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Alameda County and the cities of Livermore and Pleasanton in 1993 set out to protect and rejuvenate the South Livermore Valley as a premium wine-producing area and tourist destination. By creating incentives for investment in vineyards, the goal was to preserve the area’s unique rural, scenic and historic qualities while providing a barrier against unfettered suburban sprawl.
But the industry has struggled to achieve its full potential, while the need to guard against environmentally destructive development far from job centers is greater than ever. Three decades ago, the plan called for a 5,000-acre target of agricultural acreage. Thus far, it has yet to achieve 60% of that target, according to a county-commissioned environmental report.
Two measures on the Nov. 8 ballot — Measure P in Livermore and Measure D countywide — would give the plan and the wine industry a boost. Voters should support both.
Livermore Measure P
Measure P would allow Livermore to extend sewer lines so property owners south of the city limits could switch away from the septic systems that are contaminating the groundwater. Growth of the wine industry there has been stymied by state and regional groundwater regulations designed to stem further contamination.
The cost of the approximately five miles of new sewer lines is estimated at $11.5 million. Alameda County officials have agreed to contribute $6.5 million, which would be used to leverage state and federal funds to help cover more of the cost, according to a city staff report.
Those who might worry that extending sewer service would open the door to housing development should know that Measure P would not alter the location of Livermore’s voter-approved urban growth boundary.
Countywide Measure D
Measure D, on the ballot for all Alameda County voters, would allow for more buildings for agricultural production on properties in unincorporated parts of the county. It would also allow for larger covered equestrian riding arenas on rural properties.
The measure would primarily affect unincorporated rural lands in the Livermore Valley and in the Sunol and Castro Valley areas.
Under the current rules from the open space initiative that county voters passed in 2000, non-residential construction on rural parcels is limited to 1% of the land area. In most cases the total land area is at least 100 acres.
Non-residential construction includes agricultural production buildings — wineries, barns, packing facilities, maintenance shops — and buildings for accessory uses such as winery visitor centers or bed-and-breakfast inns.
Measure D would allow an additional 2.5% of the land area to be used for agricultural production buildings. The 1% restriction would continue to apply to the accessory-use buildings.
Allowing more agricultural production buildings would help stimulate the growth of the wine industry. And that, in turn, could lead to more of the accessory use buildings but only within the existing size limits.
Measure D would not ease the restrictions on residential construction in rural lands. That would continue to be limited in most cases to one house and residential accessory buildings that cannot exceed a total of 12,000 square feet.
Measure P and Measure D are common-sense changes that would assist a struggling industry that residents of Livermore and Alameda County should protect for the economy and environment of the region. Voters should support both measures.