize on what is a very strong tradition and legacy which is respecting the farmers out here? We have Foster Farms, we have Gallo, we have all the sweet potato farmers, and we have almond growers. They shop here in Livingston, too. They may not all be within the City limits, but they have done a lot for the City of Livingston.
She cannot understand what the City’s priorities are. She doesn’t understand this 2025 revised plan and it just boggles her brain. She would like to see some action from this Council on some more current relevant issues based on realistic numbers.
Mayor Espinoza stated the people are looking at the City as a villain. By law the City has to have a new General Plan Update. It has to be updated every seven years. Not everybody agrees with the plans. Councils change every two and four years. It sounds like the Council is out to get the farmers, but it’s the farmers that are selling the land to developers. If they don’t want to sell the land, they don’t have to. Obviously, some people have put farmland conservation easements on their property. They don’t have to sell. Council is trying to work with citizens that want more homes and Farmers that want to sell their land to developers, but the City is not making any property owner sell. If you don’t want to sell your land now, maybe your kids want to sell it later. This is just a plan that the City is required to update. All cities are required to do that by law. He knows there are disagreements with farmers, he, himself, is a farmer, but he is also on the City Council. The Council is trying to do what is best for everybody. Livingston is a small city. The plans for Atwater and other bigger cities are being approved with no problem. Our City has been working on the General Plan Update for a long time. Council is trying to work with the farmers, the developers, and the citizens and they are just trying to follow the law.
Amanda Carvajal, Executive Director of !he Merced County Farm Bureau
She strongly advises the City Council to read the document. It is only 16 pages long. There is very good, easy to read information in the document and it is all facts.
With regards to the fanners, they are not on attack. They just want to have a conversation. She has been in this job almost three years and this is the first meeting she has had on the General Plan. December 2009 is when the courts made a decision on this. She started working in this position January 2010 and with the exception of a Notice of Preparation (NOP) and one meeting she was invited to by former Community Development Director Donna Kenney, she has not had any involvement in this. The Farm Bureau has not been involved. When it comes to the City of Merced and their general plan, they were there talking to the Farm Bureau. There are a lot of false numbers and inaccuracies in this plan. We’ve got to talk about this because this should not have gone public.
With regard to the Alvernaz’ property, it is not that they should not allow their land to go into the Sphere of Influence, it cannot. By law, it cannot. The Mayor has land in an easement, himself, with the Central Valley Trust, so he knows the rules. She doesn’t want anyone to use the Alvernaz’ property as a concession. That will not be in there. She wants to make that clear.
With regard to the letter, there are a lot of numbers in there. She just wanted to throw out a few important numbers. In their report, it talks about the original (revised draft EIR) and the revised report. According to their attorney, the original report has a total Sphere of Influence and all land that is in the Urban Land area 5,700 acres. The revised report has 6,100 acres. The City is saying they are going to have 25,000 less population by 2025 on a bigger Sphere of influence area. That is a big concern because that means the City will have a smaller density per acre. That means the City is going to have more houses. There are a lot of different things that they need to talk about.
Population: Currently the City is at approximately 13,000-14,000. We are approaching 2013, so that means we are 12 years out from 2025 and we are expected to get to 55,000 population? Let’s be realistic. If you look at Merced County’s letter that they wrote and if you look at the Farm Bureau’s letter, it shows the numbers. From now to then, that is a 10.4 % growth rate per year. That is unheard of. We didn’t even have that in the boom. Especially when we are going back during the boom, in the last 13 years, 77 acres were annexed.
With regard to the City referencing the policies to the ag. designation that is not an ag. designation, that is a buffer. It’s 55 acres on the edge.
With regards to the Master Plans, Colette Alvernaz’ letter has some good facts and that is what matters. She starts talking about the 5 Million day projections of traveling throughout the main roads in the City of Livingston. That is what the City is projecting for the growth. Where are your GHD reviews? Since the lawsuit occurred, and the court did say the City did not have to update its air quality section then, and then in March 2010, CEQA law changed, so that means the City’s document has to be revised. GHD’s are not even reviewed in this document. Air quality is not there.
With regard to the Merced River bridge, the Water Board had no idea about it. Fish and Game wasn’t really involved. They need to be involved. That is stuff that needs to be in the Master Plan. The court said it. Just follow the rules. How hard can it be? This is just frustrating to them. She appreciates the time. She appreciates the commentary period, but she wants to be in a conversation with the City. She is not threatening. She just wants to talk facts. If we talk numbers, we can do this. She doesn’t want to be in a law suit and neither does the City, so let’s talk.
Bryan Sweila, ANI Benchmark, working with the Pirus Abraham family
He asked Consultant Stearn to bring up one of the Alternative maps on the PowerPoint so he can point to what he is talking about. Pirus Abraham has been in Livingston coming on 50 years. He is a long time high school teacher. He is just bringing up what hopefully is a small thing. Their property is the easy to find gray property (he pointed to the property on the map). For whatever reason, really the only next developable acreage outside of the City and they were zoned light industrial.
This was done a while back and right now there is only 26 acres of light industrial in the City, so it makes sense to add light industrial, but it probably doesn’t make sense to add it right on the freeway where really the best use is some sort of a commercial high density employment type use. So, in the plan, they’ve talked about adding l 00 acres of light industrial. All that they are suggesting is that maybe that the use is more compatible to that freeway visibility. They propose something like a highway commercial. As you can see, besides the land that is already in the City, the next kind of logical spot of growth along the highway is the Abraham property.
They hope this is kind of a minor update to the General Plan revision. Also with the River Ranch property being changed over to light industrial, it adds quite a bit of acreage to light industrial, so really all they are looking for, what is kind of exciting, one of the speakers mentioned, how shopping really happens outside of Livingston. People drive away and shop in other places where they have large retail establishments. What’s kind of exciting here is there are l 00 acres that are all under one ownership, so we could have an outlet mall. We could have a real retail that tailors to Livingston and also potentially draws in people from other communities right there on the freeway, right between two major interchanges. It makes a lot of sense. Again, this light industrial designation was done in an earlier General Plan, but all they are looking for is to have that property zoned to a more proper zoning such as highway commercial or something that hopefully would bring in more jobs and some sales tax revenue to the City.
Mayor Espinoza wanted to clarify for the record that his land is located in Delhi, CA. It has nothing to do with anything around Livingston.
Mr. Sahota wanted to speak again because he did not finish his allotted five minutes. Mayor Espinoza allowed him to speak again, but only for one minute.
Mr. Sahota said he wanted to tell the Council and the audience his experience. We want farmland to preserve. We should, but where will our descendants and their families go if we don’t grow? We grow high or wide. When we preserve too much farmland, home prices go high and nobody can afford it.
Mario Gouveia, Gouveia Engineering, 456 61 Street, Gustine (spoke on behalf of Manuel Vieira and the Vieira Trust.
He wanted to reiterate to the City the summary report they submitted a couple weeks back as their comments on the General Plan Update. He would like to, again, express the intent of the Vieira Trust to develop some property that the Trust owns on the south side of the City and asked for Council consideration in including those properties when they do the amendment to the Sphere of Influence (SOl). These properties are about 370 acres. They provide a natural continuity to the City on the south side.
The properties basically include a 45-acre parcel which was called Summer Stone a few years back. They actually had a tentative map prepared for it. And there are a number of other properties. Basically, the boundaries are Lincoln Boulevard, Westside, Robin, and they abut the City. That was Summer Stone which was a Ranchwood property. The portion to the south is what was referred to a few years ago as the Ranchwood Development.
Obviously, the Trust is looking at developing this area as residential and any other use, possibly Commercial along the main roads in a manner that is tailored to meet the future needs of the community.
In his report, he referred to Alternatives 3 and 4. They request that when the Council adopts their new SOI, they consider these alternatives which would suit the Vieira Trust properly and in the event that the City Council did not select one of these alternatives, they are hoping that the City Council includes the Vieira properties shown there.
Rigoberto Espinoza, 328 Live Oak Way, Livingston
He said he has a property on Industrial Way that he has been trying to develop for the last 2 1/2 years and it has been a nightmare with the City trying to get it developed, so he hopes it can finally get done. He paid a $2,000 deposit already to get something started and he hasn’t seen anything yet. He understands what some of the other citizens are arguing about protecting ag. land. He is a farmer, himself, so he knows how important that is, but he is in the middle because he is also running a business and is trying to get his property developed.
City Manager Ramirez asked if he submitted a comment letter as it relates to his property.
Mr. Espinoza replied he did.
Mayor Espinoza closed the public comment period at 7:20 p.m.
Planning Commission Comments
• He concurs with most of the people that spoke. Since he started on the Planning Commission, he made it one of his comments to always ask about the General Plan and what the status of it was and he feels that we should have had a workshop leading up to this. He doesn’t think it should have been made public yet. There are a lot of issues that he has with this current update. He is interested to see where the City is going to go next and hopefully they can find some resolution because there are a lot of things that need to be fixed with this update.
• He agrees with Mayor Espinoza’s comment that nobody wants to take the farmers’ land. If you want to sell your land, you can, but the City does not want to take it.
• Most of us have to go out of town to do our shopping. We don’t have everything to provide the citizens of Livingston what they need.
• Reminded everyone that no business will come to the City of Livingston if the City does not have the rooftops. Rooftops are needed, people are needed for businesses to build in the City of Livingston. He worked for Save Mart for 25 years. He tried to bring Save Mart to Livingston, but they didn’t come. Rancho San Miguel was supposed to be coming for a long time, but it is not here yet. WalMart changed their mind about building here. Why? Because we don’t have enough rooftops.
• He came to Livingston in 1959. He was working in a grocery store next to the railroad tracks. A lot of blight used to be in this town. At that time population was only at about 5,000. Population is now 14,000. He decided to get involved in the community in 1982. He ran and was elected for City Council and they were dealing with the issue of the realignment of Highway 99. There was a traffic light on Highway 99. It was a traffic hazard. A lot of people were getting killed at that light. In reference to Ms. Alvernaz’ comment about needing an ambulance, at that time, if the train stopped right on Main Street, you could not get across town and you could not get onto Highway 99. Even now the way Highway 99 is realigned, some people are still not satisfied. The interchanges on Winton Parkway and Hammatt were done for the purpose of public safety. Safety is number 1 for the City Council and Planning Commission. We want to take care of the citizens. We would like to have plenty of box stores here in Livingston, but we haven’t been able to.
• There were 4 or 5 alternatives for Highway 99. What people now say is that Council messed up because they didn’t have an ingress and egress on Main Street. It didn’t happen because of public safety.
• Now we have Winton Parkway and all those fast food restaurants, an auto parts, and some people are still not happy.
• Somebody mentioned Foster Farms. Foster Farms used to be where the Texaco gas station is now. It moved across town when it burned down. People that work at Foster Farms do not all live or shop in Livingston.
These are just a few of the things that happened in the past to give an example of what the City is trying to do. We are not trying to take your property or prevent an ambulance from going through.
• He has been in this community and participated in this community for a long time and a lot of things have happened in this community over the years.
• Mentioned that we have new members on the City Council. He thinks we need to focus and find ways to bring new businesses to the City. There are too many vacant spaces. We need to work together to make a better Livingston. He has lived in Livingston for 12 years already and before 1999, Livingston was the last City he would consider moving to. He has seen Livingston grow to a better City. He has noticed the downtown looks rough and we need to make it better. We need to do things together with the Council and do better things for the community.
• He has been in Livingston all his life. He graduated in 1990. In over 20 years, he has seen the City’s population increase by only 6,000. He thinks ag. land is prime land in the Central Valley. That is what this community is all about, but sometimes some of these developers come in and offer a lot of money to some of these farmers and they agree to sell their property. He doesn’t think the City is going to do any eminent domain. He thinks the City Council, the Planning Commission and the citizens of Livingston coming together can come up with some sort of an agreement that will make everybody happy. He doesn’t think the City is going to grow much by 2025.
Council Comments Council Member Samra
• Thanked the audience for coming out to comment. He said some of the City’s neighbors think Council is being hostile towards them because they want to include ag. land in their plan. There are also other neighbors that think Council is being hostile towards them because Council doesn’t let them come into the City. Everybody was a farmer in California at one time. There were no cities here; it was all ag. land and eventually people came here and everything grew.
• Everybody here that made comments is a farmer and no one person has the right to tell the other person what to do with their land. No matter what the City does in its plans, it cannot force you to annex your land into the City; it cannot force you to do anything that you don’t want to do. This is just a plan. Maybe it can be argued that this plan is aggressive, but then on the flip side of it, there have been cities that have been nailed by saying they just wanted to get the plan adopted even though they knew the plan was going to be bigger than what it was. He thinks it’s better to over plan. Not to say that this is a particular plan that they need to adopt because they still have a long way to go.
It is interesting that at least 3 or 4 farmers are saying they wantt to be in the City and the other farmers are not even coming in, so it doesn’t matter to them whether this plan gets adopted or not.
He thinks City officials do need to sit down with the Farm Bureau and hear what they have to say at a greater length. He will make time to sit with them, if they wish. He thinks the communication lines need to stay open.
Everybody sometimes fears change. Just a few years ago when UC Merced wanted to come in, there were people saying they were going to destroy fairy shrimp and other things. We have a lot of students that go to school there now. Overall he thinks it has been a very positive impact to the community. Farming is important. We rely on farming for living, but the world changes, too. We cannot remain just farmland anymore. We have to change. Otherwise, there is no way that farms can provide the jobs that people all over California need right now. Farmers are hard working people, but farming offers very little chance of advancement for our children.
He, too, has been here for a long time and he has not seen change. Other than the people that are opposing this, there needs to be some sort of a compromise. To say that you still have 900 acres and you are good for so many years, that doesn’t work. Think about other people that are saying we own this land. We have the right to decide whether we want to farm almonds, sweet potatoes, or if they are tired of getting up at early morning hours and worry about the weather, they should have the option to sell their land. They have the right, too, so we have to balance everything out. They are not being hostile to any particular group. They are just trying to be fair and do their ve1y best.
• Next time people go out of town, just take a look when you start to leave the City limits. There is still farmland even in the City limits and then the SOI is even beyond that and there is farmland out there. Obviously the City limits are way beyond that. Cities have to grow in line with the way the City is growing.
• He added there were three new Council Members elected on November 6th They may have to schedule another meeting to educate the new Council Members about the General Plan.
• This is a public participation forum about the General Plan. We are trying to educate everybody.
We want the current and new Council to look at it because the original plan was approved in 2008. There were a couple of different Council Members and now that we have new ones coming in, we have different minds and a different way of thinking. Obviously this is not perfect yet and that is the reason for the meetings.
• He thanked everyone for their input. We are going to go back and look at it again and maybe change numbers. The General Plan is about zoning for commercial, residential, industrial. This was approved in 2008.
• Some developers went under. There are new developers now and they have a different mind. The River Ranch first was all residential and now they want to change it to industrial because now there are people interested in industrial property and we have to make new changes, so it’s going to be some time and hopefully we will revise all that with the new Council after they get a little bit of education on the General Plan.
Council Member Samra introduced two newly elected Council Members that were sitting in the audience,
Mr. Jim Soria and Mr. David Mendoza.
Chair Flores said one of the purposes of tonight’s meeting is to identify the next steps, so he wants clarification as to what the next steps are in terms of collaborating with everybody. Do we have a timeline?
PMC Consultant Tad Steam said the timeline would be up to the Council. They take direction from the Council. Right now because the document has been out for public review, the next step in sequence is to complete the final EIR, respond to all those thoughtful comments that were received and then at that point the staff reports and all the findings and all the things going with the staff report package will be taken into consideration by the Planning Commission and ultimately by the City Council.
If in discussions and other meetings that course of direction changes, that could happen too, but if we are taking the process through from this point forward, that is the sequence that would happen- back to Planning Commission, the City Council and then the Council would have several options available to them to move forward with the plan or go with a different plan. There are a number of things that can happen.
Council Member Samra suggested that before Council takes any other additional steps, they should wait for the new Council to get seated, let them come up to speed, and let them have input into the next step.
Mayor Espinoza said that is why he said they should have another joint meeting with the City Council and the Planning Commission and allow the new Council Members to know a little bit more about the General Plan and then go from there.
The meeting was adjourned by consensus at 7:42p.m.
City Clerk of the City of Livingston
APPROVED: February 5, 2013
Mayor or Mayor ProTempore
The written meeting minutes reflect a summary of specific actions taken by the City Council. They do not necessarily reflect all of the comments or dialogue leading up to the action. All meetings are digitally recorded and are an official record of the meeting’s proceedings. Digitally recorded verbatim minutes are available, upon request, and may be obtained at Livingston City Hall.