Alameda County opens up public process to assess amendments to urban growth boundary

By Dick Schneider

On April 30th, Alameda County Supervisors Scott Haggerty and Nate Miley convened in Livermore a special meeting of the Transportation and Planning Committee board. The purpose of the gathering was to get district input on amending Measure D, the county open space initiative sponsored by the Sierra Club and approved by the voters in 2000.

Measure D established an Urban Growth Boundary to prevent sprawl from encroaching on our dwindling agricultural lands, open space, watersheds, and wildlife habitat. It encourages infill and transit-friendly development to help revitalize neighborhoods within existing urban boundaries. Measure D also sets standards for development outside the urban growth boundary to protect open space from excessive development.

The Measure D amendment under consideration would expand the allowable area for agricultural and other non-residential buildings in the unincorporated rural areas. Measure D limits the floor area of such buildings to 1% of a parcel’s area in order to keep the scale of buildings in proportion to the size of a parcel. Larger parcels, and therefore presumably larger agricultural operations, get larger building areas while smaller parcels and smaller operations get proportionately smaller building areas.

Approximately 100 people attended the April 30th meeting to discuss this amendment to Measure D. The large majority of people who spoke said either that no amendment to Measure D should be made or that if any such amendment is proposed, it must be submitted to the voters for approval. Supervisor Miley had previously suggested that he could support a technical amendment without voter approval, but after one and a half hours of public testimony both Supervisor Miley and Supervisor Haggerty agreed with the overwhelming opinion that any substantive changes to Measure D must be made by the voters.

The Sierra Club’s position is that persuasive evidence has not been presented that an increase in floor area or floor area ratios for non-residential buildings is necessary. Weakening the protections contained in Measure D could set a dangerous precedent for more changes, including moving the urban growth boundary. However, we, as well as many other Measure D supporters, agreed to participate in a public stakeholder process to determine whether consensus can be reached on that question.

No meetings of the stakeholder group have yet been scheduled. If any Club members have a genuine interest in this issue and want to participate in the process, they should contact Dick Schneider at or (510) 926-0010 for more information. It is important that representation from all parts of Alameda be included in the process since voters from all of Alameda County ultimately will decide whether any amendments to Measure D are approved.


Dick Schneider is a member of the Sierra Club Tri-Valley Group Executive Committee

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