History and Successes of the Green Valley Landowners Association
About 68 years ago (1949), the Green Valley Country Club was chartered and the golf course was developed with a few surrounding new homes. Around 1957, the peach and cherry orchard of the Marvyo Ranch, the area we now call "The Estates," was transformed with streets, utilities, and home sites. In 1958 Jim and Audrey Heffner moved into one of the first new homes.
About the same time, the City of Fairfield was making big plans for Green Valley and in 1962 wanted to expand the sewer lines into the area. The local residents rebelled. They were certain that new sewer lines would guarantee massive development and irreversible loss of open space and the rural valley character. Audrey Heffner and some of her friends, including Gloria McManigal, Barbara Lane, and others, would form a neighborhood association whose purpose was to represent, and benefit, the Green Valley landowners through collective action and focused response to protect the unique beauty and rural character of the area. The newly organized Green Valley Landowners Association (GVLA) was launched and successfully defeated the sewer expansion plan.
Middle Green Valley
In the late 1960's the City of Fairfield extended its boundary into the North Cordelia area by "cherry-stem" annexation following the railroad tracks to land west and north of Interstate 680. The City implemented an "urban renewal" program to acquire farm lands between the south end of Green Valley and Interstate 80. These supposedly urban blighted farms were now under city ownership. They were rezoned and now encompass the Costco site, the shopping center, the office building, library, and residential lots now built out to the City Limit line. Sewer and water main lines were extended north to the City Limit with preplanned capacity to serve several thousand new residences (future annexation) in Middle Green Valley (MGV).
GVLA was concerned about huge urban sprawl and rose to the challenge. GVLA members contributed money in order to incorporate as a nonprofit (1972) and sued the City, the County, LAFCO, and 24 developers and land owners. The suit was "settled" in 1974 with major concessions to GVLA, including: the extraordinary landscaped Green Valley Road corridor north to the city limits, up-scale design standards, refund of legal fees, two GVLA representatives on the City of Fairfield North Cordelia Overlay District Planning Commission, mandated (approximately 40%) undeveloped open space and agricultural area, and no more than 500 new houses in MGV. Around 1989 a preliminary study was made for two golf courses and about 500 houses which did not progress. Ongoing disagreements between the owners of large land holdings and between MGV land owners and GVLA ensued. The Settlement Agreement expired about 2004 and valley residents now faced a potential development onslaught.
In 2007, as part of the General Plan Update, the County held 25 meetings, resulting in about 2000 acres of MGV being designated a "Special Study Area". With half of the allocated representatives, GVLA was a major participant on the subsequent 2009 to 2011 Citizen's Advisory Committee; defining objectives and guidelines and working with the planning consultants and MGV land owners. This was a timely and extraordinary planning process which appears to have amicably resolved forty years of hard feelings. An exemplary and very detailed "Middle Green Valley Specific Plan" creates a small village of about 400 homes around a village green/center, surrounded by 1500 acres of agriculture and open space overseen by an agricultural conservancy (the Green Valley Agricultural Conservancy).
Rockville Trails Preserve
At the northeast corner of Green Valley, another residential development also was in planning stages in the mid-1970s. The White Wing development project was to include about 750 homes, three 9-hole golf courses, an upscale clubhouse and restaurant, and a 12-room Inn. Green Valley residents objected to the development for many years. In 1992 a comprehensive draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was circulated by the county. This document drew extensive negative comments from many parties. One prime problem was lack of a practical water source for such a large subdivision and the golf courses, and concern adjacent wells might be adversely affected. Technical studied continued over the next 10 years.
In the mid-2000's, a smaller residential development was reborn with a new name: Rockville Estates. An updated EIR was prepared. A trail path was to be added in response to adverse comments over impairment of open space, and the name was changed to the Rockville Trails Estates. Around 2005, the County Board of Supervisors approved the EIR and the development project, setting the stage for development. In 2006 GVLA, in concert with the Sierra Club, initiated a lawsuit against the Solano County and the developer on the grounds the EIR was incomplete and inaccurate. In 2008 the decline of the nation's economy placed this proposed residential development in economic jeopardy.
The impact of the lawsuit and declining interest in purchasing new houses created a stalemate. Past GVLA president, Bill Mayben, tirelessly led negotiations with the developer's representative and a new price for purchasing the undeveloped land was reached. Subsequently the Solano Land Trust obtained a series of grants, donations, and a loan to buy the 1500-acre property for $13.5 million. This transaction was completed in 2012. The Solano Land Trust is completing the master plan of the new Rockville Trails Preserve, and docent led tours are frequently offered. Full public access of the Preserve awaits the construction of a permanent parking lot, provision of restrooms, and creation of several new trails.
Lakes Water System
After decades of discussions and informal negotiations, GVLA instituted a class-action lawsuit in 2013 against the City of Vallejo on behalf of Lakes Water System (LWS) users to redress grievances and to delay any sale of the LWS by Vallejo giving GVLA time to identify rational regional solutions to the broader water challenges of Solano County. The case went all the way to the California Supreme Court but they denied the GVLA petition for review. While the denial put an end to our legal efforts, it did not end our search for a solution; in fact, it heightened awareness of the depth of the issue across local government entities.
Water issues affect interests in the entire region and GVLA shifted its focus to a broader political solution. LWS customers are entitled clean and reasonably affordable water. Our goal is a rational, long-term solution for our regions water quality, availability and reasonable delivery costs. Any LWS solution must address the need for infrastructure upgrades, regardless of changes to control and operating arrangements.
GLVA, through our Water Committee, has participated in exploratory discussions with Solano County, Solano Irrigation District (SID), City of Fairfield and City of Vallejo to identify solution options to the LWS challenges and other regional water delivery plans. On November 22, 2016, the Solano County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to authorize the County Administrator to execute a Due Diligence Agreement and subsequent one-year extension of the Agreement (if necessary) with the City of Vallejo in order to evaluate the potential challenges and opportunities presented by the LWS and the feasibility of forming a local management entity to run the system. This follows the unanimous approval of the Due Diligence Agreement by the City Council of Vallejo on November 15, 2016. This was followed by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the City of Vallejo and Solano County on February 6, 2019.
This is a new path for rational and cost-effective water delivery service for LWS customers and the surrounding area. There are many obstacles and concerns to be addressed but we are more optimistic about a positive outcome than any time in the last 20 years. We will keep you informed on progress.
GVLA Today and Tomorrow
The GVLA continues its efforts to preserve the jewel that is Green Valley. Approximately 25 years ago an open space tax program was approved by Green Valley residents and the Board of Supervisors includes GVLA as a partner in approving how tax monies are utilized. GVLA has a board member on the Solano Land Trust. In 2012 and 2013, a portion of the tax fund was used to establish an endowment fund for the Rockville Trails Preserve. GVLA continues to work with and within the community to further our mission of preserving and enhancing the rural character of Green Valley. Drawing upon exceptional resident expertise and generous community spirit, GVLA is your advocate for preserving the rural character of Green Valley green today’s residents and future generations.