Denny Jackman is a Modesto native and longtime land-use planning and farmland protection advocate.
Urban sprawl in the Central Valley of California has been mostly driven by significant expansion of residential zoning, which in turn draws commercial zoning for service support. Little expansion of the urban footprint has been attributed to industrial, commercial or business park zoning alone. If that pattern continues, when the economy is revived, the use of Urban Growth Boundaries (UGB) to curb sprawl in the Central Valley may do little to protect farmland.
When a UGB is formed urban development inside expands with a mix of residential, commercial and industrial uses until the boundary is reached, and the UGB is re-considered. If the land-uses inside the boundary do not provide for adequate industrial or commercial areas or are eroded over time by switching those uses to residential development, the pressure to expand the boundary for “job creation” may discount the value of the UGB as a farmland protection tool.
A Residential Urban Limit (RUL) is a selective refinement of an UGB that does not restrict commercial or industrial development. The value of a RUL is that it can be used to direct residential growth away from prime farmland and save important transportation access for commercial and industrial uses. For smart growth projects, the RUL can be designed to restrict only R1 & R2 zoning, thus allowing for multi-purpose projects.