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Solimar Research

Seventy Land Use Measures On Local Ballots

Martha Bridegam and Morris Newman on
Nov 2, 2014

[This article was first posted October 30. Substantial new material was added November 2.]

California's November 4 ballots are rich with local tax and land use measures. It's a sign of fiscal pain in local governments, and of credible optimism that voters can and will accept taxation – though we'll find that out for certain in a few days.

At the state level, Gov. Jerry Brown is campaigning indirectly for reelection by stumping for Propositions 1 and 2, the water bond and "rainy day fund" measures. As of Saturday the Sacramento Bee reported Brown's television ads had yet to mention directly that his continued governorship requires voter ratification.

Two Web sites have taken on the exhausting task of presenting local ballot questions one by one: The invaluable Ballotpedia has a huge collection of sub-pages for California statewide and local measures on all topics. CalTax has posted an astonishing table describing local tax measures.

Our own attempt to pick only the planning and taxation measures most closely related to land use came up with more than 70 of them. At best we can only scratch the surface of a list like that.

So what we have for you here are selected spoonfuls from this river of electoral complexity, picking up some of the big clusters of measures that you just knew were going to form in the especially self-involved metropoli, and looking around at some other clusters of less urban measures.

It may also help to glance back at our July ballot-measures preview (http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3532) and Larry Sokoloff's discussion last month, at http://www.cp-dr.com/ node/3565, of ballot measures in Pismo Beach, Costa Mesa and El Dorado County. As Larry discussed in his article, Costa Mesa's City Council is fighting the planned Highway 405 toll lanes in its advisory Measure P. So – May the best measures win.

San Francisco County

Propositions A-L: San Francisco's 12 ballot measures are mostly about land use. (Full city ballot pamphlet here.) All are up for a vote against the background of a nasty contest, fought partly on housing issues, between Supervisors David Chiu and David Campos to succeed termed-out Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.

Proposition A is a relatively straightforward $500 million bond measure for roads and transportation, including for the Muni and BART systems. The more disputed Prop. B is Supervisor Scott Wiener's effort to strengthen funding for San Francisco's Muni transit system in proportion to future daytime and nighttime population increases.

Proposition F is a safe-harbor approval request backed by proponents of the major Forest City redevelopment plan for the decayed Union Iron Works plant at Pier 70. The developers reportedly began preparing the measure for the city ballot even before the passage of June's waterfront height limit. While the height limit remains in effect, even the relatively uncontested Pier 70 plan must receive voter approval for the height variances it's seeking. The SF Chronicle reported recently that the San Francisco Giants were watching Prop. F in light of their own ambitions along San Francisco's waterfront south of AT&T Park. (See further background at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3510.)

Proposition G, viewed by proponents as an anti- speculation tax, would increase transfer taxes for most multi-unit residential properties resold within five years of their last purchase or transfer. Opponents have papered voters' mailboxes with splashy mailers setting out possible unintended consequences, such as the possibility that cash- poor owners might be harmed, or that the tax itself might be passed through to a subject building's tenants. CP&DR's own Morris Newman has questioned (at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3519) whether an anti-speculation tax could really stop gentrification, and whether its attempts to do so would be fair. Prop. G narrowly won support from the local Democratic Party Central Committee. More wholehearted proponents of the measure include the San Francisco Tenants' Union. The group has invited supporters to campaign for Prop. G in memory of its recently, unexpectedly deceased director, Ted Gullicksen: a newly sombre end to a campaign that began by invoking the legacy of Harvey Milk.

Stunning amounts of ink and trouble have gone into Propositions H and I, competing measures on whether to add astroturf, nighttime stadium lighting, and other renovations to the Golden Gate Park playing fields. The project has approval from city agencies and the Coastal Commission, but Proposition H, opposing the use of artificial turf and lighting, was placed on the ballot by a signature campaign. Proposition I, in answer, was placed on the ballot by seven of the 11 county Supervisors. Prop. H supporters have primarily questioned the effect of astroturf on children's health – the fields are extensively used by youth soccer leagues. Light pollution is a secondary issue. Prop. I supporters have argued the renovations would increase access to sports fields and other amenities.

As discussed at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3532, Measure K represents a compromise between more and less aggressive affordable housing measures. The result has been criticized as unenforceable but it does commit the city to general policies against displacement of existing city residents and in favor of finding land and money to build new affordable housing.

Proposition L, the "Restore Transportation Balance" measure, is a November-cycle interest of tech billionaire and aspiring political investor Sean Parker (q.v. also in this month's Coastal Commission coverage.) Starting from the premise that San Franciscans depend on their cars, it seeks to lock in free Sunday parking (reinstated earlier this year after a controversy), freeze public parking fees, prohibit new "demand-responsive pricing" on parking meters unless a majority of neighbors petition for it, and otherwise shift city priorities to favor car drivers. Supported by Republicans and libertarians, by some major business groups, and by associations from neighborhoods that tend to be conservative, outlying or hilly, the measure has been ridiculed by public transportation advocates and opposed by Democratic, environmental and labor groups.

And the ballot measures that aren't about land use? Prop. C is about school funding; Prop. E is a New York-style ban on "sugary drinks"; Prop. J is about the minimum wage. Even Prop. D is indirectly about land use: it's a housekeeping measure to preserve retirement health benefits for staff of the city's post-redevelopment successor agency.

Los Angeles County

Santa Monica

There's no place like Santa Monica, unless of course it's Berkeley or San Francisco. If you live in any of those towns you think everyone else wants to live in your town too and you're not entirely wrong. So in every election there will be ballot measures on competing visions for local land use.

For the November election Santa Monica has five active ballot measures, and all are about land use. (For some of our prior coverage see http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3532.)

The petition campaign against the Bergamot Transit Village "Hines Project" would have made a sixth ballot measure – but members of the City Council saw thousands of signatures coming their way and rescinded their approval of the megaproject. (The City Council has selectively encouraged other redevelopment efforts in the Bergamot Station area.)
There has been no similar resolution to a dispute on whether to close and redevelop Santa Monica's small airport, which sits among residential neighborhoods at the south end of the city. The ballot still includes two competing airport measures. Confusingly, both are promoted with rhetoric designed to punch coastal liberal voters' buttons.

Measure D, an initiative petition, would prohibit new development of the airport property without voter approval. Its supporters include airport-related businesses. A campaign Twitter account for Measure D at @SantaMonicans, run by Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions, emphasizes rhetoric about the risks of overdevelopment. The rival Measure LC, placed on the ballot by the city Airport Development Council, would also prohibit new development on the site without voter approval, but would except parks and related facilities, and would also "affirm the City Council's authority to manage the Airport and to close all or part of it." Its supporters at itsOurLand.org and @YesonLC emphasize the goal of local control. Measure LC reportedly has support from most Santa Monica City Council candidates and the Sierra Club. Proponents of Measure D have published ballot arguments calling LC an attempt to confuse voters into watering down their own power over the site. (See both measures' arguments at http://www.smvote.org/BallotMeasures/.) Proponents of LC complain of "‘D' for Deception".

This week The New York Times' Christine Negroni reported on the dispute, viewing the airport's noise, danger and disruptions as the major issue, and the two ballot measures as being fundamentally about whether the City Council or the voters will control the site's future. Activists who want to close the airport have been to court repeatedly, most recently seeking a city takeover of the airport from the Federal Aviation Administration. (See more prior notes and links at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3532.)

But a Santa Monica ballot wouldn't be complete without ballot measures arguing competing versions of housing equity. Measure FS would raise registration fees for rent- controlled landlords from $174.96 to amounts of up to $288 per unit per year, allowing half of each unit's fee to be passed through to its tenant. And then, in a reported attempt to replace lost redevelopment funds, Measure H would raise the local real estate transfer tax from $3 to $9 per thousand of sale price, only on sale prices of $1 million or more. Measure HH asks voters on an advisory basis whether proceeds from the single-H measure should be spent on affordable housing. Some opponents of the measure argued it would encourage "over-development" in the city.

(For Los Angeles' Measure P see "Parks and Open Space" below.)

Malibu:

Measure R. This being Malibu, a local ballot measure to limit downtown commercial development is championed by director Rob Reiner in a celebrity-packed campaign that was recently written up in the New York Times. The Times reports opposition to the growth limit measure is led by Los Angeles police commissioner Steve Soboroff, who is a partner in an effort to build a Whole Foods that the measure would make more difficult. Measure R would require voter approval for any commercial project of more than 20,000 square feet. A prior report in the Los Angeles Times focused on the personal dynamics between Reiner and Soboroff in a live debate October 26 where the two men shouted and literally pointed fingers.

Santa Clarita:

Measure S. Santa Clarita's Measure S is the result of an 18,000-signature petition to rescind a deal that the City Council had already signed with Los Angeles County Metro to take down 62 billboard-type advertising structures and replace them with three digital billboards, each facing two ways, along Highways 5 and 14. Revenue from the new billboards would go to the city. Supporters claimed the revenue stream could be up to $1 million pear year. The Santa Clarita Valley Signal reported the Council had separately arranged to remove 47 billboards around the city, "including 22 in the Metro right-of-way." Critic Larry McClements wrote in the Signal that the new billboards would be larger and more prominently located than the ones to be removed. A "Yes" vote keeps the Council's deal, so the sponsors of the petition are on the side of a "No" vote to rescind the deal. A city site with information and arguments, about the measure, http://billboards.santa-clarita.com/, appeared to be having technical difficulties at press time.

Alameda County

Countywide:

Measure BB. Would institute a transportation commission sales tax and implement a 30-year 2014 Alameda County Transportation Expenditure Plan, significantly to pay for extending BART to Livermore. The measure would renew an existing half-cent sales tax approved in 2000 while adding another half-cent. The resulting one-cent sales tax would continue to raise money for transportation programs until 2045. The 30-year plan calls for $7.8 billion to both improve and maintain transportation systems, including $3.7 billion for transit and $2.34 billion for street repair, and a $400 million earmark for the BART extension. A similar measure in 2012, Measure B1, fell 721 votes short of the required two-thirds majority. Supporters have called Measure BB the "last chance" to bring Livermore into the BART system. Opponents argue that the tax is an unfair burden, and that the projected ridership of 20,000 Livermore residents does not warrant an estimated $1.4 billion project, which would include the $400 million from the county. Skeptics about the BART piece of the measure aren't necessarily on the political right. As investigative freelancer Darwin Bond Graham noted in his acerbic, ambivalent endorsement of the measure, the transit advocacy group TransForm isn't entirely thrilled with BB: in June the group argued BART should focus on improving maintenance of its existing system rather than imposing new demands on itself with an extension to Livermore. However, TransForm is endorsing Measure BB now.

Berkeley:

Measure F. A special parks tax would raise the existing levy by 16.7%. That increase equates to a $39.90 annual increase on a 1900-squre-foot home, for a total of $278.54, and a $210 annual increase on a 10,000-square-foot commercial building for a total of $1,466. Supporters say the measure would go directly to improve care for park acreage that has doubled since 1974. Opponents say what the parks need is more accountable management, not a new tax.

Measure R. This initiative is a grab bag of zoning ordinances for downtown Berkeley. It would, variously, replace existing requirements for projects to be built in the Green Pathway plan area, establish a Civic Center Historic District overlay district, amend LEED requirements, change parking requirements, restrict some currently permitted uses and reduce hours of operation for businesses serving alcohol. establish a maximum height of 60 feet for downtown buildings, 50 feet in the buffer zone, with a 10 foot bonus for on-site parking. (The initiative would not affect the handful of downtown buildings permitted to rise to 120 and 180 feet respectively.) Measure R would also require certain community benefits as conditions in exchange for height bonuses, such as including affordable housing units, local construction hiring, and paying certain workers prevailing wage rates. Buildings higher than 75 feet would further require additional affordable units, public restrooms, and compliance with LEED Platinum standards, the highest rating available for sustainable construction, rather than the current LEED Gold requirement. The same buildings would also have to pay fees to support loan programs creating local jobs. Proponent Lisa Stephens, who is chair of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, has called it "the latest chapter in the land use battle between big developers and the rest of us." The "No on Measure R" campaign writes that it "would kill our Downtown revival, block affordable housing and reverse our progress in combating climate change." The Berkeleyside news site has more background on institutional history behind Measure R in this writeup of a July debate on the proposal. The Contra Costa Times has a more recent pro-and con writeup here.

Measure S. Would cancel the redistricting map approved by City Council in 2013, largely because the map, as it stands, would result in a district topheavy with conservative students. The apparent underlying bone of contention is a zoning provision that locates fraternities and sororities in an area of the city south of UC-Berkeley, while co-ops and other more "progressive" housing types are to be located north of campus. It's difficult to see what quotient of conservatives (or liberals, for that matter) constitutes an undesirable concentration, but the backers of the initiative were able to gather sufficient signatures to place Measure S on the ballot. A "Yes" vote approves the redistricting map as adopted by City Council, while a "No" vote would require the council to adopt a new redistricting plan, leaving the 2002 districting in place for the interim. A recent article in Berkeleyside said the 2013 redistricting plan grew out of a student effort to turn Berkeley's District 7 into a "campus district" primarily of and for students. But which students? As Berkeleyside notes, arguments by the No on S campaign against the 2013 "campus district" include that "In creating a fraternity-dominated "student district," many low-income and minority students were intentionally excluded, and major neighborhoods divided, such as LeConte, Halcyon and West Berkeley -- all to favor certain incumbents and punish political enemies."

Dublin:

Measure T. The "2014 Let Dublin Decide Initiative" would expand the area covered by the General Plan, and would set the stage for annexation, with respect to 1,650 acres of mostly agricultural uses and open space in the "Eastern Study Area," including Doolan Canyon, on the the city's eastern edge. Measure T is a response to a local open space preservation effort that significantly includes Measure M, passed in 2000. Measure M preserved a separate parcel of land, the "Western Extended Planning Area" on the city's western edge, placing a 30-year ban on either rezoning or residential development there, reversible only by a popular vote. This year the Council adopted an initiative modeled on Measure M, the "Dublin Open Space Initiative of 2014," to preserve both the western and eastern areas as protected agricultural or open space. Measure T is a complex measure (PDF text here) that would partially invalidate the Dublin Open Space Initiative by restoring to the City Council the power to approve projects in the eastern Doolan Canyon area. However, that wouldn't be allowed to happen all at once. The measure would "establish a policy that the Council should apply to LAFCO and obtain an amendment of Dublin's Sphere of Influence to include the Eastern Study Area, and pursue annexation of that area." And it would require that new development could not be allowed there "until an Eastern Study Area Comprehensive Plan is formulated for the area." Additionally, Measure T would amend Measure M by removing the 30-year limit on development in the western area, instead providing that the development limit may be rescinded only by the city voters, without regard to timing. Opponents of the measure include the whole City Council and many environmental organizations. Proponents include former mayor Janet Lockhart, who wrote in the Independent that the measure would give control over the area to residents of Dublin rather than Livermore, and that Livermore had already asked the county LAFCO to include the eastern area in Livermore's boundaries.

Union City:

Measure KK. In 1995, the city adopted the Hillside Area Plan, which banned development in a 6,100-acre area north of Mission Boulevard. The area includes 63 acres owned by the Masons, who operate a home for the aged there. The Mercury News reports the Masons now propose to build on that 63 acres: a combination of housing, health care, retail and park/garden spaces oriented toward seniors. Measure KK complies with a provision of the Hillside Area Plan requiring voter approval for any development in the protected area. Opponents say the measure would open the way for more future development than the Masons' current proposal describes.

Sacramento County:

City of Sacramento.

Measure L. The personality behind the measure is Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who gained his first fame playing basketball for the Phoenix Suns. Charismatic and forceful, Johnson seeks to reposition Sacramento as a major city. The role of an executive may appeal to Johnson, who has set an ambitious agenda to raise the profile of a mid-sized city that seems to be looking for its next chapter. Johnson is a booster. He took an active role in negotiations to keep the local basketball franchise, the Kings, from being whisked away to Seattle. He was also a primary force in the development of a new basketball stadium, with $250 million of city money, to be built on the site of a unsuccessful downtown mall. In recent weeks, he's been courting professional soccer, and has been testing the waters to see if developers are interested in building another sports arena, this time in the enormous Railyards project north of downtown.

If approved, the measure would give the mayor veto power, as well as the power to hire and fire the city manager, plus other responsibilities assumed by the city manager in the "strong city manager" style of governance. The proposed "checks and balances" in the measure include term limits and an independent budget analyst. If approved, voters would have a chance to re-approve or vote down the strong mayor system in 2020.
The strong-mayor initiative has won endorsements from a number of U.S. mayors, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg is also a major contributor to the campaign, though the Sacramento Bee reported that at the end of September the largest donation on record, of $100,000, was from developer Angelo Tsakopoulos. The general sentiment runs that a strong personality with administrative ability and a clear vision for the city can be effective under a strong mayor system. This kind of executive needs to "sell" a personal vision to the electorate, and then somehow negotiate with the City Council to make it a reality. 

Opponents of the measure reply that the same system may give too much power to incompetents and/or bad actors. The "Stop the Power Grab" campaign argues that in a strong-mayor system, "the public is pushed aside to give big donors more influence."

But Janet Denhardt, Director and Professor of Public Administration at USC Price School in Sacramento, told the Sacramento Bee, "The power of the mayor isn't based on the structure of government... It's based on his or her ability to lead public opinion, create energy around ideas and be a true leader."

Rancho Cordova

Measure H. Rancho Cordova's Measure H is a half-cent sales tax like many others on the ballot, but seems worth mentioning because although the tax proceeds are not actually restricted, it's has been promoted as a way to remove "blight" on Folsom Boulevard or, in the proponents' ballot argument, to "revitalize" it. Local control is also significant in the ballot argument. Watch the results as a test of the strength of such rhetoric.

El Dorado County

Countywide:

Measures M, N and O: While the slow growth movement lost much of its impetus during the recession, different communities are choosing very different approaches either to limit home building and/or preserve open space. Measures M, N and O, which are similar but not coordinated, are ostensibly attempts to preserve the county's rural character. Critics, however, claim that Measure N bears the fingerprints of developers seeking a competitive advantage. For all three measures, traffic on State Highway 50 is the yardstick for gauging the desirability of new development. Meanwhile there is a "No-No-No" campaign against all three measures. Supporters of M and O claim that campaign has received funding from out-of-town developers but the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce is helping to publicize the "No-No-No" campaign.

Measure M would prohibit construction of any housing developments of five parcels or more unless CalTrans certifies that two preconditions exist: first, that the stretch of Highway 50 west of Placerville has traffic levels that, under the Level of Service (LOS) congestion standard, do not reach the maximum congestion rating of Level F, and, second, that traffic will remain at an LOS above F in the foreseeable future. The same measure would also prohibit rezoning of land currently designated as farming or open space for other purposes. Additionally, the measure limits rezoning any low-density residential areas (e.g., rural, low – and mid-density) to higher densities. The measure creates exemptions for non-residential and ag-related development.

Measure O would rezone a large portion of the county from "Community Region" to a "Rural" designation. The two zoning designations have different traffic standards. Community Region allows development until the service level reaches E or worse, while the Rural designation permits only a D level of service or better. The Community Region zoning designation is used to encourage medium density home building in areas with existing infrastructure. Measure O encourages a more random or haphazard pattern of low density development across much of the county, and appears to work against the county's 2005 general plan.

Measure N, which is framed as a competing alternative to Measures M and O, would extend Measure Y, first approved by county voters in 1998 and renewed in 2008, to 2025. Measure Y was a slow-growth measure but critics say that a "Sacramento-based developers' group," Region Builders, placed Measure N on the ballot. According to ballot arguments, opponents say it would change the General Plan to actually favor development of a total of 27,000 new housing units in five separate areas of the county, and that it could also allow developers to pay less toward highway improvements than they are currently required to do. The basic principle behind Measure Y was to make all new development pay for all its impacts on the community, particularly on highway conditions. Through the use of this provision, supporters claim Measure Y has been able to limit growth in El Dorado County to 1 percent annually since its enactment, while channeling a total $200 million toward road maintenance.

Cameron Estates:

Measure D. Authorizes the city to increase the Cameron Estates Community Services District parcel tax by $100 annually, to a total of $350 per parcel, to fund road improvements and maintenance. Requires a two-thirds vote to pass.

Tahoe Truckee Unified School District (parts of El Dorado, Placer and Nevada counties):

Measures U and E: Would authorize $62 million in bonds financing to update existing facilities, to be paid by an increase in annual property taxes of $29.75 per $100,000  of assessed value. School board president Kim Szczurek promoted Measure E at a forum reported by the Tahoe Daily Tribune in mid-October in terms of improvements to school buildings. The campaign for both measures described broader spending goals from arts, science and outdoor learning enhancements to "student safety and campus security". An opponent's guest commentary in the Tribune argued the school bond would impose a heavy tax without guaranteed accountability for the proceeds.

Parks and open space:

It's not just in San Francisco and Berkeley that parks and open space measures are prominent on ballots. For Santa Clara County, Measure Q is a big deal. Endorsed and promoted by the SPUR planning organization, the measure would raise funds over 15 years to preserve open space across San Jose, four suburban cities, and unincorporated areas. The City of Alameda's former Crab Cove measure is off the ballot because the City Council adopted it. In Los Angeles County, Measure P for park funding comes across as a less widely welcomed proposition: The LA Times endorsed against it, calling it regressive and saying the Supervisors placed it on the county ballot without enough discussion.

And if that measure involves a little acrimony, Irvine's Measure V involves a lot: The OC Register reports the measure's emphasis on transparency, protection for whistleblowers, and other accountability measures has to do with an ongoing audit of the management of Irvine Great Park. And then the city of Isleton has a Measure D for parks, but it's more like the typical local taxation measures on this ballot, establishing a transactions and use tax to fund "Public Safety and Parks and Recreation projects and services."

Fracking:

Mendocino, San Benito and Santa Barbara Counties vote on fracking measures this month, while a Butte County measure was postponed. San Benito's Measure S has support from Congressman Sam Farr. Because Santa Barbara County has an actual oil industry, Measure P is the hardest-fought.

Hotel and transient occupancy taxes:

Ballots are especially rich with measures to raise hotel and transient occupancy taxes. It's natural considering this year's AirBnB disputes, and a general economic environment where the most obvious sources of funding are the fortunate few with disposable income to splash around. They include Measure B in Palo Alto; Measure O in Santa Barbara County; Measure L in Hollister; Measure E in Marina; Measure S in Fountain Valley, and Measure I in San Benito County.

GMOs:

Measures to ban the use of GMOs are among the most colorful, and sometimes the most confusing, on the November ballot, and Ballotpedia reports they are popular measures nationwide. In Humboldt County, Measure P would ban the use of GMOs, defined in the initiative as "an organism, or the offspring of an organism, the DNA of which has been altered through genetic engineering."  Persons suspected of growing GMO-altered plants would be given a 30 day notice, and later subject to fines and confiscation of the plant material. One analysis states that GMO planting in Humboldt County is currently limited to 100 acres of corn. In Lake County's Measure P, anti-GMO provisions coincide with a libertarian position on marijuana growing. The "Freedom to Garden Human Rights Restoration Act" would establish a "fundamental right to gardening and cultivation." This initiative would preclude many regulations of medical marijuana imposed by Measure N - the county's current regulatory ordinance - and by the proposed Measure O, a competing initiative. (Many counties have medical marijuana regulation initiatives on their ballots this season.) In the spirit of primordial purity evoked by the "freedom to garden" an d the restoration of human rights, GMOs enter the picture as apparent despoilers of Eden. Although GMO manufacturers like Monsanto have been known to sue, or threaten to sue, farmers who use patented GMOs without permission, the Lake County Measure P ingeniously turns the tables on the GMO manufacturers, by giving legal standing to gardeners to "hold corporations legally liable if their genetically engineered patented organisms (GMO's) contaminate the natural heirloom plants in your garden." In its attempt to shield gardeners and small farmers from GMOs, however, the measure ventures into the current controversy between GMO makers and their claims of intellectual property rights, on the one hand, and the rights of non-GMO farmers and consumers when non-GMO crops are contaminated by the genetically modified material. The ordinance does not appear to consider these and other legal niceties. As Daniel McLean, a supporter of Lake County Measure O, observed mordantly, Measure P is likely to be challenged, "due to the lack of professional legal input that was obtained in the drafting process." Opponents of Measure P, for the most part, appear entirely focused on the potential abuses of the measure's laissez-faire position on private marijuana cultivation.

Prop. 1: State Water Bond

You can tell that the Legislature worked on its water bond plan over several years, and engaged in a tough summer-long negotiation that at last led to placing Proposition 1 on the ballot. When this water bond proposal finally landed in front of voters it had something to offer everyone.

Lots of opinion-makers have fallen in behind the bond campaign. Small newspapers all over the state did their bit for the cause this fall by posting locally focused versions of "What The Water Bond Can Do For Us." There's something for desalination. There's something for water recycling. There's a lot for San Diego.

The Association of California Water Agencies is energetically in favor. The Farm Water Coalition, a 501(c)(3) group associated with large-scale farmers and farm-oriented water districts, can offer a convincing "Regional Look at Proposition 1". Dividing the state into eight regions, it notes specific funding amounts in each, and sometimes specific projects, that the bond measure could support.

With Governor Jerry Brown campaigning for the measure in person, and drought pressures driving support for anything that may increase local water supplies, opponents are stuck in the defensive position of "yes, but..." Opposition to the bond has been successfully framed as an opt-out choice: voters have to be aware of some specific item to dislike before they can credibly oppose the bond measure at all.

Small wonder, then, that the Public Policy Institute of California recently found a 56% majority of likely California voters favored Proposition 1.

One ground for opposition has to do with the allegation that, despite claimed best efforts, the bond measure isn't "tunnel neutral" but has the effect of supporting Governor Jerry Brown's ambivalently received Delta twin-tunnels project.

Further opposition has to do with dam projects that the bond bill would support, notably for the disputed proposed Temperance Flat Reservoir, to hold additional water on the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam, and the Sites Reservoir, proposed for land in Colusa and Glenn Counties between the Snow Mountain Wilderness and the town of Maxwell on I-5.
Some environmental groups support the bond measure or at least don't oppose it. The Sierra Club California takes no position on the measure. The Nature Conservancy is in favor. The Natural Resources Defense Council is in favor.

But the "No on Prop 1" campaign prominently includes the Restore the Delta group and also lists endorsers who include many of the frequent petitioners in water-related environmental litigation, such as the Center for Biological Diversity and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. As the Courthouse News noted, the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association is also opposed.
As on all water issues, some of the best places to follow rhetoric on Prop 1 as it gets down to the wire may be the Twitter accounts for Maven's Notebook and for water journalists Bettina Boxall, Matt Weiser, and Alex Breitler.