Editor’s Note: “No” on dirty campaigns

Pro-Valley's Edge mailers filled with logical fallacies

Wetlands on the land proposed for development in the Valley's Edge Specific Plan. (Photo courtesy of Smart Growth Advocates Chico)

This feature is part of the CN&R’s 2024 election coverage.

Like most contentious ballot issues that have come before Chico voters, the campaigning surrounding the Valley’s Edge referendum has been filled with noisy distractions. And the rhetoric coming from the Yes on O & P political action committee, Friends of Chico’s Affordable Homes & Neighborhoods, has been especially ridiculous.

The pro-Valley’s Edge group has so far received $473,000 in contributions (from project developer Bill Brouhard’s Believe in Chico LLC, as well as the National Association of Realtors and the California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization PAC) that have been spent on some slick TV ads as well as flooding Chico mailboxes with glossy mailers.

The messaging in their campaign has been, frankly, insulting.

The overriding theme running through the ads is: Vote “yes” or else you’ll get something worse. They’re filled with warnings—that the area in question must be developed (“Leaving [this land] untouched is not an option”), and that if building doesn’t happen here then it will in happen in the protected agricultural lands on west side (“Bye-bye Greenline”). It all comes across as a half-million dollar threat to Chico voters.

Of course, something worse is always possible in any land-decision situation, but it’s not the either/or proposition that’s presented here against the evocative backdrop of almond trees in bloom. Just as it was before the Valley’s Edge Specific Plan came to to the table, the Doe Mill/Honey Run area will remain within the city’s sphere of influence if the measures fail. And after more than four decades since its inception, the Greenline boundary is still solidly in place. Any new developments in any direction in Chico will face public scrutiny. Voting “no” is not a rubber stamp for unchecked development.

The most egregious of the mailers, though, is the one with a big image of discarded syringes that calls those opposing Valley’s Edge the “same people supporting Chico’s needle giveaway program.” It’s a reprehensible straw-man argument no matter how you twist it (a tactic that’s been similarly used during previous local elections). It also explicitly labels the opponents as extremists. Somehow I doubt the developers would look into the faces of anyone who lives in Little Chico Creek Estates, Doe Mill, Belvedere Heights—whose neighborhoods are next door to the proposed development and whose lawns and fences are covered in No on O & P signs—and call them “extremist.”

The Stop Valley’s Edge group has raised far less (roughly $57,000), and engaged in minimal rhetoric. There are some tired arguments on the “No” side—e.g., against “rich people from out of town” buying homes here (that ship has long sailed)—and many of the valid arguments for alternate development options, such as infill and redevelopment of what the city calls “opportunity sites” (Park, Mangrove, Nord, Esplanade, and East Avenue corridors; downtown; North Valley Plaza area, etc.) are short on concrete details.

But the thing is, they don’t have to have another plan in place! Valley’s Edge is what’s on the table, and Chicoans are deciding on whether or not they want the city to grow in this way. The decision can be as simple as voting against having more wildland covered with development. Period.

As we’ve previously pointed out, Valley’s Edge has, for the most part, done an admirable job of sticking with the city’s General Plan for future growth. My biggest concerns are related to the new reality of life in one of the worst wildfire regions on the planet. The fact is, the current General Plan was devised before the recent string of disasters in Butte County. In light of the environmental realities surrounding climate-driven wildfires, not to mention the dearth of affordable housing in the wake of the Camp Fire, I’m asking myself, “Is Valley’s Edge what Chico needs?”

The CN&R isn’t making an official endorsement on these measures. (I don’t think it’s appropriate for such an important public decision to come from our current editorial team of one—i.e., just me.) I will say that, despite how much the Yes on O & P mailers and ads have made my blood boil, I’m making my decision largely based on the reasons stated in the previous paragraph. However, I will also add that the pro-Valley’s Edge campaign has made me question the integrity of the developers. If they can be so disrespectful to the citizens of the city in which they want to build, and publish information that stokes the fires of division, how can they be trusted to respond to community concerns if given approval to move forward?

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. Chicoans have claimed this power before. Thanks to those who fought against Rancho Arroyo and Bidwell Ranch proposals in the 1980s and ’90s, we still have a horizon filled with grasslands and oaks when we hike up the North Rim Trail in Upper Bidwell Park.

The people don’t have to agree with the decisions of the city and our elected leaders, and when we don’t, it’s our right to say, “no.”

1 Comment

  1. Approximately three years ago, I envisioned myself living in the Valley’s Edge Community. I love the idea of a diverse community, allowing me to make transitions from single family home to different levels of senior care, while staying in the “ same neck of the woods”. Knowing I could be within a 20 minute walk from many services seems idyllic. Walking the trails, going to the parks, walking to school to pick up grandkids seems like a perfect way to stay fit and enjoy Nature. I hope my dream of living in Valley’s Edge comes true, sooner than never.

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