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Latest Cal Poly master plan includes development on campus farmland

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Cal Poly plans to convert several acres of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses in order to accommodate future expansion, according to an environmental impact report for the school's 20-year master plan.

According to the report, the latest version of the master plan would convert more than 32 acres of on-campus farmland into sports fields, parking lots, residential housing, and other uses. While the report stated that the impact of converting the farmland was significant and unavoidable, the university has promised to offset the lost acres.

GREEN ACRES The Cal Poly master plan will convert more than 32 acres of campus farmland into sports fields, parking lots, and residential housing, according to a recently released environmental impact report on the university's 20-year master plan. - FILE PHOTO BY KAORI FUNAHASHI
  • File Photo By Kaori Funahashi
  • GREEN ACRES The Cal Poly master plan will convert more than 32 acres of campus farmland into sports fields, parking lots, and residential housing, according to a recently released environmental impact report on the university's 20-year master plan.

The recently released draft environmental impact report stated that the current version of the master plan would convert 16 acres of prime farmland located to the north of Highland Drive between Mt. Bishop Road and the Union Pacific Railroad line to non-agricultural uses, including sports fields and a new parking area, which will serve new nearby student housing. In addition, the master plan also calls for the construction of a data center, business park, and residential neighborhood northwest of Stenner Creek Road, as well as the relocation of the university's facilities service yard to the same area, resulting in the conversion of 12 acres of land classified as "farmland of statewide importance" for non-agricultural use.

A planned residential neighborhood located on Cal Poly land to the south-east of campus would convert an additional 4.75 acres of land designated as "farmland of local potential" to non-agricultural uses.

This isn't the first time that the university included plans to convert or get rid of agricultural land in its master plan. In April of 2015, preliminary versions for the master plan included nixing prime agricultural land in fields and orchards between Highway 1 and Brizzolara Creek in order to build residential housing, a hotel, recreational space, and parking. The plans drew criticism and protest from some professors and agriculture students who use the campus farmland for teaching and research in accordance with Cal Poly's "learn by doing" motto. In June, the university announced that it would no longer consider that land for development.

The current version of the master plan includes a proposal by the university to mitigate the loss of the land in the form of a perpetual agricultural or conservation easement within the university's agricultural lands. According to the environmental impact report, the amount of land included in the easement will be proportional to the amount of important farmland lost under the mater plan.

"The proposed mitigation measure is to dedicate other lands of similar soil conditions in perpetuity for agricultural uses," university spokesman Matt Lazier wrote in an email response to questions from New Times.

Lazier added that any land designated under such an easement would be protected from conversion in the future.

Once approved, the Cal Poly master plan will guide the university's expansion over the next 20 years, with the goal of adding and improving facilities on its main campus to accommodate an estimated 25,000 students by 2035. The university is currently accepting public comments on the draft environmental impact report through Dec. 20. Δ

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