El Dorado County supervisors completed their review of the “Reinstate Measure Y’s Original Intent — No More Paper Roads” initiative at the Aug. 26 Board of Supervisors meeting, and in accordance with the California Elections Code, they assigned the measure to the June 2016 statewide election. The motion passed unanimously by the four sitting supervisors and included a caveat that in the event the state calls an election prior to June 2016, the initiative would appear on the local ballot.
Despite a last-minute appeal by its proponents, for now, the vote closed a specific debate over the local initiative process and the Board of Supervisors’ authority to delay an initiative’s progress to an upcoming election. Following the board’s 3-1 vote on July 29, again under state code, the initiative was forwarded to county staff for an analysis of its potential economic impacts on the county. That action effectively consigned the measure to a two-year delay, because the deadline for November’s election was Aug. 8, and the study process was anticipated to take up to four weeks to complete. The staff report, presented at Tuesday’s regular meeting, was prepared under the direction of the county’s Chief Administrative Office and delivered by Deputy County Counsel Dave Livingston.
Acknowledging “numerous complexities associated with interpretation of the initiative language,” Livingston cited the report and noted, “The potential impact is dependent on many variables that are not fully known at this time.” Overall, however, the report generally represents a pessimistic view of the potential impacts to the county’s economic well-being if it were to be approved by voters.
“At minimum, the proposed initiative will likely have a noticeable impact on construction jobs, particularly sub-sectors of the construction industry involved with single-family residential development,” the report states. A further assumption is that a “stagnancy in retail jobs” could result from the anticipated construction trade losses of approximately 10 percent over 10 years. The report calls the 10 percent a “very conservative estimate.”
Perhaps the most controversial elements of the initiative described in the report relate to the county’s Measure Y, passed in 1998 and renewed in 2008 by more than 60 percent of the county’s voters. Measure Y limits certain residential developments if it is determined that corresponding increases in traffic would negatively affect a range of county roads and highways. As written, the initiative would prevent approval for any residential development of five or more units or parcels whose anticipated traffic would lead to or worsen a Level of Service F (gridlock, stop-and-go) on local roads with a handful of exceptions. Under Measure Y, through the year 2018, the county may allow LOS F on certain portions of Highway 50 particularly through the three traffic lights in Placerville. Sections of Cameron Park Drive, Cambridge Road, Missouri Flat Road, Pleasant Valley Road and Highway 49 also are allowed to be at or exceed LOS F. Caltrans, the state transportation division, has already declared Highway 50 between the county line and El Dorado Hills Blvd. to be at LOS F, and from Cameron Park Drive to the west county line fast approaching the same designation.
“Current policy TC-Xa (part of Measure Y incorporated into the county’s general plan) provides two methods for the county to add to the list of roads allowed to operate at Level of Service F: (1) by obtaining the voters’ approval or (2) by a 4/5 vote of the Board of Supervisors. The initiative would remove the second method,” the report states.
Many supporters of the initiative acknowledge that they do not trust the Board of Supervisors with the No. 2 option above, fearing that it could be used to allow larger developments to proceed without first being responsible for constructing adequate infrastructure prior to the expected impacts caused by the development. “The board has never attempted to exercise the 4/5 vote option,” according to the report.
Current policy requires that developer fees plus any other available money must fully fund the building of all necessary improvements to mitigate new development’s traffic impacts. The initiative would have specifically identified the prevention of LOS F by cumulative traffic increases and that the necessary infrastructure construction be “fully completed before any form of discretionary approval can be given to a project,” the report notes.
In its Discussion Section 3, the report says that “potentially,” discretionary approval of a project could depend upon the advance completion of the road improvements. “This requirement would impose a significant and often insurmountable hurdle for proposed residential and non-residential discretionary projects,” the report cautions.
Opposition to the report’s conclusions and to the board’s likely referral of the initiative to 2016 combined as eight speakers addressed supervisors asking that they adopt the initiative as written within 10 days (one option under state elections code). Returning to a theme expressed throughout the spring and summer, proponents and supporters implored the board to recognize the grass-roots effort to create and qualify the proposed initiative for November that garnered more than 7,900 voter signatures.
If the board refused to adopt it right away, “You should know that 10,000 people (are not) going to be very happy,” Rod Pimental of Pollock Pines suggested. Melody Lane from Coloma urged the board to “do the right thing” by “(righting) the wrong that was done last month.”
Sam Parlin several times told the board that he was “pissed” and dared supervisors to “prove me wrong” about the so-called “backroom deal” by supervisors and developers that re-wrote Measure Y in 2008. According to sources familiar with the 2008 “backroom deal,” former supervisor Jack Sweeney, current District 4 Supervisor Ron Briggs, former District 4 Supervisor Bill Center, Jim Moore, Kirk Bone with Parker Development and a couple of others got together and rewrote elements of Measure Y that included the 4/5 option to the county Board of Supervisors.
Bone testified at the Feb. 2 Board of Supervisors meeting that, indeed, he and the others re-crafted Measure Y in a back room at the county government center, and that the measure eventually was approved by 72 percent of the voters. He said he was not aware of any other “backroom deal.”
Disagreements over interpretation of the initiative have ranged through a wide spectrum of concern for loss of board authority and fear of a “fill the moat and raise the drawbridge” against further residential development. On the other side, some area residents feel the county is strong-arming them into giving up control over the nature and identity of their communities. Many of those citizens have organized under several banners such as “No San Stino” and “No Tilden Park” in the Shingle Springs Community Alliance opposed to specific proposals in the Shingle Springs area. Kindred groups include Save Our County and the Green Valley Road Alliance. Members of the different groups tend to support one or more of the other so-called “slow-growth” initiatives that did qualify for the November ballot.
Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or [email protected] Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.