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Local land use measures pile up on November ballots

Martha Bridegam on
Jul 22, 2014

November's local ballots aren't quite final; officials are still checking signatures on many petitions. But it's late enough in the season to have a sense of what's headed for a vote. (Especially in San Francisco and Santa Monica.) Here are some highlights of local measures likely to be on November ballots that are related to land use: [This article was revised July 29, mainly to reflect the compromise that is now likely to take two housing measures off San Francisco's local ballot.]

  • City of Alameda: The Crab Cove Open Space Expansion Initiative would rezone a property in the disputed Neptune Point waterfront area that had been the subject of a housing development plan. The proponents' site is at http://friendsofcrownbeach.com/. More on related City Council action at http://bit.ly/1rl90xy.
  • Four counties -- Butte, Mendocino, San Benito and Santa Barbara -- have fracking bans headed for their ballots; Mendocino's would be especially strict.
  • Costa Mesa's City Council has definitely placed a city charter proposal on the city's November ballot. This is a second try: a similar charter proposal, Measure V, was defeated in 2012. See http://bit.ly/1mgfUhj and, for a prior mention with links, http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3467. The charter description is linked from the city site at http://www.costamesaca.gov/index.aspx?page=1675, as are materials from March 18, April 22 and July 1 meetings on the issue.
  • City of Pismo Beach: would make additions to city's sphere of influence for development in Price Canyon: See http://bit.ly/1nOA5mZ.
  • City of Placerville: would ban roundabouts and traffic circles unless specifically approved by voters. The proponent group, Friends of Historic Hangtown, discusses the underlying Main Street roundabout dispute at http://saveourcounty.net/projects/placerville-roundabout-main-st/. A Google terrain view of the intersection described, showing the awkward not-quite-meeting of Cedar Ravine and Clay Streets at Main, is at http://bit.ly/1mY8OOZ.
  • City of Santa Monica:
    • A ballot measure would increase the real estate transfer tax only for sales of $1 million or more, and a companion advisory measure would "allow voters to express their preference" that the funds be spent for affordable housing. See http://www.smvote.org/BallotMeasures/.
    • The Santa Monica Lookout reports a third housing measure will appear on the ballot as well, to increase registration fees for landlords while reducing how much of that can be charged to tenants. See http://bit.ly/1wSbAL3.
    • Proponents of continuing aviation at Santa Monica Airport have qualified a measure that would require future voter approval to convert the site to any other use. It's the latest round in a fight that has included federal litigation against the FAA (see http://lat.ms/1k8IpDq), allegations by aviation proponents that airport commissioners have conflicts of interest (see http://lat.ms/1t5xM4d) and a legal challenge by opponents of the ballot measure who have called the airport a hazard to nearby residents: (see http://bit.ly/1jSbfYi and http://bit.ly/1zYB3qK).
    • The Santa Monica City Council decided to rescind its approval of the Hines "Bergamot Transit Village" development in May, preempting a petition against the project that had the signature to go to the voters. See the final item at http://www.smvote.org/BallotMeasures/ and a commiserating developer's eulogy for the project via http://www.planetizen.com/articles/node-69407.
  • City of San Francisco: San Francisco has an especially large number of ballot measures pending for November. Among them:
    • Proponents of two rival San Francisco housing measures have agreed to withdraw them from the ballot in favor of a single affordable-housing proposal. Supervisor Jane Kim had obtained the required four Supervisors' votes for a "Housing Balance" measure to require 30% affordable units in new residential construction. Mayor Ed Lee had responded with his own "Build Housing Now" proposal to invalidate Kim's proposal and remove other regulatory constraints on residential construction, while stating policies in favor of affordability. Pressures to avoid a public battle between the two measures included a widely shared critical commentary on both by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, available at http://bit.ly/1qZ6yL3. The San Francisco ballot measure status page at http://www.sfgov2.org/index.aspx?page=2969 still shows the proposals as filed but news reports said Kim and Lee agreed June 24 to cooperate on placing a single new measure before the voters that sets housing goals and policies and calls for planning in favor of affordability. See http://bit.ly/1xtqFDm. The alternative SF Bay Guardian criticized the new proposal as unenforceable. See http://bit.ly/UIJKEC.
    • An "anti-speculation tax" measure would impose an extra tax on real estate that changes hands within five years. (See Morris Newman's commentary on whether it will work, at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3519.)
    • Two mutually exclusive measures on the Golden Gate Park athletic fields renovation, where controversy has flared over the proposed addition of astroturf, bright lights, and added space and facilities for spectators. All through the spring, signature collectors haunted organic grocery stores and left-leaning events with  petition against the astroturf plan, and their persistence paid off by qualifying the measure. In response a majority of the Board of Supervisors approved a ballot measure for the disputed astroturf, lights and other construction. For details see http://bit.ly/UrzQHz.
    • Proponents of redevelopment at Pier 70's Union Iron Works complex have gathered signatures for a measure measure approving redevelopment of the Union Iron Works complex at Pier 70, in a preemptive response to the June-passed Proposition B restriction on waterfront height limits The measure is likely to pass, but whether it will take effect depends in part on the newly filed State Lands Commission lawsuit against Prop B, which argues that state port lands are not subject to governance by local city voters. The State Lands Commission complaint, which is available at http://bit.ly/1wU6qOJ, alleges that the Pier 70 ballot measure shares this defect with Prop B.
    • The "Restore Transportation Balance" proposal, a pushback against the city's use of new parking meters and increased rates to push people toward active and public transportation. Streetsblog SF notes in a link-rich item at http://bit.ly/1rkqNVR that the measure is backed by Facebook co-founder Sean Parker. It has been greeted with sarcasm from several quarters (including Streetsblog at http://bit.ly/1mSrCEo), but the conservative Potrero View neighborhood paper was cheering for the group at http://www.potreroview.net/feat10582.html. The group's own home page is at http://www.restorebalance14.org/. The initiative would mandate free Sunday parking, condition new and variable-rate meters on a local neighborhood petition process, freeze city parking rates for five years, and increase representation for "motorists" in SFMTA governance. (In the meantime SFMTA restored free Sunday parking in most of the city. See http://sfmta.com/news/notices/sunday-parking-meter-changes-effective-july-2014.)

For an incomplete but helpful general roster of local California ballot measures on all topics, see Ballotpedia at http://bit.ly/1nuVCqG.

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