For the first time, residents in a Ventura County city have voted to substantially expand their urban growth boundaries in order to accommodate a residential development.

Some 61% of Santa Paula residents voted on Tuesday, May 8, to expand the urban growth boundary by 4,800 acres to bring the Adams Canyon area inside the city's growth boundary. Measure A7 also directed the city to amend its general plan to permit about 500 houses, a resort hotel and golf course, and require at least 200 acres of passive open space. The vote more than doubles the amount of undeveloped land inside the city's growth boundary

Tuesday's vote marked the third time the Adams Canyon area had been placed before the voters since they first approved the SOAR (Save Open space and Agricultural Resources) urban growth boundary initiative in 2000. In 2002, only 36% of the voters favored adding Adams Canyon. In 2006, the growth boundary expansion lost by only 88 votes.

Those previous votes envisioned a much larger project, however. For the vote on Tuesday, Pinnacle Development Co. scaled back its proposal from more than 2,000 houses to about 495. The hillside homes would probably sell for more than $3 million each – an extremely high-end project for Santa Paula, a mostly poor city of about 30,000 people located 10 miles inland from Ventura.

For the third election, Pinnacle took a different approach than the one the developer employed last year. Although the ballot measure describes how the general plan will be amended, Pinnacle has not proposed a specific development project yet. Also, the developer – which previously ran a million-dollar campaign – spent little this time, allowing proponents on the City Council to take the lead.

Voters in Ventura County and eight of its 10 cities created urban growth boundaries in a series of initiatives between 1995 and 2000.