Redevelopment may have been the biggest winner in the June primary election. Statewide, voters rejected Proposition 98, an initiative to prohibit the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes. In San Francisco, voters supported a huge redevelopment project. And in Napa County, voters rejected a slow-growth initiative that was aimed at halting redevelopment of a former industrial site just south of Napa.
Voters' rejection of Proposition 98 on the statewide ballot marked the second time that property rights advocates have failed to capitalize on backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo decision upholding the use of eminent domain for economic purposes. In November 2006, voters turned down Proposition 90, a far-reaching eminent domain and regulatory takings measure.
This time around, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Farm Bureau Federation wrote a what appeared to be a narrow initiative restricting use of eminent domain, but they included a controversial prohibition of rent control. While the 2006 vote on Proposition 90 was close, the voting on Proposition 98 was not, as the measure received only 38.4% support. Instead, a modest alternative backed by the League of California Cities and the California Redevelopment Association — Proposition 99 — won with 62% of the vote. Proposition 99 bars the taking of owner-occupied homes for economic development projects.
Jon Coupal, president of the Jarvis organization, blamed Proposition 98's loss on the "confusion" created by Proposition 99, and on "public agencies using taxpayer dollars for campaign purposes."
Tom Adams, board president of the California League of Conservation Voters and a Proposition 99 co-author, viewed the results differently. "The voters saw that Proposition 98 was a deceptive initiative, in fact, the worst kind of ballot abuse where a populist issue is used to conceal an attack on renters, the environment, homeowners and our communities," Adams said.
In San Francisco, voters endorsed the concept of redeveloping about 720 acres at the closed Hunter's Point Shipyard and adjacent Candlestick Point. The plan still needs environmental review and approval by the Board of Supervisors, but the proposal is for 8,500 to 10,000 housing units (32% of which would be designated affordable), reconstruction of a public housing project, 2 million square feet of office space, retail space, a new football stadium and extensive parks. The city is negotiating with Lennar, which would receive the land for free in exchange for investing upwards of $1 billion in infrastructure.
While the pro-redevelopment Proposition G received 62.5% of the vote, a counter-measure that would have required 50% of new housing in the project to be affordable received only 36.7% support. Lennar and Mayor Gavin Newsom argued Measure F would have made the redevelopment project economically infeasible.
San Francisco voters also backed a measure that prohibits elected officials, candidates for office and their political committees from accepting donations from anyone with a permit or California Environmental Quality Act matter pending before the city until six months after the matter has concluded. Proposition H received 66.6% of the vote.
Napa County Initiative
In Napa County, voters narrowly rejected Measure N, an initiative that would have imposed a 1% annual growth cap on the unincorporated area. The chief target of the initiative was a proposal to redevelop a 152-acre former industrial site on the Napa River with about 3,000 housing units (see CP&DR, May 2008). The project remains in the planning stages, but it has become a lightening rod in what is typically a slow-growth county. Measure N, however, received only 47.6% of the vote.
Less than two weeks after the election, county supervisors convened a "growth summit," at which the idea of pursuing state legislation that would relieve counties of the obligation to plan for housing growth was popular.
Development was also a winner in Ventura County. In the City of Santa Paula, 82.6% of voters backed a measure to extend the city's eastern boundary to permit development of 1,500 housing units on 500 acres of farmland. Although preservation of farmland is politically popular in Ventura County, there was no organized opposition to the proposal from landowner Limoneira — a well-known and well-respected local farming company. Limoneira plans a mix of housing units, as well as retail space and about 200 acres of open space, orchards and parks in its development.
In nearby Thousand Oaks, 56.3% of voters rejected a measure that pitted the locally owned Do it Center against The Home Depot. Measure B would have required voters to decide almost any development project that would increase traffic beyond specified levels. Backed by the nine-store Do it Center, Measure B was aimed at a proposed Home Depot at the site of a former Kmart store. The two chains both spent several hundred thousand dollars on the campaign.
In Riverside County, incorporation of the 60,000-population community of Menifee won approval with 62% of the vote. In addition, voters selected the name Menifee over Menifee Valley (52.9% to 47.1%) and decided to elect councilmembers by district rather than at-large (51.1% to 48.9%).
In Orange County, voters in San Clemente supported a city ordinance that protects ocean views and imposes a 16-foot height restriction in part of town (see CP&DR Legal Digest, April 2008). Only 31.4% of voters chose to overturn the ordinance.
In the City of Irvine, 80.9% of voters backed a measure that prohibits lobbying by any commissioners appointed by the mayor or City Council.
In the San Diego County city of Chula Vista, voters narrowly rejected an initiative that would have reaffirmed the general plan's 84-foot height limit in most areas east of Interstate 5, and 45 feet on a stretch of Third Avenue downtown. Measure E received 48.6% of the vote.
In San Mateo County, a one-eighth percent sales tax to fund park acquisition, development and improvements failed for the second time in less than two years to receive the required two-thirds report. Measure O received 60.5% support.