A plan for unity

It’s time to annex Chapman-Mulberry and Stewart Avenue neighborhoods

For as long as most people can remember, the Chapman-Mulberry neighborhood in south Chico has been an unincorporated island surrounded by the city. Efforts to bring it inside city limits have failed to gain traction, for a variety of reasons.

As a result, the neighborhood—and a similar unincorporated island along Stewart Avenue in west Chico—has remained an anomaly. Its residents drive the streets of Chico, work in Chico, attend Chico schools, but legally they aren’t part of Chico and can’t vote in Chico elections.

The issue came to a head at the Jan. 21 meeting of the Chico City Council, when the council considered a strongly worded letter from the chairman of LAFCo, Carl Leverenz. The letter pointed out that the city had allowed 62 properties to be connected to the sewer without authorization from LAFCo and without annexing them, as required by state law.

As council members discussed the letter, it was clear that the city and LAFCo strenuously disagree on annexation. The city says it can’t afford to annex more land, while the commission points to a recent county study that says bringing Chapman-Mulberry and Stewart Avenue into the city would generate sufficient revenues to cover basic services.

The good news is that, since the Jan. 21 meeting, Leverenz and Chico Mayor Scott Gruendl have met and agreed to establish an ad-hoc committee to develop an annexation plan. For such a plan to be successful, however, LAFCo must take into consideration the city’s financial and staffing problems, and the city must commit to implementing the plan according to the timeline it proposes.

The two parties agree that annexation is the way to go and that a plan is needed. We share that belief and encourage them to work in good faith to bring these neighborhoods into the city.