Election 2014: Open space district seeks voter OK for $300M bond measure | May 14, 2014 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - May 14, 2014

Election 2014: Open space district seeks voter OK for $300M bond measure

by Barbara Wood

If two-thirds of voters approve Measure AA, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District will be able 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.

According to the ballot measure language, bond proceeds will be used "to improve access to hiking and biking opportunities, protect and preserve redwood forests, natural open spaces, the scenic beauty of our region and coastline, critical wildlife habitat, and restore creeks to protect water quality, and reduce forest fire risk."

To reduce the cost of the bonds, the district will issue them in several series and will not allow the annual tax rate on the bonds to exceed $3.18 per $100,000 of assessed property value, which is equivalent to $31.80 a year for the owner of a property assessed at $1 million.

The bonds have a maximum term of 40 years and the annual tax is predicted to range from $1 per $100,000 assessed value (or $10 for a $1 million home) in 2015-16 to $2.90 per $100,000 assessed value (or $29 for a $1 million property) in 2044-45. The highest rate of $3.18 would be in 2034-35.

The bond measure also includes provisions for an oversight committee, made up of seven board-appointed district residents, to annually review how the bond money is spent and present its findings to the public.

Steve Abbors, general manager of the open space district, says the bond measure is the first the district has attempted to pass in its 41 years. 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.

Property owners in the district, except for those on the coast, currently pay $17 per $100,000 of assessed property value, or $170 a year for a property valued at $1 million. Property owners on the coast will help pay for the bonds if Measure AA passes.

Diane Talbert, a resident of Woodside and president of the Sempervirens Fund, is one of those who signed the ballot argument in favor of the bond measure. "Measure AA is essential to protecting the miles of treasured open space that make the Bay Area such a wonderful place to live and work," said Ms. Talbert. She said the measure will "protect and preserve the vital land around our water sources," as well as increase public access "so that more trails, waterways and redwood forests can be enjoyed by all members of our community."

Ms. Talbert said she believes "this is money well-spent and essential to preserving our precious natural resources and quality of life."

There appears to be no organized opposition to the bond measure, but local Libertarian Jack Hickey, a resident of unincorporated Emerald Hills, argues that the district would be better off funding the projects it has proposed by opening some of its land to recreational uses, such as golf courses, that would earn income for the district.

"That is what I call stewardship of the land," he said. "It would take less than 1 percent of their land to do this."

Other uses could also produce revenue for the district, he said. "They could have a rifle range."

As part of the proposed bond measure, the district has issued a list of 25 priority projects across the district, 10 of which are in or near the Almanac circulation area. They include:

• Re-open Alpine Road at Coal Creek for trail use.

• Help to complete gaps in the Bay Trail and build city-to-Bay trails. Support wetland restoration and science education exhibits.

• Develop new trails and improve existing trails at Windy Hill. Open Hawthorn historic area, connecting it to Palo Alto trails. Restore Los Trancos Creek.

• Open the Driscoll Ranch area at La Honda Creek to more public access. Restore La Honda Creek and remove fish barriers.

• Preserve Upper San Gregorio Creek Watershed and protect streams. Create new public use facilities and complete Ridge Trail gaps at La Honda Creek and Russian Ridge.

• Open new trails at Russian Ridge. Introduce grazing and enhance wildlife protection.

• Build walking, hiking and biking trails at El Corte de Madera Creek. Complete gaps in Ridge Trail. Improve water quality via land preservation and restoration.

• Open upper La Honda Creek Preserve for public recreation. Restore habitat and reintroduce grazing.

• Open Miramontes Ridge to the public. Create new trails and neighborhood access points. Restore streams in Madonna Creek watershed upstream of Half Moon Bay and enhance local farms.

• Complete the Purisima-to-the-Sea Trail and connect Ridge Trail to Coastal Trail. Protect and restore the Lobitos Creek watershed.

Other projects on the list include protecting more redwood forests, conserving salmon fisheries, building a welcome center at Rancho San Antonio, opening new trails in the redwoods connecting large parks, adding campgrounds, connecting the Ridge Trail to the Bay Trail, protecting wildlife corridors, and opening more district lands to public access.

Mr. Abbors said the district came up with the bond measure after looking toward the future of the district.

"After 40 years … we started looking at what are we going to do for the next 40 years," he said. The district decided it needed to work on land already owned as well as acquiring new properties.

"It required a change in thinking and even in how we apply our budget," he said. Only about half of the district land is now open to the public, Mr. Abbors said.

After looking at what might be needed in the district, a list of 57 possible projects was created and brought to the public for discussion. The district held a series of public meetings, created a community advisory committee, and used social media to come up with a list of the top 25 projects.


Posted by Joe Commentor, a resident of another community
on May 14, 2014 at 9:14 am

Day use, day use, day use...

There is more to all this 'open space' than day use. Man does some of his best thinking under the night sky... next to a campfire... in the wilds of nature.

Until these elitist trust babies open these lands to overnight camp use, I urge the public to lend NO SUPPORT for these projects.

Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 14, 2014 at 1:23 pm

The media sometimes places a Libertarian label on me expecting that it will discredit my views. I am proud to have a label which has been shared with other promoters of libertarian principles such as Milton FriedmanWeb Link, the Cato InstituteWeb Link and Reason MagazineWeb Link. I was honored to have the endorsement of Professor FriedmanWeb Link of my Hickey-Canfield Performance Voucher Initiative in 1980.

Regarding revenue producing golf courses, I direct readers to a "Market and Financial Feasibility Analysis for a New Golf Course in San Mateo County" conducted by Anna Trela, for San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Department in June 1989.Web Link
Ms. Trela, then an Associate of Economic Research Associates, was later employed as Vice President, Advancement, Peninsula Open Space Trust.
I suggest that this document be used by MROSD to create alternative funding for its "visions". They should also seek a share of property tax revenues from the Coastside annexation properties. This would not raise taxes on those properties, and would yield at least $1,000,000 per year in added revenue.

Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 15, 2014 at 11:05 am

Brief History of Mid-peninsula Regional Park District(MRPD)

August 1971 San Mateo County(SMC) Board of Supervisors(BOS) voted against creation of MRPD in their section of the mid-peninsula.

March 1976 MRPD Board of Directors adopted Order to annex 81,500 acres of SMC land including the cities of Woodside, Portola Valley, San Carlos, Redwood City, Menlo Park, Atherton and certain adjoining unicorporated lands.
June 1976 Voters responded with 23.7% yes, 21.7% no with 54% ABSTAINING.
Not exactly a MANDATE!!

1977 MRPD underwent "name change" to become MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District(MROSD) to reflect a de-emphasis on PARKS and Recreational activities

MROSD has failed to support BOS efforts to create revenue producing golf courses on open space land.

Posted by fwiw, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 15, 2014 at 11:21 am

> June 1976 Voters responded with 23.7% yes, 21.7% no with 54% ABSTAINING.

Can you clarify that, please? Is it that overall voter turnout in the election was a not unusual (but still rather abysmal) 46% with those actually casting ballots in the election voting 52.2% yes against 47.8% no. Or are you suggesting that a huge chunk of ballots get submitted which simply abstained from that specific question?

Given your viewpoint, I doubt you'll see any distinction but others of us may see a difference between "actively" abstaining and passively ignoring the whole election issue. After all, if those non-voters could care so little that didn't even bother to cast a ballot, why even bother quantifying them. Amongst those who did care, a democratic decision was made. That's just the way it is in our society, even elections that are won by a single vote.

Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 15, 2014 at 11:42 am

When the 2/3 vote requirement for school bond measures was dropped to 55%, that was a mistake. A simple majority of Registered voters would be more democratic.

Posted by fwiw, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 15, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Jack Hickey: so good to hear that you are an advocate for lazy schmucks who can't bother to get off their &&s to vote.

But then it also begs the question of why those who didn't vote should be presumed to have voted against a measure rather than simply with the proportion that did actually express their constitutionally provided rights?

I can only imagine that you find that the void between your vision of the world and they way it is disturbing. Do you sleep well at night? :-)

Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 15, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Would it be unreasonable to suggest that annexation votes, such as the one in 1976, should require a 2/3 vote?

Posted by fwiw, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 15, 2014 at 4:43 pm

> Would it be unreasonable to suggest that annexation votes, such as the one in 1976, should require a 2/3 vote?

Just as this new $3/$100K assessment would require a 2/3 vote, annexation with taxation would require a 2/3 vote in the post-Prop 13 era. I'm real sorry that you got subjected to any tax in 1976 but you had the benefit of having all of those taxes get crammed down from 2.67% down to 1% and then capped at 2% annual increase, so overall it's worked out pretty well for you. I'm sure you'll be fine.

Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 16, 2014 at 9:30 am

Prop. 13 has worked out well for most. It has not worked out well for the bureaucrats who never have enough money. Post Prop 13 property tax revenue has grown far faster than inflation and population.
There is no need to increase taxes to support open space. The entire county could be included in an open space district and given the same portion of the current 1% tax rate as those being collected in South County. That is a better solution than having a 1/8% sales tax for County Parks or $300,000,000 bond measure for MROSD.

Creation of a Regional Park District in San Mateo County, funded by existing taxes, coupled with detachment from MROSD, should be considered.
Such an agency could carry out the suggestions contained in the "Market and Financial Feasibility Analysis for a New Golf Course in San Mateo County" conducted by Anna Trela, for San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Department in June 1989.Web Link. Revenue produced from land leases of less than 1% of the accumulated land endowment could allow such District to reduce or eliminate their need for property taxes.
See: "Minority Report of the Alternative Funding Committee(AFC)"
Prepared by John J. "Jack" Hickey 9/1/1994 Web Link

Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm

The annexation passed in 1976 with a 1112 vote margin. Without the Menlo Park and Portola Valley vote it would have failed by a 1003 vote margin.

FWIW, do you support a revenue producing use of 1% of MROSD land? And, since legislation which allowed creation of the original MRPD included golf courses as a possible use, would you consider the recommendation of Anne Trela as presented in her "Market and Financial Feasibility Analysis for a New Golf Course in San Mateo County"?

Public Resources Code(PRC), Sec.5541;

"A district may plan, adopt, lay out, plant, develop, and otherwise improve, extend, control, operate, and maintain a system of public parks, playgrounds, golf courses, beaches, trails, natural areas, ecological and open space preserves, parkways, scenic drives, boulevards, and other facilities for public recreation, for the use and enjoyment of all the inhabitants of the district. and it may select, designate, and acquire land, or rights in land, within or without the district, to be used and appropriated for such purposes. It may cause such trails, parkways, scenic drives, and boulevards to be opened, altered, widen, graded or regraded, paved or repaved, planted or replanted, repaired. and otherwise improved, may conduct programs and classes in outdoor science education and conservation education, and may do all other things necessary or convenience to carry out the purposes of this article. "and Sec.5562;

"The board may acquire, construct, improve, maintain, and operate golf courses, bathhouses, boathouses, tennis courts, gymnasiums, and other special amusements and forms of recreation, and it may acquire, Construct, or complete all buildings, structures, waterways, lakes, equipment, and other necessary or convenient facilities it may fix and collect fees the use by the public of any boars, bathing suits, lockers, golf courses, tennis courts, or other special facilities, services, or equipment."

I suggest that one convenient facility is the South Bayside Systems Authority reclaimed water facility in Redwood City. Water from this facility would be used to irrigate golf courses and parks, augment flow in streams, create lakes, etc.

I can envision horse drawn carriages carrying visitors from Woodside to a glass bottom boat facility at the edge of Crystal Springs reservoir.

For anyone interested, I have a copy of a December 1967 report by Hall and Goodhue, Architects and City Planners titled "Recreational Potential of the Junipero Serra Freeway Through the Upper Crystal Springs Watershed" prepared for the State of California Division of Highways.
In addition to golf courses, the report includes a New Lake for Canoing, Sailing, Fishing and Swimming, another New lake for Boating and Fishing, an Equestrian and Stable Area, etc.

Such enterprises could provide ample revenue to support maintenance of open space lands.
Think about these missed opportunities as you travel that extra half mile on I280 which was conceded to the San Francisco Water Department in return for their Grant of Scenic and Recreation Easement dated January 15, 1969.
It was stipulated in that Grant that "Recreational uses shall be compatible with..." "Preservation and Recreation Concepts" by Wilson and Ham, Metcalf and Eddy, consultants to San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.(I also have a copy of that)

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