Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Jay Reed offers his opinions on Measure N and Measure M

Successful Land Use Measures in the Bay Area?

Hi everyone. It's Jay Reed again. Hope everyone had a great holiday season. Today's blog has to with a couple of successful land use measures that were on last November's ballot. 

Each passing year brings new challenges to the State of California. From freeway congestion to water supply and climate change to cost of living, California residents deal with a myopia of issues to grapple with every day. Not too distant from the periphery of every day lives is one that most of us don't even think about: land use. 

Land use in California is a slippery slope. After all we want to protect precious open space but we all understand the need for housing (as long as it's not in our backyard). It's no secret that large businesses want to be located in California. But in addition to the increased tax burden that the state is imposing on both small and large businesses, the cost of living for most employees to live and work near their employers is out of reach. 

Take the Bay Area for example. Some of Fortune 500's largest businesses call the South Bay home, such as Cisco, Netflix, Apple, Google, Juniper, Yahoo and on and on. And while Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino and San Jose all reap the rewards of huge businesses located in their respective cities, most employees are forced to call Stockton, Manteca and Gilroy home. In fact San Jose was just listed as the most expensive city in the entire country. 

Why are these towns so expensive? Because they've done an awful job of planning for their future. And residents that are fortunate enough to call these places home are arguably the worst offenders of encouraging more housing in their communities. They mistakingly think that more housing means more traffic. That's a fallacy. The lack of housing and encouraging more business causes more traffic. One only has to travel on 280 or 85 each day to see the lines of cars waiting to exit De Anza Boulevard for their jobs at Apple to understand this point. 

On the flip side of this argument is in Redwood City where the city has encouraged high density development in its downtown. The only problem is that the city has done little or nothing to encourage walkability and transit friendly development. The downtown is completely untenable now and takes up to 30 minutes to travel two blocks on Jefferson Ave. Freeway congestion on Highway 101 is nearly backed up between Highway 92 and Highway 85 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. everyday. 

So with all this in mind, I was encouraged that two measures on the November 2014 ballot, land use measures in fact, passed.  One was Measure M in Menlo Park (Menlo Park is a strong anti-growth town, as is most towns along the Peninsula) and the other was Measure N in San Bruno.

Anti growth groups put Measure M on the ballot in Menlo Park, which would have altered the city's general plan prohibiting office space and other housing development in Menlo Park. Measure M was soundly defeated by the voters. It's an interesting juxtaposition from what most observers are used to on the Peninsula. 

Measure N in San Bruno lifted antiquated development guidelines. Planners and developers are hopeful that by lifting these rules would spur economic investment and development in San Bruno's downtown. San Bruno voters resoundingly passed Measure N.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Jay Reed shares his thoughts on Measure KK in Union City

Land use has become an increasingly controversial issue, not just in California but across the United States. There are numerous examples of residents and elected leaders taking more and more issue with planning across all parts of the country. But here in California, particularly in the Bay Area, land use dominates nearly every city council meeting nearly every week. Its a way of life in Northern California politics.

There were a number of land use issues on the ballot this past November but I thought I would look at one in the East Bay: Measure KK in Union City.

At its simplest, Measure KK was about the Masonic Homes of California expanding its facility so that it can continue to provide its services well into the future. What it became was an open space issue.

The Masons need to expand their facility so that it can keep up with the projected growth of incoming seniors. There are studies that suggest one in five Californians will be age 65 or older within the next few years. So to accommodate for future demand, the Masons sought to expand their facility on 63 acres directly adjacent to their property.

Sounds simple. Sounds reasonable. At least, one would think. But this is California politics. And it has to do with land use.

The 63 acres that the Masons wanted to expand their facility is part of a 6100 acre hillside protection ordinance that Union City passed almost 20 years. So the Masons couldn't just put an application in with the city. They needed voter approval.

The campaign started as a very straightforward education campaign from the Masons but, like most land use campaigns, ended with the Masons being labeled as greedy and thoughtless with "developer" being thrown in for good measure.

I think there needs to be balance in our land use planning. But hardcore open space advocates disagree. It's an "all or nothing" approach, usually. Despite the good intentions behind many proposals, such as the Masons here in Union City.

So towards the end of the campaign, those willing to not compromise defaced many of the Masons signs around town and even their current facility signs. And the outcome? Well, when the Masons were being labeled as uncaring or greedy, it's hard for most voters to line themselves up as against the greater environmental good, so Measure KK was soundly defeated. Which is too bad. We need more, not less, senior services.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Measure E in Milpitas

First, a shameless plug of who we are. 

Ok, as move around the state recapping various elections Mike and I thought we would start in the fine city of Milpitas. Lying just north of San Jose in Santa Clara County moving up the east side of the Bay lays the bedroom community of Milpitas. Wikipedia says that there are some 70,000 residents in Milpitas. And a recent review of the voter rolls show that there are some 24,000 voters in Milpitas. Pretty even split between men and women, and like most Bay Area cities, more Democrats than Republicans by 2 to 1. 

Also, like most Bay Area towns, Milpitas has had to make some serious cuts to its budget lately, including cuts to its police and fire departments. So, in an effort to recoup some of those lost dollars, the city placed on the November 2014 ballot, Measure E. In a nutshell, Measure E asked Milpitas voters whether they would be in favor of an existing card room in Santa Clara County relocate to Milpitas. If a cardamom did in fact move to Milpitas, the city would have eventually realized more than $8 million per year in added revenue. Revenue that could be used to fix roads, add personnel to its emergency service departments, helped parks...on and on.  

Now mind you, should Measure E have passed at the local level, the relocating card room would still had to have received favorable legislation in Sacramento.  Various media reports intimated and campaign contribution reports confirmed that the relocating card room would have probably been Bay 101. This is the same card room that wanted to expand a few years back in San Jose but was unsuccessful with San Jose voters. 

Having worked on a number of gaming issues in California over the years, it's very easy to surmise both the pro and con arguments of urban gaming. The "NO" side will argue increased crime while the "YES" side will argue increased local revenue and more jobs. In a campaign like this, in a community like Milpitas, the outcome usually will always depend on messenger. Can credible third parties advocate for an issue like urban gaming? Or will residents rally? 

Measure E was defeated. Soundly. By about a three to one margin. Why? Probably because those who signed on as early supporters either backed off from perceived political pressure or never showed up to advocate their support. Afraid of perceived political backlash at some point in the future or concerned about eventual neighborhood mistrust, supporters never rallied enough voters to show up. A little more than 25 percent of all voters even showed up. 

Not sure what the solution is to make up lost revenue in a city. But it sure isn't increased taxes. So cities like Milpitas usually gaze their attention to development, which brings an added layer of concern like increased traffic. 

What's next for Milpitas? Only time will tell.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Welcome to the Punchline

Greetings Political Junkies.

My name is Jay Reed. I have more than 20 years experience in public affairs specializing in political campaigns and complex issue-oriented projects.

I'm dedicating this blog to highlighting past and present political issues (mostly in California) that warrant unbiased commentary. Having worked on a number of political campaigns in 2014, it's an interesting time to recap what happened and maybe look ahead to what's in store for California, or what my colleague and friend, Laer Pearce, affectionately calls "Crazifornia."