Scott Freels, Dan De Vries, Chris Martorana and Jakie Morris Lopez. Photo by Jenna Mayzouni.

On July 25, the San Juan Bautista Urban Growth/Sphere of Influence Ad-Hoc Committee approved maps for the city’s sphere of influence and urban growth boundary.

The committee adopted a sphere of influence boundary that would follow San Juan’s current city limits and include the urban growth boundary within city limits. City Planning Commissioner David Medeiros made the motion and the committee voted unanimously in favor. 

The committee, made up of two city council members, two planning commissioners and a member of the public, each presented their boundary versions by placing their maps on a table for display and discussion. Assistant City Manager Brian Foucht and community members Jim Dassel and Bob Fulton were also in attendance. 

Committee members discussed their proposed lines for the sphere of influence, their urban growth boundary lines, and areas they do not want developed. 

The California Association of Local Agency Formation Commission defines a sphere of influence as a planning boundary outside of an agency’s legal boundary that designates the agency’s probable future boundary and service area. The commission also notes that while urban growth boundaries are not required by state law, jurisdictions adopt them as a way to manage growth. 

All members expressed their desire to remain in control of approving future development projects within city limits. Most said they want to stay away from historic areas such as the Old Rodeo grounds and fertile agricultural land. 

Examining the maps. Photo by Jenna Mayzouni.

City Councilmember Jackie Morris-Lopez said she was thinking about “what the nature of our town is, what we want to preserve and present going forward into the 21st century, but that doesn’t mean we have to be the same as Gilroy, or Hollister, or South San Jose. We have a rich area of fertile land, we have archeological sensitive areas, we have beautiful vineyards and farmland. My decisions are based on what is better for the future of all of us.”

Other committee members supported her view. 

After some lengthy discussions, Chris Martorana, the committee chair, pointed out that the committee members’ maps had almost identical borders for the sphere of influence and urban growth boundaries, as their sphere of influence matched the city limit lines. 

Dassel said he would like to see the final map before taking a vote, to confirm that all committee members were in agreement. Foucht brought out a map and Committee member Dan De Vries annotated it to show the intent of the committee’s sphere of influence and urban growth development lines. 

The committee went on to discuss Sonoma County’s urban growth ordinance and the prospect of implementing similar rules in San Juan Bautista. Both Morris-Lopez and De Vries had praise for the ordinance, saying it was the type of legislation they would like to see implemented in San Juan Bautista, especially with regards to historic site preservation and nature conservation efforts. 

The committee directed Foucht and city staff to create a mockup of the Sonoma ordinance for San Juan Bautista through the community plan initiative, an amendment of the city’s current General Plan intended to guide city development and land use within current city limits. 

Members agreed to discuss the mockup and the creation of a planning area distinct from the sphere of influence at the committee’s next meeting on Aug. 22. 

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