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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