News


Open space bond measure clears two-thirds hurdle

It was a close vote, but Measure AA, the $300 million bond measure for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, passed narrowly in the June 3 election.

Passage required approval by two-thirds (or 66.67 percent) of the voters. Of 111,464 votes cast, 68 percent were in favor.

The district declared victory on June 9.

"It is terrific to live in a place that puts such a high value on protecting our scarce natural areas for future generations, and we're incredibly grateful to this community's strong support," said Walter Moore, president of the Peninsula Open Space Trust, which, along with the Sempervirens Fund, provided much of the financial backing for the bond measure's campaign.

The vote totals as of Monday, June 16, were: Yes, 75,752 (68 percent). No, 35,712 (32 percent).

The district occupies large areas of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, and a small part of Santa Cruz County, where there are just four registered voters

The vote by county:

● San Mateo County: Yes, 24,781 (66.3 percent). No, 12,606 (33.7 percent).

● Santa Clara County: Yes, 50970 (68.81 percent). No, 23,105 (31.19 percent).

● Santa Cruz County: Yes, 1. No, 1.

Comments

Posted by Hill Mom, a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I would have voted for the measure if MROSD planned to spend all the money on maintaining, managing and opening up more of the 62,000 acres they already own. More than half of their property is behind locked gates. A recent article in the HMB Review stated that they plan on spending $150 million on further acquisitions. Their west-of-Skyline acquisitions remove property from the county tax rolls, impacting both coastal school districts dramatically, financially and population-wise. It was not an over-whelming victory so hopefully the board will take note and stick to their vision project priorities and steer away from further acquisitions.


Posted by fwiw, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 9, 2014 at 1:34 pm

> Their west-of-Skyline acquisitions remove property from the county tax rolls, impacting both coastal school districts dramatically, financially and population-wise.

I'm sorry, this is not correct. Most of the land acquired has been from land trusts, non-profits, and public agencies which are already tax exempt. Outside of this, much of the land under consideration is property that carries an already exceptionally low basis valuation and would likely maintain that exemption owing to being held as LLC, REIT, or partnership which have so far been able to exploit Prop 13 loopholes for transfer without basis revaluation.

More significantly, Cabrillo Unified is a "revenue limit" school district which means that its funding structure is back filled by the state, so by definition there is zero impact here. LHPUSD is a basic aid district, but the fiscal impact analysis report indicates that the loss to the LHPUSD would be $273/year over the next 15 years. In lieu of a cash payment to the district, MROSD and LHPUSD agreed to the funding of a district supported conservation education program.


Posted by Coastsider, a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2014 at 2:07 pm

FWIW you are incorrect. The fiscal impact analysis report is based solely on what property taxes were being paid on those properties prior to transfer to MROSD. If the properties were sold to private owners, the property taxes paid on those properties would increase significantly to the newly established value. And although some of those properties pay reduced tax due to the Williamson Act, they would only continue to pay reduced taxes if the property continued to be used primarily for agricultural purposes.

The inconvenient truth is that MROSD's mission does not include supporting infrastructure in the communities in which they conduct their mission. That makes them neighbors who don't pay their fair share, when you live on this side of the hill.


Posted by fwiw, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 9, 2014 at 5:37 pm


Coastsider, a couple of things:

Specifically with respect to the schools, I completely stand by my point concerning the Cabrillo School district. Even if every parcel under discussion was fully valued, my back of the envelope calculation is that the district would remain a "revenue limit" district as it is now, which means that its funding levels are and will continue to be back filled by state funds. Hence the parcel valuation is a red herring wrt the Cabrillo School District.

As to the LHPUSD, let's start by considering how much we are really talking about. The Fiscal Impact analysis at the time of annexation indicates prospective acquisition in the Coastside area of 11,800 acres, 8.8% of which would potentially be within the LHPUSD boundary, or 1038 acres. The existing prospective tax basis was approximated to be $460/acre on land fully valued at $8000/acre. Some of those lands would not be directly acquired but rather a conservation easement purchased which limit the land's value to about 20% of full valuation. In any event, let's make it simple and say in aggregate that we are at most discussing approximately $8-10M of prospective valuation. The aggregate property taxes on that are potentially $100K/year of which approximately 20% would go to the LHPUSD.
So we are talking about $20,000/yr of school funding with 359 students currently in the district. So we are talking about approximately $55 per student IF all of the lands under consideration were valued at their full FMV.

BUT, here's were we veer off in opinion. You somehow believe that these lands would inevitably become appraised at full FMV if the MROSD was not involved. I take issue with this since as the fiscal impact analysis notes, 80% of the acquired lands already have a low basis value by virtue of their acquisition by non-profit land trusts. But completely ignoring the issue of the Williamson Act, the unfortunate fact is that most people are unaware of the extent to which Prop 13 is being taken advantage of by LLC and partner ship constructs which are used to transfer commercial properties without incurring reappraisal to FMV. Shares are issued for ownership of the land and the corporation continue indefinitely while the shares themselves are transferred. One might think that it would be the case that if 100% of the shares are transferred that would result in reassessment, but legal stricture have constructed straightforward ways around that. Whether non-profits are involved or not, when these lands are transferred, I'll bet you that less than 15% actually see an FMV valuation.

So, to summarize maybe we're talking about $20K/yr but that is a really, really hypothetical number. Eliminating the existence of MROSD would not accrue the LHPUSD that $20K.



Posted by fwiw, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 9, 2014 at 5:48 pm

A final comment:

If you go down the path of assuming that the property would ultimately be developed, you are really opening up a can of worms. To the extent that you claim residential development would increase the land valuation, you have to consider the impact of the population increase wrt the school district. Given that only 5% of the districts in the state have basic aid status, I would be quite surprised to discover that residential development would turn out to be a net positive to the district even with fully adjusting to lot valuation. Feel free to work the calculations but don't forget to include the additional facility development costs which are only partially covered by the state mandated developer's fees.

The county would win if you were to develop these lands, but LHPUSD would lose. In Cabrillo's case it would be a wash since they get their funding from the state.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2014 at 7:13 am

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

Not in San Mateo County, So far the Yes votes have not reached the 2/3 required.


Posted by fwiw, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:37 am

> Not in San Mateo County, So far the Yes votes have not reached the 2/3 required.

Doesn't matter. It's the aggregate number for the entirety of the district across all three county borders (1 vote from Santa Cruz County so far).


Posted by Coastsider, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:42 am

Dear FWIW:

Interesting that you have bent yourself into a pretzel trying to minimize the impact of MROSD on LHPUSD, a school district that you evidently do not live in and clearly have very little knowledge of. In Woodside $20K may be petty cash, but out here, $20K is real money. And what a bizarre statement, "The county would win if you were to develop these lands..." First of all, I'm not a developer, so not sure why you are expecting me to develop those lands. Second of all, "development" of these lands, based on the stringent zoning restrictions, would not involve significant housing density. Third, a property purchased by a private buyer would have its assessed valuation raised to the purchase price. Many of these lands have been held by families for generations and are paying relatively low property taxes. POST pays no property taxes. A private owner would actually pay taxes to support infrastructure, including schools, in our community.

Instead of wearing out your pencil (and your envelope) arguing that LHPUSD would not get any significant tax revenues should those parcels be sold to private buyers, why don't you flex that considerable energy of yours in contemplating the impact of MROSD on the rural, unincorporated communities in its midst? What does MROSD do to be a good neighbor? To contribute to this community? If agricultural activities are included on MROSD properties, those activities require agricultural workers. Those workers don't live in Woodside or Portola Valley or Palo Alto. They live out here. Their families need infrastructure (housing, education, health and human services.) What does MROSD do to contribute to the cost of those services?

Please answer that question.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2014 at 11:12 am

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

Where does it say that?

Doesn't matter. It's the aggregate number for the entirety of the district across all three county borders (1 vote from Santa Cruz County so far).

How can one vote in Santa Cruz be 100%, did the property owners know that?


Posted by fwiw, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 10, 2014 at 12:07 pm

> How can one vote in Santa Cruz be 100%, did the property owners know that?

I agree that it sounds pretty funny (and not in a funny ha ha way), so my first thought was also that Santa Cruz voters must have been somehow disenfranchised.

But that's apparently not what happened. If you overlay the MROSD boundary map onto the counties map, you'll see that a miniscule part of Santa Cruz County stretches into the heart of the Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve which is part of MROSD, but the county is otherwise outside of the district boundaries. I presume that there are a very few parcels on the south side of Skyline within that area just as there are a few parcels adjacent to the El Corte de Madera Preserve Area on the coastal side of Skyline. In a 20% turnout election, I suppose that it's not shocking that we'd get just one vote from this area.

Where does it say that [that it's the aggregate vote that matters]?

California Constitution. Special Districts (unlike cities) can cross county lines. They are elected by the voters within their district and have a single board of directors, not multiple independent county level boards. Apparently there are quite a number of similar examples such as Fire and Water districts that serve multiple counties.

Citizen's Guide to Special Districts - Web Link


Posted by fwiw, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 10, 2014 at 3:09 pm

> you'll see that a miniscule part of Santa Cruz County stretches into the heart of the Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve

Santa Cruz Precinct 50223 - 4 registered voters


Posted by Skylonda Resident, a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 15, 2014 at 11:02 pm

An interesting tidbit to keep in mind while debating how MROSD acquisitions might or might now impact school funding: La Honda/Pescadero Unified School district is the third best funded district in the county of San Mateo, and the seventh best funded in the state of California.


Posted by fwiw, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 16, 2014 at 2:03 pm

> La Honda/Pescadero Unified School district is the third best funded district in the county of San Mateo, and the seventh best funded in the state of California

Agree. There are just so many arguments but I don't have time to argue every point. Coastsider fixated on my theoretical $20K number but as I pointed out they for a variety of reasons they will be lucky would be lucky to see 1/10th that number in the next 20 years. I can't go look at every parcel sale but consider the two highest profile parcels in recent memory on the coast where Vinod Khosla paid almost $38M in 2008. Those two parcels currently pay a combined property tax of $40K ($35K + $5K). And then there's the fact that any higher use of the property is going to bring more students to the district. It is a net loss even at max property value if it brings just two(!) more students to the district.

And then the whole subject of railing against the district is silly in the first place. May as well rail against every other charitable organization in the district that has an exemption, most especially every church. And then double down on the the coastal state park land since the mrosd property is a pittance.

And then finally there is the subject of fairness on both sides of the hill. If you are going to rail against the loss of a few dollars to the school on one side you've got to consider the same for Portola Valley on this side.

And finally, roll in Jack Hickey's rant about the fact that district residents on this side of the hill are paying to protect land on that side of the hill which is orders of magnitude more expensive for those of us paying the tax then any loss of revenue on that side.

I could go on but the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot. My final word to Coastsider is get over it.


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