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June 16, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Vote on coastal annexation hangs on petition count Vote on coastal annexation hangs on petition count (June 16, 2004)

By Marion Softky
Almanac Staff Writer

It's too close to call -- whether or not Coastside residents get an opportunity to vote on annexation to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

County election officials are currently verifying signatures on petitions protesting the annexation, as well as counter-petitions withdrawing signatures. They have 30 days to determine whether the opponents gathered the 4,000-plus valid signatures necessary to trigger a vote on the controversial effort to add 140,000 acres of coastal lands to the district to help preserve open space and agriculture.

The numbers are close. Opponents of the annexation presented 5,344 signatures to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) at a protest hearing in Half Moon Bay on June 11. Supporters, who have been asking people to withdraw their signatures, declined to state how many signatures they submitted.

Under LAFCo annexation procedures, there will be a vote of the affected area if one-fourth of the registered voters protest. Current voter registration is a little over 16,000 in the area from the southern boundary of Pacifica to the Santa Cruz County line, and west of the present district.

Fifty people turned out at the protest hearing; 25 speakers were almost evenly split between those supporting the annexation, and those fearing another government agency potentially intruding into their lives and threatening their property rights.

The protest hearing marked the end of a seven-year process planning the expansion of the district. Over the past six months, LAFCo, which has authority over changes in government boundaries, has held four public hearings, lasting more than nine hours, with testimony from 186 speakers. In addition, LAFCo has received 250 letters and 860 postcards, said Executive Officer Martha Poyatos.

If opponents fail to get their 25 percent of valid signatures, the annexation will take place -- unless a lawsuit brought by Coastside activist Oscar Braun succeeds in blocking it.

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