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Cal Poly says it won't develop farmland on campus

Cal Poly says the agricultural land on the west end of campus that was considered for development in the university’s Master Plan update won’t be built on.
Cal Poly says the agricultural land on the west end of campus that was considered for development in the university’s Master Plan update won’t be built on. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

Cal Poly decided Thursday to remove agricultural land where orchards and plantings exist on the west end of campus near Highway 1 from consideration for proposed development.

The concept of building on the land that consists of a lemon grove, deciduous orchard, grapevines, mandarin orange trees and silage had been considered as part of the draft of the university’s Master Plan update.

The proposal caused an outcry from some students and faculty in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

Cal Poly officials said the possibility of constructing structures such as residential housing for students or faculty on that plot wasn’t a certainty. But they left open the option of building on the farmland in draft planning.

“At a June 11 meeting of California academic, administrative and student leadership to discuss the update to the university’s campus master plan, a variety of topics were discussed, primarily agriculture land,” the university said in a statement. “The decision was made to remove from consideration for development prime agricultural land shown in previous maps as under study. … These fields will remain agricultural lands.”

University President Jeffrey Armstrong informed the campus of the decision Friday.

Cal Poly agriculture student Joel Leonard, a critic of the draft planning option to build on the farmland, called the decision “fantastic news.”

“Preserving this farmland and saving educational resources should be the focus of the Cal Poly administration,” Leonard said. “Listening to student and public input and revising his decision to build on the land shows great leadership by President Armstrong. Now that he has preserved our program, I can’t wait to see how he is going to make it grow.”

The decision comes in the wake of a land donation agreement, formalized Monday, with Stuart Bartleson.

Bartleson, a ranch owner in Arroyo Grande, signed a deed to donate 450 acres to Cal Poly for agricultural use. That ranch currently has lemon and avocado trees — but the university may grow other crops there and conduct agricultural research in the future.

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