Chico’s Greenline has worked

While the rest of California has lost hundreds of thousands of acres of good farm land to development, Chico has lost none

As we reported last week in our special issue on the Greenline— the political boundary protecting Chico’s ultra-rich westside farm lands from being paved over by development—there are some areas now outside the Greenline that someday might be more appropriately brought into the urban sphere and developed.

When the Greenline was adopted, on July 21, 1982, it was with the recognition that it might occasionally need adjusting, as situations on the ground demanded. Since then, however, Greenline supporters, led by former Supervisor Jane Dolan, have insisted, successfully, on a zero-tolerance policy toward change, and the line remains exactly as it was 30 years ago.

That’s not a bad thing—unless you’re like the folks on Estes Road, just south of the former Diamond Match property, who own land outside the Greenline that is too small to farm but can’t be developed. Let’s hope their situation is resolved soon.

On balance, though, the Greenline has been a resounding success. At a time when hundreds of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land up and down the Central Valley are being lost forever to development, as cities like Fresno, Merced and Modesto sprawl outward, Chico, which is blessed with soil and growing conditions as advantageous as any in the world, has lost none. That’s something we can feel good about, and even a little proud.

One of the goals of the Greenline always has been to establish the boundary along natural lines such as roads and waterways that provide a clear demarcation between urban and rural uses. The stronger the boundary, the less vulnerable it is to breaching. As it’s now configured, however, the Greenline is weak in several places where it doesn’t follow a natural boundary. In the future, as local officials consider appeals to adjust the line, they should keep that goal in mind, striving always to make the Greenline stronger.