Yucaipa has made significant strides towards becoming an American Viticultural Area (AVA), a delimited wine-grape growing region.

City council unanimously approved a resolution on Aug. 12 for the submittal of a grant application requesting $250,000 from the State of California, Department of Conservation Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation program. If successful, the grant would be used, in part, for Yucaipa’s completion of a vinification overlay district plan.

City Manager Ray Casey addressed council on Monday evening and said it is another grant opportunity for the city, and this one is competitive.

“According to representatives that I spoke with at the Department of Conservation, there are a few other communities interested in pursuing it this year,” Casey told council.

Casey said the grant funds would help pay for the vinification overlay district that council prioritized last year.

He pointed to progress that’s recently been made with the AVA designation and the interest of those in the community, including the Yucaipa Valley Wine Alliance in encouraging more vineyards in Yucaipa.

“There has been an agricultural history here in Yucaipa,” said Casey. He pointed to “Yucaipa orchards and a lot of winter wheat grown over the years. This program is intended to conserve part of that.”

According to a city staff report, there are currently hundreds of agricultural acres in Yucaipa, that could be converted to vineyards and preserved through a conservation easement as part of a master planned approach that could include housing, commercial wineries and related uses. The council has historically supported the idea.

Councilman Dick Riddell concurred with the city report and moved the item.

He added, “Also they encourage infill, (the process of developing vacant or under-used parcels within existing urban areas that are already largely developed) instead of going out and taking away our potential farmland. We’ve been trying to do since inception of the city. It’s been our desire to encourage this.”

Mayor Pro Tem David Avila asked what the overlay district would look like. Casey responded with, “the intent is for this (overlay district) is to cover the entire community.”

Councilwoman Denise Allen asked staff about the consultant for establishing the overlay. Staff clarified it would use the money from the grant to hire a consultant for the conceptual plans for the first phase.

“Great idea,” said Mayor Bobby Duncan.

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