Last November, the Bay Area electorate headed to the polls to help decide the fate of several important land-use issues. As our votes slowly turn into policy and action on the ground, Bay Nature asked two regional open space advocacy organizations to share their views on the outcome.
“On the whole, the results of the election are good for the environment. Many people voted to fund parks, protect open space, and define urban limit lines,” says Elizabeth Stampe of Greenbelt Alliance. She says the defeat of Proposition 90 was critical; the bill was touted as eminent domain reform but would have had broad ramifications for all kinds of government regulation. “A huge factor in defeating the measure was the unprecedented breadth of organizations that came together to defeat it.”
Voters passed Proposition 84, the statewide initiative that will fund water and land conservation. “It shows that voters care about water and open space protection, so necessary to the future of our state,” says Bettina Ring of the Bay Area Open Space Council. The bond includes $400 million for state parks, while parks in urban areas and other underserved communities will receive $200 million from the affordable housing bond Proposition 1c.
Both organizations welcomed the success of Measure F in Sonoma County, which sailed through with 75 percent of the vote. The measure renews a local sales tax that will provide between $17 and $30 million for protection of open space and farmland. By adding funds for maintenance and operations to those for acquisition, the new bond will allow several previously acquired properties to be opened to the public.
There are more reasons to celebrate: Jerry McNerney is walking the halls of Washington (replacing archconservative Richard Pombo), Contra Costa County renewed urban limit lines, Napa County approved the formation of a park and open space district, and the city of Morgan Hill voted to keep its greenbelt green by investing and promoting growth in its downtown area.
The election outcome wasn’t completely rosy for open space advocates. Orderly growth initiatives in Solano and Santa Clara counties failed by narrow margins. The reason, says Stampe, is that both sides of each campaign used the same rhetoric. “Developers are talking about controlling growth, relieving traffic congestion, and protecting farmland, when they are actually doing the opposite,” she says.
An effort to institute a sales tax in San Mateo to provide dedicated funding for county parks failed to get the two-thirds majority required for new taxes. Backers are promising to try again in 2008.