Initiatives and referendums
California's Fourth Appellate District on Friday struck down a special hotel tax that San Diego hotel operators had willingly imposed on themselves, as members of an unusually defined special district, to raise money for the city's convention center expansion. The court ruled that the tax required a two-thirds citywide popular vote for approval.
Under Proposition 13 as broadened in 1996 by Proposition 218, special taxes must be approved by a two-thirds vote of "the qualified electors" of the affected district, also expressed as "the electorate" of the district.
It’s safe to say that the City of Calistoga’s Silver Rose Referendum will not be the most important question on the ballot in the this November. Nor will Escondido’s general plan measure, nor even a preliminary vote on draining Hetch Hetchy reservoir.
With funding scarce and plans large and small in abundance, the latest round of Sustainable Communities Grants and Urban Greening Grants awarded by the Strategic Growth Council come as welcome relief to cities, counties, and other agencies. Last month, the SGC announced that it would award $24.6 million in Sustainable Communities Planning Grants and $20.7 million in Urban Greening Grants. Both programs are funded by the clean water bond Prop. 84.
While the presidential Primary Election will be a non-event in California,this upcoming Election Day, June 5, will be a relatively quiet one for land use measures in California as well. Only a handful of measures appear on city and county ballots. Perhaps not surprisingly, Orange County features two of the most contentious measures: one to promote affordable housing in Yorba Linda and to create a new commercial center in Cypress.
This month – October 10, to be exact – marks the 100th anniversary of initiative and referendum in California. It’s hard to imagine that Gov. Hiram Johnson, the godfather of the constitutional amendment, could have imagined all the different ways that the initiative process would be used – especially by the moneyed interests that were his target in 1911. But it’s equally hard to imagine that Johnson could have foreseen the way the initiative and referendum process would transform planning and development in California.
A ballot initiative to remove parking meters from downtown Ventura has been knocked off the November ballot by a Ventura County Superior Court judge.
If Gov. Jerry Brown gets his way in the Legislature in the coming days, he and the state will face a conundrum to make a Zen master's head spin: Is it illegal to transfer funds from agencies that no longer exist?
The governor has thus far been unyielding in his effort to eliminate the state's redevelopment agencies. In doing so he hopes to recoup up to $1.7 billion to help offset the state's estimated $26 billion deficit. Negotiations are ongoing at the Capitol, with a handful of Republican legislators--the so-called "GOP 5"—still in discussions with the Democratic governor. A vote is expected any day now.
Voters will face only a handful of local ballots March 8, and the slate is mercifully light--and concentrated in Southern California. After a November election (see CP&DR Vol. 25, No. 21 Nov. 2010) packed with some of the most contentious local and statewide questions in recent memory, next month's smattering of project approvals and parking spats likely comes as welcome relief. The biggest local question surrounds the would-be city of Jurupa Valley, which will vote to become yet the newest city in the Inland Empire, a region that is maturing in fits and starts.
When Proposition 84 passed in 2006, it reflected a booming economy. Providing $5.4 billion for clean water, parks, and open space the measure was seen as an important way to protect the state’s natural resources at a time before many were worried about $28 billion deficits or maxing out the state’s bonding capacity.
Prop. 84’s primary focus is on waterways and water management. However, it also includes a relatively tiny set-aside for innovative planning that is proving to be a godsend to planning departments that are suffering unprecedented budget cuts (see CP&DR Insight Vol. 25, No. 5, March 2010).
Local voters in the Nov. 2 California election were not necessarily “pro-growth” or “anti-growth” but rather seem to have embraced smart growth like never before. They expressed subtle but clear preferences for preserving open space while accepting compact development. Urban growth boundaries were a big hit, and several infill plans and projects were approved while anything that would have led to encroachment on greenfields or urban fringes was shot down.
Local election highlights include the following: