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Agricultural Advisory Committee Final Report

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Brentwood Agricultural Advisory Committee
Meeting #5
February 17, 2000
6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Ron Nunn Elementary School

Members Present:  Ed Church for John Chapman, Laine Lawrence, Mark Dwelley, Marty Maggiore, Nancy Holloman, Edward Meyer, John Johnson, Evelyn Stivers, Catherine Kutsuris, Richard Vrmeer, Peter Wolfe

I. Introduction
Jeff Loux reviewed the agenda

Committee Question: The 1:1 mitigation ratio of land conversion to protection may be difficult to achieve
Answer: This may not be the actual ratio that is achieved, it is the way to calculate the developer’s fee. The actual acreage protected will depend on land prices and availability of outside funds for purchasing easements

II. Agricultural Viability and Enhancement

Rick Knoll of Knoll Organic Farms made a presentation on bio-intensive agriculture.  Key concept: Develop an agricultural ecosystem that becomes more diverse and valuable over time.  Problem of marketing agriculture locally.  Has been unable thus far to create a local community-supported agricultural system

Committee Question: Has the City surveyed residents about U-pick participation?
Suggestion: Survey local residents on market demand and utilization for U-picks and farm stands.

Tom Bloomfield made a presentation on the viability of grapes and viticulture in the Brentwood area.  He stated there is good long-term potential for grape cultivation in the Brentwood area.  Key challenge: Need to enter into an existing appellation (e.g., Central Coast or San Francisco Bay) in order to effectively market grapes.

Committee Question: How compatible are vineyards and housing development?
Generally is considered to be a “good neighbor” though some problems with dust.

Ralph Riva, Wente Vineyards (Livermore) made a presentation on viticulture and Livermore’s agricultural enterprise efforts.
* Grapes in Brentwood are a viable choice
* Suitability Criteria: soil, market, climate
* Many grape varieties were developed in the Livermore Valley: This can be a basis to build an image and an industry in Brentwood area.

Committee Question: How long did it take to develop the Wente Vineyard agriculture tourism component?
* Began development in 1980 with restaurant and later (1997) came the golf course, catering service; now considering a hotel bungalow development.
* Residential development has been designed, together with vineyards
* Created critical mass for other wineries and related residential vineyard estate developments and related downtown revitalization efforts.
* Could develop in 10 years or less in Brentwood area.

III. Agriculture Support Policies
Jeff Loux provided an outline of Issue Paper #3: “Agricultural support policies and Recommendations for promoting Agricultural Enterprise.”

General point: Agriculture support policy approach needs to take broader economic context into consideration.

Additional Topics to Address
* Add: Relationship of agriculture and overall economic development approach: using U-pick and other agriculture-oriented tourism strategies for generating additional sales tax.
* Add: Utilize history of agriculture as a marketing/tourism component.
Cultural patterns of different ownership patterns (owned versus leased land)
*  Farmland security zone: County creates a zone which landowners can then join. Landowners need to be in Williamson Act to be eligible.
*  Contra Costa County has initiated a study process to develop a Farmland Security Zone for the County.
* Need to evaluate extent to which potential property tax reductions for small scale agricultural operations might influence local farming/land development decisions.

County Land Use Designations
*Need to include: County Environmental Health Department; County Community Development Department; and Building Inspection Department.
* Need to focus on zoning regulations as well as General Plan.
* The Committee discussed reducing minimum parcel size from 40 to 20 acres. However, 40-acre minimum was developed as part of a ballot initiative and would require the same to change the standard.

Creating a Forum for Dialogue among Farmers
* Regular convening to discuss innovations in production, processing, agricultural tourism, etc. Develop cooperative ventures, and envision future of agriculture in the area.

Models of Farmer Dialogue:
* St. Helena, Healdsburg, and Calistoga: Played large role in creating economic development strategies based on higher agricultural product values through tourism.
* Support process by designating a special district over which the farmers would exercise some responsibility.
* Consider the use of the Farm Bureau as a forum.

Committee Question:  Focus of the Committee on protecting agriculture versus protecting quality of life for Brentwood?
How might local agriculture compete more effectively with regional and global competitors?

City Policies: Including agriculture in higher density residential areas results in new regulations which forces operational changes which causes can cause agricultural operations to go out business

 Need to work with City to create land use techniques that support continued agricultural uses. Need to protect small acreage farms within city limits.

Economic Development Strategies
* Need to stimulate private sector leadership and entrepreneurship.  *City could co-sponsor a major forum on agricultural tourism with Farm Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, and other stakeholder groups 

Affordable Housing for Farm Workers
* Need to include “very low income” housing
* Requirements to emphasize inclusionary housing set-asides or payment of an in-lieu fee in new residential developments 
* Add: Adjust City/County zoning to provide for on-site farm worker housing.

Farm Labor
*Need to support the development of a legal farm work force

* Concern about large buffers appropriateness on small parcels.
* Need to consider options for private ownership of buffer (e.g. larger lots)
* Restore native habitat in buffers to get access to state and federal funds 
* Add: City and County cooperation to avoid overburdening the farmer with inconsistent regulations. Link the City buffer policy with the County spray buffer area requirements (which varies depending on chemical being applied and the type of surrounding land uses.)
* Buffer placement should be based on planned future use (not current use). Emphasis on the Agricultural Core versus the infill parcels within City limits.

IV. Next Steps
Consultants will develop a draft final report on recommendations for the Committee to review at next meeting.

Bring revised draft recommendations report to the broader public/agriculture meeting after the next committee meeting.

Next Date: Thursday March 30 at 6:30 p.m. (rescheduled for Thursday April 27 at 6:30 p.m.)

City of Brentwood Agricultural Advisory
730 Third Street
Brentwood, CA 94513
(925) 516-5444
Fax (925)516-5445