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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.
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:
The San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League are trying to punt themselves out of creaky Candlestick Park and into a shiny new home in Santa Clara. Whether political winds will carry them roughly 35 miles to the south to the City of Santa Clara or whether they'll be blown back to the line of scrimmage now depends on the voters of Santa Clara.
Many long, hard-fought battles have been waged for the control of high ground, and the one surrounding Pleasanton’s Measure D is no exception.
Measure D asks whether a 51-home development known as Oak Grove may be built on a parcel of 562 acres in the southeastern hills above the city, a Bay Area bedroom community which sits in a valley in inland Alameda County. Measure D was placed on the ballot by the City Council following a long saga of denials, approvals, lawsuits, new ordinances, and community outcry. A yes vote allows the development to go forward per the agreement with the city council; a no vote forces would-be developers to start from scratch.
Whether or not the state’s “fleet reduction” plan to sell 11 properties for an estimated $2 billion makes the slightest bit of fiscal sense remains to be seen (see CP&DR Blog April 29, 2010). As the state wallows in a $20 billion deficit, the most palpable impacts of the sale may fall someplace other than Sacramento, including Costa Mesa.
Wary of intensive development of the 150-acre site of the Orange County Fairgrounds, residents of the City of Costa Mesa will vote on whether to amend the city’s general plan requiring voter approval for any future zoning changes or major developments. The intent of the plan is to ensure that any future, post-sale uses will remain consistent with the site’s historical uses.
As residents of one of the nation’s oldest master-planned cities, Mission Viejo voters will be asked, essentially, to decide whether the city’s planners got it right the first time.
Measure D, billed by its backers as the “Right to Vote Amendment,” would update the city’s general plan to require all projects seeking a “major amendment of planning policy documents” to not only go through the city’s existing approvals process but also receive final approval via a popular vote. The measure is intended, say backers, to provide an extra layer of protection against projects that might be inconsistent with or detrimental to the city’s character.
Even as commuters have grown weary of the long drive from the western edge of the Central Valley to the employment centers of the Bay Area, a group of landowners in Brentwood see robust development opportunities. The formerly diminutive Contra Costa County city, now of 51,000, is hotly debating what its next round of expansion will look like.
At issue is the fate of a 740-acre tract of largely undeveloped land, which lies to the west of the county urban limit line that governs Brentwood but is nonetheless already addressed in its general plan. That plan calls for up to 579 homes to be built on the property, which is owned by only five landowners, in the event that the land was annexed by the city. Measure F, however, would expand the urban limit line and in so doing authorize a 20-year development agreement for up to 1,300 homes and 30 acres of commercial development.
Riverside County has gained the dubious distinction of being one of the foreclosure capitals of California, if not the country.
One bright spot, however, has been the unincorporated community of Eastvale, which has grown from an exurb of scattered homesteads a decade ago to a major unincorporated bedroom community of roughly 40,000 residents.
"Eastvale is really leading Riverside County in its ascendance from the recession," said Jeff DeGrandpre, president of the Eastvale Incorporation Committee.
On June 8 Eastvale residents will consider Measure A, a multi-part ballot measure to decide whether the community, located in the northwest corner of the county adjacent to the City of Norco, will become the county's 27th city.
Slow-growth advocates won major victories in November 3 local elections when voters rejected a housing project in Davis and a shopping center in Mendocino County, as well as sewer extensions in Modesto.
But slow-growth forces suffered some unexpected losses. In Santa Barbara and Ventura, two cities with a history of voter-controlled development, initiatives that would have imposed strict height limits on new buildings were rejected. In the Bay Area, Walnut Creek voters approved amended parking standards necessary for the construction of a Neiman Marcus store downtown.
Voters in the Santa Clara County city of Morgan Hill have changed their minds and approved a growth control modification to permit additional housing development in the downtown area. Measure A keeps in place Morgan Hill’s population cap of 48,000 by 2020, but permits 500 more units downtown than had been allowed.