If you oppose the proposed Valley’s Edge development, you have until Feb. 11 to add your signature in support of the Save Our Hometown referendum.
On Jan. 3, the Chico City Council approved the 1,448-acre project by certifying an Environmental Impact Report and passing a specific plan plus a host of resolutions and ordinances related to the development. On Jan. 6, the Smart Growth Advocates and Valley’s Edge Resistance groups announced the signature drive. If 10 percent of Chico’s registered voters (which comes to roughly 5,800, though organizers are shooting for 8,000) add their names, the development will be blocked until its fate is decided in a special election.
Some of the chief criticisms of Valley’s Edge—which would add up to 2,777 new residences to the lower foothills on the east side of Chico—are the lack of sufficient affordable housing (just nine acres slated for medium-to-high-density residential); wildfire risk and evacuation concerns (this area was at the edge of Camp Fire); and environmental impacts due to the destruction of habitats, additional stress on the water supply and an estimated 23,000 additional automobile trips per day.
Frankly, our biggest issue is with the thread of inevitability running through the comments of those on the Planning Commission and City Council who voted in favor of the project. “I think it’s as good as it can possibly get” was the response of Councilman Sean Morgan, who also made a point during the meeting to question the fact that Councilman Addison Winslow was asking questions. During a public hearing! As the people in position to make decisions on the matter, they certainly could have enforced the standards set forth in the General Plan more rigorously, particularly those pertaining to greenhouse gases from cars (one of two items—the other being disruption of the foothill viewshed—that the EIR judged to be unmitigable in the project’s current form).
There is a specific action put forth in Chico’s General Plan that would potentially help reduce the reliance on cars to and from Valley’s Edge: When planning or retrofitting roadways, consult with BCAG regarding the inclusion of transit stops. Councilman Winslow proposed this as an amendment to the motion on Valley’s Edge, but his motion died due to lack of a second.
It’s plainly stated in The Charter of the City of Chico that legislative power is vested in the people through the initiative and the referendum. If our elected leaders won’t enforce the city’s plan, then it’s up to the citizens to do so.
Find more information on the Valley’s Edge project at chicovalleysedge.com, and on the referendum effort at smartgrowthchico.org and valleysedgeresistance.org. Registered Chico voters can sign the referendum petition at the Butte Environmental Council office, 313 Walnut Ave., noon-6 p.m., and at The Bookstore (118 Main St.).
When I read what’s happening (and has happened) to Chico, I have to remind myself that I can’t go back to the 1970s. And for those who can’t remember or weren’t born yet, Chico was a small town that grew quiet, dusty, and blistering hot in the summer.
My tiny apartment needed air conditioning, so I went to Bidwell Park to cool off. I liked Five Mile best at first and often met friends there. But once I discovered Upper Park, there were days I found myself alone, basking on a water-worn rock in the middle of Chico Creek. Soon, I started taking a canteen with me, staying until the shadows fell in the canyon. There were days when not a single person shared Salmon Hole with me. Now there are houses overlooking Upper Park.
I am trying to remember the names of all the housing projects that have come and gone in Chico, but developers stopped building one when I was there because of environmental concerns (at least in part). And now, even more bulldozing and ecological destruction is coming? Given the housing crisis in Chico and elsewhere in California, opposing this may be selfish. But I would have signed the referendum petition if I could. I loved watching trout jump as the shade drifted closer to me on a late afternoon. It saddens me that more and more places like that are being destroyed.
I am writing this after the petition deadline, but the Butte Environmental Council office was once just a few blocks from where I lived. Finding affordable housing was a nightmare even then, and Chico needs answers. Still, I studied what we needed to be doing in 1975 when I took a class at Chico State on the environment and man, Geography 114. Sadly, what I learned in 1975 is trumpeted today as breaking news: The things needed to save ourselves and our planet from environmental destruction.
Good luck, my friends.