Almanac

News - June 11, 2014

Election: Open space measure 'yes' vote exceeds 2/3rds threshold required for passage

by Barbara Wood

The ballot measure authorizing the issuing of $300 million in bonds for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District appears to have barely squeaked past the two-thirds margin it needed for victory.

But, predicts Larry Hassett, the open space district board member whose district includes Atherton, Menlo Park, Portola Valley and Woodside, being able to spend that money will have a major impact on public access to, and preservation of, open space for the whole Bay Area.

"This significantly changes the amount of funding that the district has to work with," Mr. Hassett said. That money will be spent on projects prioritized following a year and a half of research and talking to the public, he said.

"One of the clearest things that came out was to provide more access," he said. "Forty percent of our preserves were basically closed to the public." Open space properties such as the Driscoll Ranch, the La Honda Preserve and Mt. Umunhum will soon have more public access, he said.

Locally, Mr. Hassett said, trail improvement for Corte de Madera and Purisima Creek are also planned, as are stream improvements that could make it easier for salmon and other fish to thrive. "It's access and it's also helping to preserve and protect what is there," Mr. Hassett said.

More trails that allow dogs and bikes are also planned, he said, as is closing gaps in the Ridge Trail, which will allow bikers and hikers to eventually circle the Bay Area, and completing trails that lead from Skyline to the coast.

"The direction that the district is heading is to improve access to most user groups — to almost all user groups," Mr. Hassett said.

The district will also work to close a few gaps in the Bay Trail, which is also meant to eventually circle the Bay, on district properties at Cooley Landing in East Palo Alto and near Moffett Field.

Having the additional funding "will take some adjustments. We're going to have to gear up for this," Mr. Hassett said. "The agency has had a fixed budget for a while and that has not always been adequate to open up some of these preserves quickly."

Mr. Hassett said he offers "thanks to the public for the support of this measure, thanks to our partners like POST and Sempervirens and to everybody who supported this." Those supporters, he said, "really want to see open space access and preservation. I think this measure's going to really solidify that for the Bay Area."

Vote count, finance

On Monday afternoon, as the Almanac was about to go to press, the yes vote on the measure amounted to 67.8 percent of the vote, about 1,093 votes over the two-thirds approval needed. The measure had 64,881 yes votes and 30,801 no votes.

According to campaign finance reports, as of May 17, backers of the bond measure spent $687,563 campaigning for its passage.

The latest finance disclosure form filed by the "Yes for Open Space" campaign shows that $773,845 was raised for the campaign since January, with an additional $53,973 in non-monetary contributions, most of that from the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), headquartered in Palo Alto, for donated staff time.

POST also donated more than half of the campaign funds — $405,723, which includes the in-kind donations.

Other major donors included the Sempervirens Fund, $149, 980; Save the Redwoods League, $50,000; Facebook advertising director Andrew Bosworth of Menlo Park, $50,000; Patty Quillin of Santa Cruz, $50,000; Charlene Kabcenell of Portola Valley, president of the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, $30,000; Christopher Espinosa of Portola Valley, a manager at Apple, $15,000; Brad O'Brien of Menlo Park, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, $10,000; and Karie Thomson from Woodside, $10,000.

Most of the donations were spent on campaign mailings and consultants. TBWB Strategies of San Francisco, a firm that helps public entities pass ballot measures, received $474,990, which included reimbursements for some other campaign costs; EMC research of Oakland, a polling firm, received $33,000; Campaign Grid, which targets online advertising, received $56,100; and Cornerstone Printing in San Francisco received $121,297 — all in the last reporting period of March 18 to May 17.

The district covers southern and central San Mateo County from the Bay to the ocean, and northern and western Santa Clara County, as well as a small area in Santa Cruz County.

Cities in the district include Atherton, Menlo Park, Woodside, Portola Valley, East Palo Alto, Half Moon Bay, Redwood City and San Carlos in San Mateo County; Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno in Santa Clara County.

Open space district manager Steve Abbors said that passage of the measure means the district will get to work immediately on some of the projects the money will be used for. "The work to create the structure for prioritizing and project managing the (bond) improvements is underway and will be considered by the board in August or September," he said.

At the same time, the board will set up the community oversight committee the measure calls for.

"I anticipate on-the-ground progress late this year, early next year," Mr. Abbors said. "We are poised to deliver on the promises we made to the public."

The measure gave the district authority to issue up to $300 million in bonds to finance improving, preserving and restoring its properties as well as purchasing land needed to connect trails and preserve plant and animal habitats.

Check AlmanacNews.com for updates on the vote totals.

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