Slow-growth advocates dominated local balloting during the November special election, winning 16 of 24 easily classifiable local ballot measures.
In the northern part of the state, voters rejected large housing projects in Livermore, Davis and Monterey County. Voters did what they could to block redevelopment efforts in Humboldt County and the City of Half Moon Bay. In advisory elections in Amador and Yuba counties, voters said no to Indian casino development.
In Southern California, voters denied a 200-room resort in Calabasas and voted against small housing projects in Redlands and Encinitas. They also approved new growth restrictions in Calabasas and Norco.
But the news was not all bad for developers. Perhaps the brightest spot for builders was in eastern Contra Costa County. Voters in Antioch and Pittsburgh approved developer-backed measures that open to builders 1,050 acres in Antioch and approximately 2,400 acres in Pittsburg. A similar measure in the nearby city of Brentwood narrowly failed.
Elsewhere, voters in Placer County endorsed a proposed four-year university and adjoining community near Roseville. And in the Silicon Valley city of Cupertino, voters rejected three growth-control initiatives that would have prevented most future development in the largely built-out suburb.
Four initiatives sponsored by development interests made the East Bay the central front in the latest round of growth wars. In Livermore, Pardee Homes spent at least $3.2 million on its ballot measure to expand the city’s urban growth boundary by roughly 1,400 acres north of Interstate 580. Besides outspending its opponents, Friends of Livermore, by at least 15-to-1, Pardee threw numerous goodies into the proposal, including solar panels for every housing unit, a huge sports park, a 750-acre open space preserve, and additional money for schools (see CP&DR Election News, October 2005).
Pardee’s over-the-top campaign appears to have backfired. Livermore voters rejected the growth boundary initiative by nearly 3-to-1. They also re-elected slow-growth Mayor Marshall Kamena and incumbent Councilman Tom Reitter, and placed longtime Friends of Livermore backer John Marchand on the City Council. The winners, who ran as a bloc, opposed the Pardee project; the losing council and mayor candidates supported it.
Pardee representatives declined to speculate about the future of the 1,400 acres but the company did release a statement suggesting the developer might take another shot in the future.
While Pardee was licking its wounds, developers 20 miles to the north were celebrating. A partnership headed by Castle Companies won the right to pursue a 700-unit “estate” housing project on the Roddy Ranch in Antioch. In neighboring Pittsburg, A.D. Seeno Construction was successful with its initiative, which would accommodate new housing subdivisions on its property. Unlike Pardee, Castle and Seeno spent only six-figure sums on the campaign.
What the initiatives in Antioch, Pittsburgh and Brentwood sought to do was give the Contra Costa County cities — and, some argue, developers — the upper hand in a long-running dispute between the cities and the county over growth boundaries (see CP&DR, September 2000, April 1999). In 1990, county voters directed the county to adopt an urban limit line that ensured no more than 35% of the county would be developed. The county adopted a loose urban limit line at first, and in 2000 it tightened the boundary by 14,000 acres, angering a number of city officials. Although the urban limit line is a policy of the county and not the cities, the Local Agency Formation Commission largely abided by the county-drawn boundary. Last year, voters approved a transportation sales tax measure that requires cities to have voter-approved urban growth boundaries by 2009 to qualify for the money if the cities and county cannot agree on countywide boundaries.
The cities and county have been unable to agree, so developers took control, placing growth boundaries on the ballots of three cities in November.
The Seeno-backed Measure P in Pittsburg sets a growth boundary outside the county’s urban limit line and prezones the land. It also helps carry out the city’s plans for the hills near the Concord Naval Weapons Station. Seeno controls about 600 of 2,400 acres involved and has plans for 1,700 housing units.
“The acts that they took help implement our general plan,” said Pittsburg Planning Director Melissa Ayers. “Much of it was planned for development.” The next step is for Seeno to go directly to LAFCO with an annexation request or to seek the city’s approval of the project subject to annexation, she said.
In Antioch, the election apparently concluded a decade of fighting over the fate of the Roddy Ranch. The city has long viewed the grassy hills of Roddy Ranch south of town as a growth area, and thousands of units have been proposed in the past. Opponents and the county’s tightened urban limit line helped kill those plans (Roddy Ranch got moved outside the growth boundary) and longtime property owner Jack Roddy lost the property in bankruptcy. Roddy, a former rodeo star and popular figure in town, remains the front man for the project, which backers now see as Antioch’s version of Blackhawk, a popular, gated subdivision in Danville.
Prior to the election, it appeared that developers would have the most success in Brentwood because development proponents, the school district and some slow-growth advocates reached a consensus on future development. But voters narrowly said no to Measure L, which would have made 1,300 acres outside the county’s urban limit line available for 2,800 housing units.
Despite the election results in Antioch and Pittsburg, the Sierra Club and Greenbelt Alliance vowed to continue fighting both the Roddy Ranch and Seeno developments.
“We may have lost the battle in Pittsburg and Antioch, but the war will go on,” said Greenbelt East Bay Field Representative David Reid. “There is more than enough land within the existing county urban limit line to accommodate housing and job growth for 20 to 30 years.”
About 100 miles south, in Monterey County, development interests lost at the ballot box — but the election may not have mattered. By a 3-to-1 ratio, Monterey County voters rejected the Rancho San Juan specific plan, which opponents had placed on the ballot via referendum.
However, one day before the election, the Board of Supervisors approved a revised specific plan that covered only one quarter of the 2,500-acre ranch, where 4,000 housing units and extensive retail development was planned. The revised specific plan provides only for HYH Development’s 1,100-unit Butterfly Village project, which had been only a small part of the referended specific plan. Supervisors said the county needs the housing, including the 30% of Butterfly Village units designated for low- and moderate-income residents.
Julie Engell, who heads the Rancho San Juan Opposition Coalition, said her group would pursue a referendum of the revised project. “People are angrier now than they were to start with. I really don’t think we’re going to have too much trouble gathering the signatures,” she said.
In Humboldt County, redevelopment opponents in the unincorporated towns of Redway and Manila won advisory elections. The county formed a redevelopment agency about two years ago and has been trying to settle on a noncontiguous project area ever since. All seven towns the county is eyeing were lumber towns where the mill closed and there has been little new private investment — classic cases where redevelopment is needed, said Humboldt County Planning Director Kirk Girard.
Skepticism of the county is strong, though. Girard said the county would drop Redway from the proposed redevelopment project area but intends to keep Manila in. There is a strong contingent that favors redevelopment in Manila, and the vote was fairly close, Girard said.
In Half Moon Bay, the City Council placed on the ballot an advisory measure that would prohibit the use of eminent domain in cases where the primary reason for condemnation would be more city revenue. The measure was a direct response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London. Not surprisingly, the ballot measure passed overwhelmingly.
• City of Livermore
Measure D would have expanded the city’s urban growth boundary by about 1,400 acres to permit development of 2,450 housing units and a neighborhood retail center. Measure E permits the city to tie into a regional wastewater treatment project, but limits the additional sewer service to areas inside the current growth boundary.
Measure D: No, 72.1% (Pro growth, no)
Measure E: Yes, 73.4% (Pro growth, yes)
In an advisory election, Measure I asked if voters supported development of more Indian casinos.
Measure I: No, 84.2% (Pro growth, no)
Contra Costa County
• City of Antioch
Measure K establishes the city’s growth boundary to take in an area where 700 high-end houses are proposed.
Measure K: Yes, 59.6% (Pro growth, yes)
• City of Brentwood
Measure L would have drawn a city growth boundary to permit potential development of 2,800 residential units on about 1,300 acres that now lie outside the county urban limit line.
Measure L: No, 50.8% (Pro growth, no) 164 votes
• City of Pittsburgh
Measure P sets the city’s growth boundary to include about 2,400 acres outside the county urban limit line.
Measure P: Yes, 51.5% (Pro growth, yes)
• City of Walnut Creek
A $21 million bond to build a new library failed to win two-thirds voter approval.
Measure R: No, 38.5% (two-thirds required)
El Dorado County
The first try at incorporation of El Dorado Hills, a rapidly-growing area on Highway 50 abutting Sacramento County with a population of about 30,000 people, failed after the county, and business and development interests mounted an aggressive campaign against cityhood.
Measure P: No, 57.0%
Measure R asked whether the county should place the Manila Community Services District in the county’s proposed redevelopment project area, while Measure S asked whether Redway CSD should be part of the redevelopment zone.
Measure R: No, 54.4% (Pro growth, no)
Measure S: No, 85.0% (Pro growth, no)
Los Angeles County
• City of Calabasas
Measure C was an advisory measure on whether the city should annex 152 acres on Mulholland Highway to accommodate a proposed 200-room resort and five estate homes. The project would replace an 81-lot subdivision that was approved by the county in 1998 but which was never built. Measure D prohibits changes to open space zoning without two-thirds voter approval.
Measure C: No, 59.9% (Pro growth, no)
Measure D: Yes, 84.2% (Slow growth, yes)
• City of Hermosa Beach
Measure E would have placed the “restricted open space zone” designation on the beach and the greenbelt that runs through town. The measure apparently could have prevented construction of recreational facilities and parking lots, and possibly limited large commercial events on the beach.
Measure E: No, 56.5%
Bolinas Community Public Utility District
Voters approved a downtown parking plan that precludes meters, clusters parking spots and simplifies signage.
Measure D: Yes, 54.6%
In a referendum, voters overwhelmingly rejected a specific plan for 2,500-acre Rancho San Juan. The precise impact of the voter is unclear, however, because the day before the election the Board of Supervisors revised the specific plan to cover only 670 acres, where about 1,100 housing units are planned.
Measure C: No, 75.8% (Slow growth, yes)
• Monterey Peninsula Water Management District
Measure W asked whether the district should study acquiring the system owned by California American Water.
Measure W: No, 62.8%
An advisory measure asked whether the county should designate 1,136 acres just west of Roseville for development of a private four-year university and adjoining community, a project backed by AKT Development.
Measure H: Yes, 60.6% (Pro growth, yes)
• City of Norco
Voters backed a city charter amendment to require four-fifths City Council approval for changes to agricultural, residential, hillside, planned development and specific plan zones.
Measure G: Yes, 74.5% (Slow growth, yes)
San Bernardino County
• City of Redlands
Measure P would have tightened existing growth controls by setting new standards for traffic, noise and building heights. Measure R was a referendum of an 85-house subdivision that the City Council had approved for lightly developed Live Oak Canyon. The seemingly conflicting results left both sides of the growth debate and the city in something of a conundrum.
Measure P: No, 62.8% (Slow growth, no)
Measure R: No, 58.1% (Slow growth, yes)
San Diego County
• City of Encinitas
In an advisory election, voters said they did not want the city to rezone 38 acres of the 68-acre Paul Ecke Ranch, a leading producer of flowers, from agricultural to residential. The rezoning would have permitted development of 101 houses, which ranch owners say is necessary to raise capital for the flower operation.
Proposition A: No, 65.4% (Pro growth, no)
A $208 million bond to improve streets and sidewalks failed to received two-thirds voter approval.
Measure B: No, 43.8% (two-thirds required)
San Mateo County
• City of Belmont
A ballot measure that prevents development of the rugged hillsides above Carlmont High School and in the San Juan Canyon without subsequent voter approval won easily.
Measure F: Yes, 73.5% (Slow growth, yes)
• City of Half Moon Bay
A measure endorsed by the Half Moon Bay City Council prohibits the city from using eminent domain to take property primarily for the purpose of “increased city revenue.”
Measure O: Yes, 72.8% (Slow growth, yes)
Santa Clara County
• City of Cupertino
Voters rejected three growth-control initiatives. Measure A would have limited mixed-use and residential development to 15 units per acre. Measure B would have prohibited buildings more than 36 feet tall. Measure C would have required most new buildings to be set back at least 35 feet from the street. All three initiatives contained exceptions for the area around Vallco Mall. The local Building Industry Association, business groups and environmentalists all joined together to fight the initiatives, arguing that Cupertino can provide good infill development sites.
Measure A: No, 53.6% (Slow growth, no)
Measure B: No, 54.0% (Slow growth, no)
Measure C: No, 58.1% (Slow growth, no)
• City of Fillmore
In an “Article 34” election, voters rejected a measure that would have permitted development of up to 100 units of low- and moderate-income rental housing units. City officials said they would probably pursue the projects anyway.
Measure C5: No, 56.9% (Pro growth, no)
• City of Davis
The proposed 1,800-unit Covell Village project — a follow up to the Village Homes project, an environmentally oriented project built during the 1970s — failed to win approval. A ballot measure approved in 2000 required voters to decide on the 400-acre project because it lies on agricultural land north of the current city limits.
Measure X: No, 58.7% (Pro growth, no)
An advisory measure asked voters whether a “destination resort/hotel and American Indian gaming casino” should be constructed near an existing concert amphitheater south of Marysville.
Measure G: No, 52.1% (Pro growth, no)