In balloting November 4 on local land use measures in California, slow-growth advocates won 22 of 39 elections. Opponents of development rejected an ambitious plan for the San Diego waterfront, endorsed a tight growth control initiative in Redondo Beach, and extended agricultural land protections in Napa and Solano County.
But pro-growth forces won high-profile victories in Oxnard, where a subsequent vote requirement was proposed for most projects, and in Santa Monica, San Marcos and Redwood City. Voters also appear to have narrowly backed a very controversial hotel and condominium project in Beverly Hills.
Election day was a big one for transit. Voters in Sonoma and Marin counties approved a new sales tax to fund a commuter train through the two counties. Los Angeles County voters backed a half-cent sales tax to fund numerous transportation projects, including extensive rail and bus service expansions. In a portion of the Alameda County Transit District, voters doubled the parcel tax to fund bus service. In Berkeley, voters rejected an initiative to block a bus rapid transit lane on Telegraph Avenue. And in West Sacramento, voters endorsed a plan to spend sales tax revenue on a new streetcar system.
In addition, the latest results show an eighth-cent sales tax to fund a BART extension from Fremont to San Jose is now winning by a handful of votes. Until the Santa Clara County election update was released on November 17, the tax had been losing. About 9,800 votes remain to be counted.
Alameda County Transit District, Area 1
In a victory for transit, voters doubled the parcel tax from $48 to $96 per year in portions of Alameda and Contra Costa counties to cover rising operating costs and decreased state funding.
Measure VV: Yes, 71.9% (2/3 required)
City of Berkeley
Berkeley voters overwhelmingly rejected an initiative that would have prohibited establishment of bus rapid transit (BRT) lanes. The initiative was a reaction to a proposal for a BRT lane on Telegraph Avenue that backers hope will spur transit-oriented development.
Measure KK: No, 76.7% (slow growth–no)
In a referendum election, a streamlined historic landmarks ordinance in Berkeley was rejected. The 2006 ordinance overhauled and relaxed a very restrictive historic preservation scheme that appeared to be in legal jeopardy.
Measure LL: No, 56.8% (yes = keep ordinance) (slow growth–yes)
City of Pleasanton
Voters approved competing growth measures – the citizen initiative PP and the City Council alternative, Measure QQ. Both measures will take effect, but it appears Measure PP's more stringent restrictions will effectively supercede Measure QQ's process. Measure PP prohibits houses on slopes of at least 25% and within 100 vertical feet of a ridgeline, but it exempts any project of 10 or fewer units. Measure PP also tightens the definition of a housing unit, which is important because Pleasanton has annual and ultimate housing caps approved previously by voters. The City Council's alternative requires the city to conduct a collaborative process to prepare a hillside and ridgeline protection ordinance.
Measure PP (citizen initiative): Yes, 59.5% (slow growth–yes)
Measure QQ (city alternative): Yes, 53.9%
East Bay Regional Park District
Voters in the two-county park district (Alameda and Contra Costa) approved a $500 million bond to acquire parkland and develop facilities.
Measure WW: Yes, 71.8% (2/3 vote required) (slow growth–yes)
Contra Costa County
City of Martinez
A $30 million bond to improve parks and recreational facilities, replace a swimming pool and expand the library won approval.
Measure H: Yes, 68.7% (2/3 required)
Town of Moraga
Voters rejected competing ballot measures concerning lightly developed hillsides and ridges. Measure K would have expanded an open space zoning district by 1,700 acres. Development would be limited to 10- or 20-acre parcels with severe grading restrictions. Meanwhile, Measure J – backed by landowner and developer David Bruzzone and cast as a development agreement – would have protected 320 acres as permanent open space but would have allowed housing development on about 130 acres that Measure K sought to preserve.
Measure J: No, 86.5% (pro growth–no)
Measure K: No, 56.1% (slow growth–no)
El Dorado County
Ten years ago, voters approved Measure Y, an initiative that sought to block development that did not fully mitigate its traffic impact. Measure Y sunsets this year. This time, voters approved a less-stringent, 10-year extension. It applies only to single-family subdivisions of at least five units, permits the Board of Supervisors on a four-fifths vote to craft exceptions, and allows spending of federal and state funds for roads serving new development.
Measure Y: Yes, 71.9%
By an overwhelming margin, voters approved a 40-year extension of a half-cent sales tax for transportation projects. The tax was scheduled to sunset in 2010. The extension is expected to generate $940 million, primarily for road improvements.
Measure D: Yes, 83.5%
Los Angeles County
Voters backed a half-cent sales tax that would generate an estimated $40 billion over 30 years for numerous transportation projects, including extensive rail and bus service expansions. Among the planned projects are extension of the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica, extension of the Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa, and construction of a busway or light rail line into South Los Angeles. Passage of the sales tax also delays planned fare hikes for at least one year.
Measure R: Yes, 67.3% (2/3 required)
City of Beverly Hills
Voters narrowly backed a plan approved in May to replace 217 rooms at the Beverly Hilton Hotel with a 170-room Waldorf Astoria and a conference center, construct up to 110 condominium units in two buildings of up to 18 stories, and provide 1,300 additional underground parking spaces. Officials estimate the project would generate $750 million for the city over 30 year. Opponents cited traffic as their primary concern. (As of November 14, the plan had received 7,313 votes of support, and 7,273 votes against.)
Measure H: Yes, 50.1% (yes = project approval) (slow growth–no)
City of Long Beach
A special tax of $120 per residential unit to repay about $570 million in bonds for improvements to streets, storm drains, fire and police facilities, parks, libraries and health facilities failed.
Measure I: No, 47.8% (2/3 required)
City of Los Angeles
Measure B was an Article 34 election on low-rent housing. Voters have already approved development or acquisition of up to 3,500 units in each of the 15 City Council districts. Measure B modifies the program to make it eligible for certain state and federal funding sources.
Measure B: Yes, 59.4% (pro growth–yes)
City of Redondo Beach
Voters chose a slow-growth initiative over the city's less restrictive alternative. The Building a Better Redondo initiative (Measure DD) requires voters to decide on any "major change in allowable land use," any project of more than 25 residential units or 40,000 square feet of floor area, and any project with a density of more than 8.8 dwelling units per acre. The City Council-backed alternative (Measure EE) would have permitted voters to decide on rezoning of residential, park and open space lands, as well as any proposal to increase the height limit in the coastal zone. For years, Redondo Beach officials have sought to redevelop the waterfront and the site of a power plant, as well as Torrance Boulevard. Those efforts, however, have met with stiff resistance and may now need voter approval to move forward.
Measure DD: Yes, 58.5% (slow growth–yes)
Measure EE: Yes, 50.6%
City of Santa Monica
Voters said no to the Residents' Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT), which would have limited commercial development to a rolling five-year annual average of 75,000 square feet. In recent years, the city has permitted about twice that amount.
Measure TT: No, 55.8% (slow growth–no)
City of South Pasadena
In a referendum, voters approved an amendment to a 32-year-old downtown redevelopment plan. The amendment clarifies that residential uses are permitted within the plan area. Residential use was ambiguous under the original plan.
Measure SP: Yes, 55.4% (yes = plan amendment) (slow growth–no)
Voters also approved two gigantic school bonds: The Los Angeles Unified School District's $7 billion bond – the largest local school bond in history – won 71.3% of the vote. The Los Angeles Community College District received 69.5% approval for its $3.5 billion bond to expand and modernize its facilities.
Marin and Sonoma counties
Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District
A quarter-cent sales tax to fund development and operation of a 70-mile-long train service from Cloverdale in the north to Larkspur in the south passed in a second try. In 2006, the measure received more than two-thirds support in Sonoma County but failed because of lukewarm support in Marin County. The tax polled about 5 percentage points higher in Marin County and 3 points better in Sonoma County this time around.
Measure Q: Yes, 69.1% (2/3 required)
A 25-year, half-cent sales tax for transportation came closer to passage this time, but still failed. In June 2006, 57% of voters backed a tax.
Measure Z: No, 37.9% (2/3 required)
As expected, extension until 2058 of a 1990 initiative prohibiting development on agricultural land without voter approval won handily.
Measure P: Yes, 62.0% (slow growth–yes)
City of Grass Valley
Voters rejected two slow-growth measures – the Managed Growth Initiative (Measure Z) and the Limited Growth Initiative (Measure Y). Put forth by slow-growth advocates, Measure Z would have prohibited changes to the general plan's land use element without voter approval. The initiative could have forced a vote on several large development proposals that are inconsistent with the land use element. Backed by Mayor Mark Johnson, Measure Y would have placed a cap on housing units until 2020 and required voter approval of boundary changes and annexations.
Measure Y: No, 68.2% (slow growth–no)
Measure Z: No, 72.2% (slow growth–no)
City of Irvine
The "Orange County Great Park Ratification and Improvement Act" keeps the City of Irvine in control of the park planned for 1,300 acres the former El Toro Marine Corps base. Detractors, including two of five Irvine councilmembers and the Orange County grand jury, recommended creation of an independent board to oversee park development.
Measure R: Yes, 55.8%
The proposed incorporation of Rossmoor, a 1,000-acre, 10,000-resident unincorporated island between Los Alamitos and Seal Beach failed badly. Opponents argued that the proposed city, which has very little commercial development, could not support itself financially. Voters also rejected proposed utility taxes that would have helped fund a new city.
Measure U-A: No, 71.7%
City of San Clemente
Voters approved a measure prohibiting rezoning or development of open space lands without voter approval. The measure follows on the heels of a February referendum vote blocking a condominium development on land now designated as open space, although it contains a private golf course. A much smaller majority also backed the unrelated Measure W, an advisory vote on the LAB North Beach project. It is a proposed retail/restaurant/office/parking development on three acres of city-owned land.
Measure V (open space restrictions): Yes, 71.8% (slow growth–yes)
Measure W (LAB North Beach project): Yes, 53.4% (pro growth–yes)
City of San Juan Capistrano
Voters showed their support of open space by approving Measure X, which prohibits any change in designation of open space lands without voter approval, and Measure Z, which authorizes the sale of $30 million in bonds to acquire and enhance open space.
Measure X: Yes, 78.8% (slow growth–yes)
Measure Y: Yes, 70.3% (slow growth–yes)
City of Seal Beach
An initiative to impose a 25-foot height limit on the Old Town area won easy approval.
Measure Z: Yes, 72.6% (slow growth–yes)
City of Yorba Linda
A City Council-sponsored measure to prohibit the use of eminent domain for economic development projects won.
Measure BB: Yes, 79.3% (slow growth–yes)
San Benito County
City of Hollister
An exemption from a 2002 voter-approved growth cap that limits housing development to 244 units per year won approval. Measure Y exempts the downtown area from the cap.
Measure Y: Yes, 52.0% (pro growth–yes)
San Bernardino County
City of Loma Linda
A measure ensuring permanent preservation of 1,675 city-owned acres in the South Hills for open space and recreation proved popular.
Measure T: Yes, 87.4% (slow growth–yes)
City of Needles
An advisory measure asked voters about a Fort Mojave Indian Tribe plan to build a casino on 300 acres of tribal land adjacent to Interstate 40, four miles west of town. Voters said, "Hit me."
Measure H: Yes, 73.0% (pro growth–yes)
San Diego County
Proposition A would have established a regional fire protection agency and imposed a $52 annual parcel tax to fund the agency; however, the measure failed to pass the super majority threshold. The fire safety issue is very high profile because large conflagrations have killed 27 people and destroyed more than 4,000 homes in San Diego County since 2003.
Proposition A: No, 36.7% (2/3 required)
City of Del Mar
Voters backed the Garden Del Mar specific plan – a mixed-use project with 20,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, plus 38 condominium-style offices and underground parking on a 25,000-square-foot vacant lot. The election was required by 1986 initiative.
Measure G: Yes, 84.9% (pro growth–yes)
San Diego Port Authority
An initiative to amend the port district master plan to permit a private entity to build a 96-acre deck 40 feet above marine cargo facilities failed badly. The initiative's backers, businessmen Frank Gallagher and Richard Chase, said the deck could provide a site for a football stadium, a sports arena, a convention center expansion, parking or other amenities. Port district directors lost a lawsuit to keep the initiative off the ballot. Proposition B appeared on the ballot in the port authority's five member cities – San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and Coronado.
Proposition B: No, 70.4% (pro growth–no)
City of San Marcos
Voters rejected a slow-growth initiative and approved a far more modest city-backed measure regarding ridgeline development. Proposition O would have barred most land use designation changes without voter approval. The measure purported to be retroactive to July 23, 2007 in an attempt to block a 217-acre specific plan that seeks to create a dense, mixed-use downtown with extensive parkland (see CP&DR Places, September 2007). Proposition N, a city-backed measure that will prohibit changes to the city's ridgeline protection overlay zone without voter approval, did pass.
Proposition N (ridgeline protection): Yes, 69.0%
Proposition O (citizen initiative): No, 63.0% (slow growth–no)
Voters approved an $887 million bond to fund a seismically safe replacement for San Francisco General Hospital (Measure A). They very narrowly rejected establishment of an affordable housing trust fund with a minimum of $88 million in annual funding, including dedication of 2 1/2 % of property tax revenues for 15 years (Measure B). They backed a charter amendment permitting the city to provide funds for development of a 65-acre development at Pier 70. Voters backed creation of an historic preservation commission (Measure J).
Measure A (hospital bond): Yes, 83.8%
Measure B (affordable housing): No, 52.4% (pro growth–no)
Measure D (Pier 70 development): Yes, 68.2% (pro growth–yes)
Measure J (historic preservation): Yes, 55.6% (slow growth–yes)
San Luis Obispo County
City of Atascadero
An initiative intended to block a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter gained no traction. Measure D would have limited retail stores to 150,000 square feet, and would have limited stores with 5% of floor space dedicated to nontaxable goods (i.e. groceries) to 90,000 square feet. Wal-Mart has an application pending for a 146,000-square-foot store at Del Rio Road and El Camino Real. Voters also elected three City Council candidates who support the Wal-Mart project because of the sales tax it would generate.
Measure D: No, 67.8% (slow growth–no)
San Mateo County
City of Redwood City
Two land use measures concerning the bayfront that appeared somewhat similar both failed. Backed by environmental groups, Measure W would have prohibited development of open space, tidal plains and bayfront without two-thirds voter approval. The initiative was aimed at potential development of 1,400 acres of former salt flats owned by Cargill. The City Council-backed Measure V would have prohibited development of the Cargill property without majority voter approval.
Measure W: No, 62.8% (slow growth–no)
Measure V: No, 51.1%
Santa Barbara County
Extension of a half-cent sales tax for transportation for 30 years won approval. The existing tax is scheduled to expire in 2010. Two years ago, an extension of the tax failed to garner two-thirds voter support because of questions about a proposed commuter rail line between Santa Barbara and Ventura. This time around, most of the tax revenue was designated for roads and highways, and the tax passed easily.
Measure A: Yes, 78.8% (2/3 required)
City of Buellton
Slow-growth advocates carried the election here. Measure E prohibits prior to 2025 the expansion of the city limits or the extension of sewer or water service beyond the boundaries without voter approval. Measure F would have imposed the same requirements but only through 2014.
Measure E: Yes, 68.9% (slow growth–yes)
Measure F: No, 76.7% (pro growth–no)
Isla Vista Recreation and Park District
Voters rejected a complicated land swap between the district and the Santa Barbara County Redevelopment Agency. Existing parks would have been lost but the end result would have been development of new park facilities, subterranean parking and a community center. A 1998 initiative required two-thirds voter approval for sale or transfer of the district's real property.
Measure D: No, 71.9% (2/3 required) (pro growth–no)
Santa Clara County
A one-eighth cent sales tax to provide additional funding for a BART extension to San Jose (Measure B) appears to have narrowly passed. The tax would be an addition to an existing half-cent sales tax for BART and other transportation projects. As of November 17, the tax was winning by 24 votes out of more than 611,000 cast. Meanwhile, voters backed Measure A, an $840 million bond for seismic upgrades to the public hospital and to help build a replacement to the San Jose Medical Center, which closed in 2004. Measure C, a required advisory vote on the Valley Transportation Plan 2035, won approval. Measure D, which eliminates the requirement that future transportation plans be subject to advisory votes, also won.
Measure A (hospital bonds): Yes, 78.1% (2/3 required)
Measure B (sales tax): Yes, 66.7% (2/3 required)
Measure C: Yes, 69.6%
Measure D: Yes, 63.9%
City of Gilroy
A $37 million bond to construct a new library passed.
Measure F: Yes, 69.0% (2/3 required)
City of Morgan Hill
Voters narrowly said no to a proposal to modify a housing cap to permit development of 500 units in downtown as part of a downtown revitalization plan. As of November 17, the downtown exemption was losing 6,893 to 6,887.
Measure H: No, 50.02% (pro growth–no)
The extension of a slightly modified version of the existing Orderly Growth Initiative until 2028, and ratification of an updated county general plan, won easy approval. Scheduled to expire in 2010, the Orderly Growth Initiative prohibits most development of agricultural lands and directs growth to incorporated cities.
Measure T: Yes, 67.7% (slow growth–yes)
The latest attempt for a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation failed. The tax would have lasted 20 years and half of the revenue would have paid for repairing and upgrading city streets.
Measure S: No, 34.0% (2/3 required)
City of Fillmore
Voters in this small town were in slow-growth mood. Measure H was a referendum of a 51-unit housing development off Goodenough Road. Measure I limited development in the North Fillmore Area to 350 housing units, instead of the planned 700.
Measure H: Yes, 60.5% (yes = no project) (slow growth–yes)
Measure I: Yes, 57.0% (slow growth–yes)
City of Oxnard
What might be the most draconian growth-control initiative on this fall's ballot failed. Measure V would have required voters to decide on any development project of at least 5 residential units or 10,000 square feet of commercial, retail or industrial space that was proposed within five miles of an intersection with a level of services worse than C. Essentially, the measure would have put every project before voters. Councilman Tim Flynn, who also failed in his challenge to incumbent Tom Holden for mayor, was Measure V's chief proponent. Both the business community and organized labor opposed Measure V.
Measure V: No, 61.5% (slow growth–no)
City of West Sacramento
A 20-year extension of a quarter-cent sales tax due to expire in 2013 was approved. Also winning was Measure U, which asked whether the revenue should be spent on levee improvements and construction of a proposed streetcar system.
Measure V (sales tax): Yes, 57.8%
Measure U (levees and streetcars): Yes, 64.9%