Yucaipa City Council approved the Viticulture Operations and Associated Development Standards Phase I Report and provided direction as recommended by the American Viticulture Area Planning Committee (AVAPC) at their meeting on Jan. 25. The city council recognized that the implementation of a wine industry should include input from a broad coalition of community members and stakeholders, and to help provide this input, the city council established the AVAPC comprised of the following: two city council members, two representatives from the planning commission, one representative from the Trails and Open Space Committee, one representative from the Economic Development Advisory Committee, one representative from the Yucaipa Valley Wine Alliance (YVWA), one North Bench property owner (15 acres minimum land area), and three members of the public at large, where those members were also experienced with the wine industry and where two were a part of the YVWA at the time.
Over the past year, the AVAPC has been exploring both planning and incentive-based options to help support the potential of an emerging wine industry within the community. However, this industry is currently impeded by the lack of agriculturally zoned land; most wine regions in California were created within lands that are zoned for agriculture and that have been historically developed for vineyards. The majority of the undeveloped land within the city, such as the North Bench, is currently zoned for residential uses, and not only are they zoned as residential, much of the area has approved residential projects and the land use rights that are granted as a result.
Through the initial outreach efforts and committee discussions, the protection of existing property rights was identified as a key concern. In addition, under California state law, residentially zoned property cannot be downzoned or changed to a non-residential use unless the potential units are “replaced” by increasing the density in another location within the city. As part of the “no net loss” provisions of state law, the city must also ensure that the higher-end housing capacity that is currently permitted remains as part of those rezoning efforts. Therefore, the ability to create a wine industry is tied to two key elements: protecting existing property rights, and ensuring that any action taken by the city to foster a future wine industry is done within the constraints of the existing residential zoning and state housing laws. Through the outreach process, the AVAPC weighed these constraints, as well as the overall vision and scale for what the Yucaipa wine region should look like, to provide recommendations to the city council on the best approach. After much discussion, the committee decided to focus much of its efforts on a portion of the North Bench in facilitating the implementation of wine tasting rooms, vineyards, and other supportive accessory uses here in Yucaipa.
Based on the existing conditions in the city, three alternatives to support a new wine industry were identified and evaluated: Alternative One was a Transfer of Development Rights program, Alternative Two was a master planned approach where existing housing rights are clustered to create land specific for vineyards, wineries and other related uses, and Alternative Three was to permit commercial uses in the existing residential district, but would still require a rezoning of other areas when specific approvals for commercial wineries occur.
Alternative one and three, in order to comply with state law, would require that the city upzone/rezone or give unit credits other areas of the community to increase the overall development capacity that is lost as a result of the vineyards. This means that other vacant lands in the greater North Bench area, such as the old “Turkey Ranch,” vacant lots in or near Hidden Meadows, or other parts of the city that can support above moderate housing would all have to be “upzoned” to offset the vineyards created in the focus area of the North Bench.
Alternative two, which would feature provisions to allow for clustered housing but without an increase in the total number of units that would be permitted, would allow land to be made available for vineyards, wineries, and other related uses, and would also provide opportunities to create permanent trails and open space features. Based on the substantial community impacts that may result from shifting housing units away from one area to another through a required “upzoning” of those other areas in the city, the AVAPC recommended, and city council approved that Alternative Two would be the appropriate approach to help support the industry.
As Phase II begins to develop a master plan and assess the overall design and infrastructure, continued outreach and public engagement opportunities will occur. According to Mayor Greg Bogh, “We are excited to get past this important step in the process of supporting wineries and other ancillary uses here in Yucaipa and I would like to thank the committee for all their hard work on this.”
If you have additional questions, thoughts or comments, feel free to contact Benjamin Matlock, City Planner, at 1- 909-797-2489 x 261. If you would like to be part of a contact list for future updates and/or meetings, please email Chris Mee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The entire Phase I report is available for review at the public counter at city hall, and under the Jan. 25, 2021 city council agenda packet accessible here: http://www.yucaipa.org/wp-content/uploads/city_council/agendapackets/01252021Web.pdf.