Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Local Land-Use Matters Split November Ballot

The San Diego Union Tribune identified 17 key local land-use matters before California voters on Tuesday.  After all the votes were cast, nine resulted in positive news for the building industry, while eight weren’t so great.  See the rundown below.

Merced County Measure C: Voter Confirmation of Zoning Changes - Failed

Considered a slow growth initiative and known originally as the “Save Farmland Initiative,” Measure C would amend the county’s general plan to require voter approval whenever ten or more acres would be converted from agricultural or open space to residential use.

Yes 43.84%

No 56.16%


Winner by a landslide!

Yesterday was more than election day … it was also Christine Iger’s Election Day Lunch, a longstanding OC tradition Laer has been involved with since its inception (or almost since its inception … it’s hard to remember back that far!).

This year one of the tasks that fell to LP&A was to design the trophies for the first ever “Best Election Day Costume” and “Best Political Pin Collection” contests.  Laer and Lauren worked it and came up with the idea of a can of soup … but not just any soup:



What do you think? Should we make it into a T-shirt?

The Weekly 3: Land Development

What are the three biggest stories each week in the world of California land development?  You’ll find them right here each Monday, or follow LP&A all week long on Twitter at @LPALand for up-to-the-minute news and analysis.  This week:

1. Is Developing Alameda Point worth the hassle?

Alameda Point - What Could Have Been

The city of Alameda voted last week to terminate an exclusive negotiating agreement with SunCal for development of the city’s former Navy base, which closed 15 years ago.  SunCal invested nearly $15 million during its four-year process, but was stymied by ever-changing political winds, a city staff with personal agendas and a public that’s not happy without a fight on its hands.  SunCal came on board in 2006 after a partnership of Shea and Catellus got fed up and walked away, which begs the question:  Is developing Alameda Point worth the hassle?  >>Read More


Voters Send Mixed Messages on Ballot-Box Planning

Did you follow Measure N on the June 8 primary ballot up in Sutter Creek? No? Well we did track it, because it was one of the only referenda in the primary challenging the approval of a housing project. At the polls, 586 residents of the Amador County town voted “yes,” and 594 voted “no,” meaning the City Council’s earlier approval of the proposed Gold Rush Ranch and Golf Resort has been overturned – by eight votes.

[Update: Absentee ballots turned the election around, swinging the results to a 12-vote victory for Gold Rush Ranch's advocates.]

Closer to our home in Orange County – and closer to our client list – was Mission Viejo’s Measure D. The ballot-box planning initiative grew out of public opposition to an assisted-living facility project we worked on – a project that died in the economic downturn long before Measure D was placed on the ballot. After a spirited campaign, 62.4 percent of Mission Viejo voters emphatically said “no” to ballot-box planning.

In other conflicting election results:

  • Voters in the City of Brentwood denied an initiative making it possible to develop about 750 acres, but…
  • Voters in Santa Clara paved the way for a new San Francisco 49ers stadium.

So what can the builder/developer community take away from these results?

On the surface, not much. Very different towns voted very differently on very different ballot measures. But the fact they were even on the ballot is a great example of the public’s current low regard for both government and private companies – and their growing desire to have more say in the development process.

Need more proof? Just look at PG&E’s Proposition 16. PG&E spent nearly $25 for each of the votes it got in favor of the company’s self-serving proposition. Opponents spent less than a nickel for each of the votes they gathered, successfully playing David to PG&E’s Goliath. Mercury Insurance suffered a similar, less costly, defeat on its corporate venture into propositions.

Neither proposition was particularly reprehensible, so the vote shows that Californians don’t like it when corporations try to make laws. The folks with Gold Rush Ranch may have suffered from a similar dislike and distrust of corporations.

Lack of Public Trust May Lead to More Referenda

So, if you’re a big corporation and there are laws you’d like passed, go through the legislature – voters can be too unpredictable.

And if you must launch or fight a referendum, know that it’s definitely winnable, but prepare for a tough slog because voters up and down the state have little trust in either government or big business, and are clamoring for more input in anything affecting their quality of life. Our approach has always been to get more than 50 percent of the community behind a project as we go through the city or county approval process, so our client is well prepared, should a referendum be in the cards. In today’s environment, planning for a referendum from the beginning will make it much easier to accomplish your goals in the end.

Bummed Out Voters In OC

Here’s a troubling stat, from the Brandman University 2010 State of Orange County survey:

In 2000, 38 percent of Orange County residents felt their quality of life was going very well, and only nine percent thought it was going badly. In 2010, eight percent thought their quality of life was going very well and 35 percent thought it was going badly. This dramatic reversal means, at one level, a greater dissatisfaction with local government.

In our experience, there is a far greater chance decisions made by local government will be challenged by referenda in times like these, compared to more happy-go-lucky times.