Connect with CP&DR

facebook twitter

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Pro-Growth Side Does Well in Election: Off-Year Ballot Has Few Growth Measures

Development supporters fared better than slow-growth advocates during November's off-year election with few land use ballot measures. The pro-growth side won seven of the ten measures on local ballots that had obvious growth implications.

The results contrast with recent off-year fall elections. In November 1999, slow-growth forces won 10 of 18 ballot measures. In November 1997, the slow-growth side won 9 of 12 elections. In other election results, residents in Goleta � a suburb of Santa Barbara � finally voted to incorporate into a new city after three failed attempts. Bond measures for new public facilities fared well, with parks, police stations, and other facilities getting the nod from voters. The slow-growth victories this November may have been few, but they all came in closely watched races � and mostly in familiar locales for ballot measures, including Ventura and San Francisco. When the slow-growth side won, it won big, scoring at least 70% of the vote in its three victories. One important trend that continued was the number of measures that either called for � or responded to � requirements for a public vote on specific issues. A vote requirement passed in Ventura and San Francisco, failed in a San Mateo County special district, and was used to facilitate growth in Modesto and Monterey Park.

Slow-growth victories

Voters in the City of Ventura overwhelmingly backed Measure P, which requires future voters to approve the extension of utilities into the hills that border the town. Approval of the measure bolsters Ventura's reputation as a town where the electorate closely controls growth, as the city first adopted an initiative in 1995 that requires voters to approve the rezoning of farmland. The San Francisco electorate overwhelmingly passed Proposition D, requiring city voters to approve any city project that involves filling at least 100 acres of the bay � namely, the expansion of San Francisco International Airport, which is not in the city but in San Mateo County. Although Mayor Willie Brown initially denounced Proposition D, he eventually endorsed it and there was no organized opposition. The measure clearly throws another tall hurdle in front of Brown and others who support the airport project, which calls for filling about 900 acres of the bay for new runways. Environmental groups opposed to the airport expansion, including Save the Bay and the Sierra Club, cheered Proposition D's passage. Voters in the southern Los Angeles County city of Hawthorne decisively said no to Measure A, an advisory measure that called for replacing the city's 80-acre general aviation airport with a large shopping center and hotel. The airport question also spilled over the Hawthorne mayor and City Council races. Voters re-elected Mayor Larry Guidi, who opposed the project, and two council candidates, Pablo Catano and Gary Parsons, who also opposed the development. Voters ousted 18-year Councilman Steve Andersen, a proponent of developing the airport site. Pro-growth wins Growth control advocates in Malibu failed to win two-thirds of the vote needed for a $15 million bond measure. Only 61% of voters backed Measure K. Under the proposal, 85% of the money would have been spent on land acquisition, with the remaining 15% going for park development.

Voters in the Los Angeles County town of Hermosa Beach said no to a complicated initiative intended to curb large events at the beach. Measure F also called for expediting preparation of a Local Coastal Program, prohibited permanent structures on the beach and required protection of parking spaces in the coastal zone. In Monterey Park, a city adjacent to east Los Angeles, voters ratified changes to the general plan's land use element. The amendments open up more property for mixed-use development while also protecting additional land for parks and open space. Measure D appeared on the ballot as required by a 1980's initiative. City officials hope to pursue four to six new redevelopment projects under the revised land use element, Mayor Francisco Alonso said. "We're under pressure from residents to provide decent shopping in the city. We're under pressure to provide more housing. But we're a built-out city," Alonso said. In San Mateo County's Coastside County Water District, voters narrowly rejected Measure U, which would have required subsequent voter approval for expansion of the water system. The campaign focused on using the water system to limit growth in the City of Half Moon Bay and the unincorporated communities of El Granada, Miramar and Princeton � all of which the water district serves. The Half Moon Bay electorate has previously voted to limit growth, approving a 3% growth cap in 1991 and a 1% growth ceiling in 1999. Half Moon Bay voters did elect a slate of three growth-control City Council candidates, which could result in stricter interpretation of the 1% growth cap (see CP&DR Local Watch, September 2001).

Water district voters, however, elected two "managed growth" candidates and only one slow-growth advocate. Growth advocates in Modesto won two measures to extend the city's sewer system to accommodate future development. One approved measure calls for extending a sewer trunk link to serve 480 acres of unincorporated territory on the northeast side of town, where about 2,400 homes could be developed. A similar measure extends the sewer to smaller unincorporated communities on the west side of town. Modesto has had a requirement to place sewer trunk extensions on the ballot since the 1970s.

In Palm Springs, voters backed a 388-space downtown parking garage by supporting Measure D. The initiative calls for using the savings from refinanced bonds (which originally funded the convention center) to pay for a new parking structure. Mixed bag elsewhere Bond measures for public facilities fared well during November elections. Voters approved bonds for a new police station in the eastern Contra Costa County city of Brentwood; for park facilities in the Bay Area town of Menlo Park; and for a library in the San Gabriel Valley city of Azusa. Also, voters in the Montara Sanitary District in coastal San Mateo County backed a bond that will finance the purchase of a water system now owned by a private company.

Voters in Southern California's Manhattan Beach, however, failed to provide two-thirds support for Measure Y, which would have funded new police and fire department facilities. Voters in Goleta, just west of Santa Barbara, created the state's 477th city by approving incorporation. Three incorporation votes since 1987 had failed. This time, incorporation supporters narrowed the size of the proposed city, excluding neighborhoods that have long associated with the City of Santa Barbara, as well as the University of California, Santa Barbara, campus and the community of Isla Vista, where many students live. Although the Goleta area has about 80,000 residents, the new city will have a population of about 29,000. Taking control of rapid growth was one of the major themes of the election. Electricity was the central topic in San Francisco, where voters rejected two measures intended to create a municipal power utility. Pacific Gas & Electric, which is headquartered in San Francisco, spent about $1.5 million to defeat Propositions F and I.

Also in San Francisco, voters approved alternative power measures that could establish the nation's largest photovoltaic system. In two City Council elections that hinged on development policies, slow-growth advocates won in the East Bay city of Livermore, while pro-growth incumbents retained their seats in the Riverside County city of Temecula. In Livermore, Mayor Cathie Brown and City Councilman John Stein were ousted. Brown and Stein were both backers of the North Livermore Specific Plan, which called for northward expansion of the city to add 12,500 housing units (see CP&DR Local Watch, June 2000). In their place, voters picked Marshall Kamena to be mayor and Mark Beeman for the council. Both are slow-growth advocates. Slow-growth Councilman Tom Reitter retained his seat. "The day is over when city staff will spend 80% of their time on projects outside the city limits," Kamena told the Contra Costa Times.

In Temecula, Mayor Jeff Comerchero and Councilmen Ron Roberts and Jeff Stone were the three top vote-getters in a six-candidate race. Comerchero, Roberts and Stone have formed a 3-2 pro-growth majority on the City Council since 1999, when voters elected two slow-growth candidates (see CP&DR Local Watch, February 2001). Critics of development had hoped to take the council majority this year, but they failed.