Local government to DSC: Don’t tell us what to do

Last week the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) held a briefing on the second draft of the Delta Plan, even as staff were finishing up the third draft. The DSC invited representatives of local governments to talk about impacts of proposed governance.

The DSC heard from all five Delta counties, plus three cities: Sacramento, West Sacramento, and Rio Vista.

A major concern for all local governments is the Delta Plan’s covered action provision, which would give the Council authority to review a wide range of local government plans and activities. All argued for local control of their own land use decisions.

The mayor of West Sacramento, which lies entirely in the Delta’s Secondary Zone, made an especially compelling case. West Sacramento is a poor area in a location that would allow it to address a regional imperative to grow up instead of out. But if companies can’t move there without all kinds of additional review, they will locate instead in the foothills and on agricultural land elsewhere in the region.

Similarly, Rio Vista doesn’t want to lose the ability to develop industrial land north of town, including an airport, that lies within the city limits but also in the Primary Zone.

Counties already have firm commitments to preserving agricultural resources. In addition, requirements to elevate residential structures for flood protection discourage building in the Delta.

But San Joaquin County’s Community Development Director noted that the county has no jurisdiction in cities. So she couldn’t reassure Councilmember Patrick Johnston that the county’s new general plan would prevent the kinds of developments that have occurred in the past in the Secondary Zone in places like Stockton and Lathrop. Contra Costa County, which has also seen a large amount of residential and commercial growth in the Secondary Zone, is trying to control development with urban limit lines.

Councilmember Johnston has never been comfortable with the development compromises that were necessary to pass the Delta Protection Act of 1992, of which he was co-author. His were the most probing questions on potential future development.

Johnston noted that it is a hard to talk about San Joaquin County without cities like Lathrop and Stockton coming to participate. “If we don’t hear from those cities,” he said, “I assume they will leave [decisions] to the Council’s good judgment.”

The City of Stockton does seem to be acting like it doesn’t have a horse in this race.

The city of Tracy sent a letter.

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