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Monterey County Election Update: No Might Mean Yes

Monterey County voters rejected a general plan initiative while sending mixed signals on a general plan update adopted by the county. Voters also rejected a 1,100-unit subdivision during a special election on Tuesday.

The "no" side won all four ballot measures, even though two of the no votes conflicted with each other in the contentious and confusing election with a low turnout.

Measures B and C both concerned a general plan update that the county adopted in January. County supervisors placed Measure B on the ballot. It asked whether the plan should be overturned meaning that a "no" vote was a vote for the plan. Measure C was a referendum qualified by environmentalists and was more straightforward. "No" on Measure C meant no on the plan.

Voters said "no" in both instances, providing conflicting results. But the Measure C referendum received more "no" votes than Measure B. When there are conflicting results, typically the side with the most votes wins and here it would be voters' rejection of the county general plan via referendum.

County officials initally began proceeding as if the Measure B vote "no" on throwing out the plan is controlling because it was an affirmative (really, a double-negative) vote that made the referendum irrelevant. Plan opponents have called the county's initial interpretation ridiculous, and now there is talk about trying to reach a compromise.

"The extremes need to be ignored," Supervisor Simon Salinas told CP&DR.

Much of the campaign focused on Measure A, a general plan initiative that would have prohibited most development outside the unincorporated communities of Castroville, Pajaro, Fort Ord, Boronda and Chualar. Environmentalists backed the initiative, arguing that it would prevent the county's rich farmland from being converted to subdivisions for Silicon Valley commuters. However, farmers, ranchers, and business and real estate interests opposed Measure A, contending it was unfair to landowners and would prevent the development of affordable housing.

Monterey County has spent seven years trying to update its 1982 general plan, and the version on the ballot Tuesday was the fourth draft (known as GPU4).

The electorate also rejected the 1,100-unit Butterfly Village project just north of Salinas. Measure D was the second referendum on development of the Rancho San Juan area. In 2005, on the same day that supervisors approved Butterfly Village, voters rejected a specific plan calling for 4,000 housing units on the site.

The Butterfly Village developer, Mo Nobari's HYH Corporation, won a lawsuit in 2001 over the county's slow processing of the project, and additional litigation in light of the referendum is likely. There also is already litigation pending over GPU4.

The results:

Measure A (general plan initiative): No, 56.3%

Measure B (reject the county's general plan update): No, 53.2%

Measure C (keep the county's general plan update): No, 55.1%

Measure D (uphold Butterfly Village approval): No, 63.7%

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Josh Stephens on The Urban Mystique at SPUR: January 19
On Tuesday, January 19, please join CP&DR Contributing Editor Josh Stephens and our friends at SPUR for a conversation about his book The Urban Mystique and the ineffable complexities that make all cities wondrous, maddening, and fascinating.
Registration: https://www.spur.org/events/2021-01-19/urban-mystique

New Book by Josh Stephens!