Voters in Palm Springs threw out a 10-year extension of a development agreement for a project on the side of Mt. San Jacinto during the November 6 election.
Slightly more than 60% of voters said yes to the Measure C referendum, which called for setting aside the development agreement extension. Measure C in Palm Springs was the few significant land use measures on local ballots in November.
The Palm Springs City Council approved the 10-year extension with Utah developer DDRM Companies last year. The city first approved the project, called Shadowrock, in 1993. For a variety of legal and financial reasons, the project never progressed. The 2006 extension kept the project alive, although a judge in May halted initial site work because of environmental concerns and questions about a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit.
The development agreement provided for three options: an 18-hole golf course, a 60-room hotel and spa, 145 houses and 200 condominiums, or a 490-room hotel, or 211 houses. The project would be the first significant development in the Chino Cone area above the Coachella Valley floor. The vote was seen as pivotal because the city in 2006 adopted zoning that provides for development in Chino Cone. A number of other landowners are considering development in the area, and the city is processing two specific plan applications based on the 2006 zoning, according to Palm Springs Planning Manager Craig Ewert.
Shadowrock opponents said the project would harm critical wildlife habitat, ruin views from the famous Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and set a dangerous precedent for development above the valley floor. They also contended the development agreement was out of date. An effort to buy the property for conservation purposes is in its infancy.
City officials endorsed the project as good for the local tourism economy. In the weeks leading up to the election, DDRM's Stan Casteleton said he might file a takings lawsuit if voters threw out the development agreement extension.
Whether the referendum settled Shadowrock's fate is unclear. "It leaves the development agreement subject to its original terms, including a number of things that are in litigation," Ewert said. "Whether it is entitled remains to be determined."
In San Bernadino County, voters in the high desert City of Adelanto approved a measure that returns authority for general plan amendments and rezoning decisions to the City Council. Approval of Measure G reversed a 1994 ballot measure that placed general plan and zoning decisions before voters. Measure G passed with 62.8% of the vote in an election with a 9% turnout.
Also in San Bernardino County, voters in the City of Chino approved rezoning to permit development of 84 single-family houses and 72 units for senior citizens. Approval of Measure A essentially ratified a deal that the city had worked out with a property owner: The city will buy an old Home Depot building off the Pomona Freeway for use as a new police headquarters. As part of the deal, though, the landowner wanted permission to develop housing on an adjacent vacant lot. The rezoning of non-residential property to residential use requires voter approval under a 1988 ballot measure. Measure A, which received 66.6% approval, provided the rezoning.
In San Francisco, voters decided on two measures related to parking, and the results marked a victory for San Francisco's long-held "transit first" policies. Proposition A locks in existing caps on parking spaces for new development (unlike most cities, San Francisco establishes a maximum number of off-street parking spaces, rather than a minimum) and provides an additional $26 million for public transit. A counter proposal, Proposition H, would have permitted more off-street parking. Proposition H would have tripled the amount of parking allowed for office and retail projects and for downtown housing projects, and required more parking for neighborhood residential developments.
San Francisco voters favored the status quo, with Proposition A receiving a 55.3% "yes" vote. The pro-parking Proposition H received only 33.1% support.
In Sunnyvale, voters rejected a $108 million bond to build a larger library to replace a 48-year-old facility. Opponents questioned how the city could fund the projected $2.2 million extra needed to operate the new facility. The Measure B library bond received 59.3% of the vote, well short of the two-thirds required for passage.
In the City of Davis, 73% of voters approved an $88 parcel tax, up from $42 annually, to fund library expansion and modernization, as well as service level increases.
In Calaveras County, voters approved a $31 million bond to build a jail. Measure J, which received 67.5% approval, will increase property taxes by $18 per $100,000 in assessed value.
In the border town of Calexico, 56.1% of voters rejected Measure Y, which would have imposed a quarter-cent sales tax for 15 years to pay for downtown revitalization, a protective cover over the New River, economic development efforts, and various public works projects.
Seven of 11 school bonds on the November ballot received approval. By far the largest winning bond was $196 million in Riverside's Alvord Unified School District. A $240 million bond in the Antelope Valley High School District failed to pass the 55% approval threshold.
In a closely watched election in Oregon, voters approved Measure 49, which dramatically modified a property rights ballot measure approved three years earlier. Measure 37 from 2004 required local governments to either suspend development regulations outside urban growth boundaries or pay compensation to landowners. Since voters approved Measure 37, landowners have submitted 7,500 claims seeking either compensation or suspension of regulations. Most landowners have sought to develop subdivisions in agricultural or forested areas. Measure 49 makes it easier to build a handful of houses outside of growth boundaries but prevents large projects. The result is that the vast majority of Measure 37 claims now appear to be moot.
The Measure 49 reform received 62% support, similar to the approval level for Measure 37 three years ago.