Report: Measure Y Would Devastate Farmers and Stall Economic Growth

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OCEANSIDE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

On November 6th, Oceanside voters will have the opportunity to vote on a ballot measure that will impact our local economy for decades to come. Measure Y, more commonly referred to as the SOAR initiative, not only could have lasting economic impacts, but also would eliminate local farmland, encourage sprawling estate lot development in Oceanside’s backcountry, and make “ballot-box planning” land-use restrictions a reality in Oceanside.

Measure Y would require voter approval for any change in the zoning of land currently designated for agricultural or open space. This takes away property rights from farms by making it cost prohibitive for farmers to mount a political campaign, not to mention the cost to the city taxpayers to hold an election.

This past Spring, upon recognition of the potential detrimental effects of the measure, the Chamber commissioned Dr. Lynn Reaser of Point Loma Nazarene University to complete a study on the economic impact of Measure Y. The complete study is available for download at www.OceansideSoarStudy.com.

According to Reaser’s report, Measure Y will fail on its core promise of protecting public recreational lands and open space “because most open space used for parks and recreational activities is City-owned and already requires a vote of the people for any zoning change.”
Similarly, the claim that Measure Y will safeguard Oceanside farmland is false. In fact, Dr. Reaser’s study came to the opposite conclusion: “The Initiative will likely lead to the demise of active farms in Oceanside, with land either being left to go fallow or sold into large estates for the wealthy.”

According to Chamber CEO, Scott Ashton,

“This measure is not about saving open space or farms. Measure Y is simply an affront to property rights. It benefits a small group of estate owners at the expense of our farmers and the rest of our community.”

Oceanside Farmers have deep concerns about the consequences of this measure. Neil Nagata, owner of Nagata Brothers Farms, Inc. in South Morro Hills, President of the San Diego Farm Bureau sees the initiative for what it truly is. “Measure Y doesn’t help agriculture, it hurts agriculture. Farmers must depend on land values as a significant part of how we borrow money to fund our farm. By stripping our property rights from us, [Measure] Y will actually hurt our ability to stay in business. Every burden that we add just makes it easier for foreign competition to move in and replace us. If farmers go bankrupt, we’d have to lay off employees, and the land won’t stay green. The decision would be to sell off 2 ½ acre lots or have the land be left as a blight to the area.”

Leaders in the agritourism arena also see the unintended consequences. Agritourism has proved a successful approach to tying tourism, dining and craft-driven business to local agriculture as a way to stimulate economic activity while sustaining farming.

According to Eric Larson, Executive Director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau,

“Agritourism can only succeed with large numbers of visitors. To accommodate the crowds there will need to be infrastructure improvements. If the SOAR initiative prevents infrastructure improvements, there should be no expectation that agritourism will succeed.”

He added

, “If you look at the two most successful examples of agritourism in San Diego County, Bates Nut Farm and the Flower Fields, neither would be allowed in Oceanside under the SOAR initiative.”

Reaser’s report goes into depth on a wide array of economic consequences that could result from this initiative. Some of the key takeaways from the report include…

Family Farms Potentially Becoming Exclusive Estates for the Wealthy•The initiative would shut off avenues for farmers in Oceanside to remain viable at a time when they are being squeezed between rising labor, water, and financing costs and increasing competition from imports.
•The Initiative would likely lead to the eventual demise of active farms in Oceanside, with land either being left to go fallow or sold into large estates for the wealthy.
Lost Opportunity for a Vibrant Agritourism Sector•The Initiative would prevent the creation of a vibrant agritourism cluster in Oceanside, including a mix of wineries, lodging, restaurants, and small retailers. In contrast, it would be restricted to a few roadside farm stands.
•Allowing development of a true agritourism cluster with additional housing on 1/6 (limited development) to 1/3 (moderate development) of the land currently zoned exclusively for agriculture would produce significantly greater economic gains than if current uses are frozen in place. These gains would include: •About twice the number of jobs
•$400 million in gross regional product (GRP) versus $150 million

•By 2034, the area currently being farmed is likely to contribute nearly $0.5 million to the City’s potential deficit. In contrast, the City could see a surplus of $1.2 million annually from the area if it allowed very limited development and a $2.5 million surplus annually from the region if moderate development were allowed.

The report touches on several other consequences including widening wealth and income inequality, limitations on addressing housing shortages, and increased housing density in the remainder of Oceanside where it is already higher than the City of San Diego.

According to Ashton, a no vote on Measure Y will preserve a wide variety of economic opportunities for Oceanside over the coming decades. “If Measure Y is defeated, it gives Oceanside flexibility in addressing issues such as workforce housing and the implementation of a thriving agritourism sector, while ensuring agriculture remains a vital part of Oceanside – as it has been for generations.”

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