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Watsonville - Pros and Cons of Measure U | by Charles McClain

The Sierra Club is taking a neutral stance on Measure U, the Watsonville Urban Limit Line and Development Timing Initiative. The Growth Management Committee of the Santa Cruz Group has closely examined arguments in favor of and against Measure U.

Watsonville is a rapidly growing city. According to the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, the city’s population is expected to increase by 12,000 to 55,875 in the next 17 years. Measure U is an attempt to accommodate this growth while “protecting and promoting important agricultural, open space, and other natural resources.”


• The initiative attempts to seek a compromise between multiple stakeholders and to both direct and limit future growth.
• Measure U protects prime agricultural land on the outskirts of the city for 20 to 25 years and protects land west of Highway 1 for 25 years.
• It encourages infill within annexation areas by stipulating development in phases, with areas closer to the city being developed first.
• It helps educate the public and policy-makers about smart growth and long-term planning issues.


• Measure U extends the current urban limit line beyond the current government-approved sphere of influence, and does nothing to ensure infill and redevelopment of the inner-city prior to allowing potentially sprawl-inducing annexations.
• The proposed annexation in the Buena Vista area has significant environmental and topographic constraints, which will likely preclude it from supporting the projected housing numbers.
• Proposed housing will exacerbate the burden on our already heavily over- drafted water supplies, and creation of new housing may outpace the creation of local jobs, with concomitant negative effects on the community.
• The proposed urban limit line extends onto habitat of the federally-listed endangered Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander and threatens some of the few remaining patches of Hooker’s Manzanita, endemic to the Monterey Bay area found near Larkin Valley.

The Growth Management Committee believes it is possible to accommodate growth in a sustainable way by encouraging infill development within existing urban centers, building near transportation lines, paying workers a living wage, and maintaining an urban growth boundary. At the same time it is important to consider environmental constraints and to ensure that growth does not exceed a level sustainable by available natural systems.

To learn more about Measure U, contact Action Pajaro Valley’s Committee for Orderly Growth & Agricultural Protection, 722-8206 and Friends of Buena Vista at 768-9276.

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