If skepticism about growth is an indication that the economy is on the rebound, then Tuesday's land use elections throughout California might be called good news.
About a dozen land use measures were on the ballot Tuesday and most cases the anti-growth forces won. Most of those that did win were focused on job creation. Several measures focused on downtown development in small cities, with mixed results.
Meanwhile, transportation sales tax measures in two major counties -- Los Angeles and Alameda -- were narrowly defeated, each getting about 65% of the vote. Measure J in L.A. County would have extended the 2008 Measure R sales tax for 30 years -- from 2028 to 2058 -- essentially increasing the county's borrowing capacity to build the rail transit system even faster. Measure R has been a major source of transit-oriented planning money in recent years. In addition, a wide variety of open space financing measures were on the ballot -- and most passed.
Although the land use ballot measures were -- as usual -- random and scattered, they suggest that voters were in a more anti-growth mood than you'd expect, given the lengthy slump in real estate development around the state.
In only a couple of places did the pro-growth forces win, and some of those victories were sold as job creators. In Escondido in North San Diego County, Measure N passed, rezoning hundreds of acres of land to commercial use. In Berkeley, an update to the West Berkeley Plan -- also intended to create jobs -- is hanging on by 50.2%. In Napa County, voters rejected a downzoning of property owned by Pacific Union College in rural Angwin. Voters in rural, conservative Yuba County rejected a SOAR-style ballot measure that would have subjected changes in agricultural zoning to a vote.
On the other side of the ledger, voters in Fullerton turned down a major project, the West Coyote Hills plan. A major project was also turned down in Del Mar.
Here is a complete rundown of results:
City of Berkeley
Measure T would create more flexibility in the West Berkeley plan, allowing 75-foot buildings and requiring community benefits in return. As of Thursday morning, Measure T was winning by only a few dozen votes.
Los Angeles County
City of Sierra Madre
Sierra Madre is a small, mostly slow-growth community located in the foothills adjacent to Pasadena. The community has traditionally been opposed even to a stoplight at the main intersection in the downtown. However, Measure ALF -- which would permit development of a two-story, 75-room assisted living facility on Sierra Madre Boulevard across from City Hall -- won with 77% of the vote.
City of Pacific Grove
Voters in this small, traditionally slow-growth community adjacent to Monterey rejected a proposal to double the allowable height of buildings downtown to 75 feet. Measure F failed by 59%-41%.
Countywide voters rejected a proposal to downzone 25 acres of agricultural land in Angwin, in the hills above St. Helena, which was put on the ballot in an attempt to block Pacific Union College from pursuing additional development. Measure U lost by 60%-40%.
City of Calistoga
Only 13 miles away from Angwin, voters in Calistoga approved the expansion of the Silver Rose resort to include a hotel with 85 rooms, 21 houses, a new winery, and other amenities. Measure B passed 59%-41%.
City of Fullerton
Voters in the scandal- and recall-plagued City of Fullerton rejected the West Coyote Hills Specific Plan, which called for development of an old oil field in North Fullerton to include 760 homes on 500 acres of land. Chevron, the landowner, spend $1 million on the campaign. Measure W lost, 60.5% - 39.5%.
San Diego County
City of Del Mar
Voters in the small beach city of Del Mar rejected the Village Specific Plan, which would have facilitated development in the downtown area. Opponents claimed the plan would have made traffic and parking in the downtown area worse by adding development without adding parking and narrowing the main street to two lanes with roundabouts. Measure J was defeated 58%-42%.
City of Escondido
In the North County inland city of Escondido, voters approved the city's new general plan. Escondido has required voter approval for even small general plan amendments since 1998. Measure N passed 53%-47%.
San Mateo County
Town of Atherton
In the super-affluent Town of Atherton, voters rejected a plan to build a new library in a city park. Measure F lost, 69%-31%.
City of Simi Valley
Voters in Simi Valley easily passed Measure N, an extension of the city's longtime growth management program, which limits housing construction to approximately 260 houses per year. Measure N won with 74.8% of the vote.
City of Moorpark
Meanwhile, in the neighboring City of Moorpark, voters declined to give the city authorization to pursue development of 200 affordable housing rental units over the next 10 years. The vote was a so-called Article 34 election, required under a 50-year-old amendment to the California constitution. Measure O lost 63%-37%.
The conservative farming county of Yuba County barely defeated a SOAR-style ballot initiative which -- like its counterparts in Ventura and Napa counties -- would have subjected future agricultural zone changes to a vote. The ballot measure was a followup to the 2008 voter defeat of the Yuba Highlands project. Measure T lost, 52%-48%.