City puts open space measures information on website

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Two ballot measures that say they would save open space areas from being developed are going head to head in vying for voter approval in next month’s election.

Advocates of one open space measures, I, are sending mailers and dropping off flyers at residents’ homes, while the city of Martinez has put information about its competing measure, F, on its website, and advocates are producing supporting letters.

The city’s website has ballot verbiage and impartial analyses of both measures, Rica Guidry, executive assistant to City Manager Brad Kilger, said in the announcement of the webpage.

She called the page “an effort to assist voters in understanding the effects of the two open space measures….”

“The city has added this page dedicated to the Open Space and Park and Recreation Lands Measures on the June ballot to provide voters with an easily accessible resource with links to information relevant to both measures,” Kilger said. “I strongly encourage voters to educate themselves on the differences between these two very important measures, which could have a significant impact on the future of the city of Martinez.”

Also on the site is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the city’s measure after receipt of inquiries why the Council placed Measure F on the ballot.

Measure I is the citizen-generated ballot measure that would require a voter referendum whenever the use of any public or private open space, outdoor recreation-use land or park land would be changed to a denser category.

Measure F, generated by the city and authorized by the City Council, would require similar voter referendums only when public land is affected. Referendums would not be required if the change is to private property.

Kerry Kilmer, Tim Platt and Mark Thomson submitted their proposed ballot initiative in March 2017 to create a new land use overlay designation and apply that designation to both public and private land designated in the General Plan as of Jan. 1, 2017, as open space, parks and outdoor recreation use.

By Sept. 21, 2017, Platt submitted the initiative petition with voters’ signatures, and at the Nov. 15, 2017, Council meeting, it was announced that the Contra Costa County Clerk Recorder-Elections Department verified that the validated signatures exceeded 15 percent of registered voters.

However, city staff also gave the Council a legal analysis that said the measure was fatally flawed, having multiple legal defects including violations of the Elections Code. A final report ordered by the Council drew similar conclusions.

The Contra Costa County Superior Court ruled March 6 that those defects didn’t warrant its being withheld from an election, and ordered it put on the June 5 ballot.

The question posed by Measure I will say on the ballot, “Shall the City of Martinez adopt the Initiative Measure Amending the Martinez General Plan to Create a Protected Open Space and Parks Overlay Designation, Apply the Overlay to Certain Properties as Set Forth in the 1973 General Plan and Adopt Land Use Regulations Relating Thereto?”

Voters will decide yes or no.

The initiative petition said the measure would create the new overlay, “protected Open Space and Parks” and apply that designation as an additional land use designation to land inside the city limits that have been designated for open space, park and outdoor recreation use as of Jan. 1, 2017, as well as all lands designated as Public Permanent Open Space, Parks and Recreation, Open/Space Conservation Use Land, Environmentally Sensitive Land and Open Space,” whether the property is publicly or privately owned.

The allowable uses on the designated land would be limited to hiking trails, outdoor open space recreation, agricultural, forestry and grazing, parks, outdoor recreation, stables and riding facilities, picnic areas, playgrounds, dog parks and trails, with ancillary uses allowed as well.

The 1973 General Plan regulations would be readopted as part of the Central Martinez Specific Area Plan, allowing residential uses in the Franklin Hills, and exempt areas of the Martinez marina and harbor waterfront that are governed by Senate Bill 1424 that granted those lands to the city.

Veronica Nebb, Martinez’s senior assistant city attorney, noted in her analysis that the measure may regulate areas already governed by state law, and would let existing uses that are legal and already built or vested to remain, but new development would not be permitted, nor would new or expanded uses be allowed on either public or private property included in the overlay. That raises questions about its internal consistency with the city’s Housing and Land Use Elements of the General Plan, but those questions won’t be answered until after the election.

The city initiated measure, F, only applies to public open space, park and recreation lands and would not affect privately owned land, according to the city website. Measure F would protect publicly-owned open space and park and recreation lands from being used in other ways without a voters’ referendum.

The Council endorsed putting Measure F on the ballot the same night it resolved Measure I would be put before voters.

Measure F would amend the General Plan by re-designating publicly-owned lands identifies as open space, park and recreation uses so they would continue having the same protections and use limitations that currently are in effect.

However, Measure F would consolidate the different land use designations into just two, and prevent them from being changed without voter approval. No private property would be affected.

Measure F reads, “Shall the city of Martinez Adopt the Measure Designating and protecting public Permanent Open Space and Park and Recreation Lands and Requiring Voter Approval of any Changes to those protections? Voters will decide yes or no.

City Attorney Jeffrey Walter, in his analysis of the measure, wrote that it would amend the General Plan to designate publicly-open space, park and recreation lands – about 1,706 acres – either as public permanent open space or park and recreation. Those designations could not be repealed or amended except by voters.

The city website also has published reports commissioned by the Council in accordance with the California Election Code about Measure I, including those critical of the content of the initiative petition.

Measure I supporters, called the Martinez Open Space and Park Protection Initiative, have characterized the city’s measure as a “trick,” a “developer giveaway” put on the ballot to confuse the public and a “poison pill” that could kill Measure I.

They call their own measure “true protection” of open space land.

Platt repeatedly has made appearances before the Council to explain the purpose of Measure I.

The flyers claim Measure I has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, the Mount Diablo Audubon Society and Thousand Friends of Martinez.

Those flyers are countered by Martinez Citizens for the Protection of Private Property, Parks and Open Space, which has issued a letter from Mayor Rob Schroder and Councilmembers Noralea Gipner and Debbie McKillop, who wrote as Martinez residents.

This letter urges voters to vote for the city’s Measure F instead.

It characterizes Measure I as “a land grab” that would zone more than 550 privately-owned parcels as permanent open space and prevent its development without compensation to landowners for possible loss of property value, but would cost citizens millions in legal fees.

KCBS and Contra Costa Television has recorded a preview of the battle of the two measures, which is available on the city’s website, http://www.cityofmartinez.org/default.asp. Bub Butler was the host. Schroder spoke for Measure F, and Platt spoke for Measure I.

Since voters will choose to mark their ballots “yes” or “no” for the two measures, it’s possible that both F and I may pass. If that happens, the measure receiving the greater number of votes will be approved.

The city’s web page providing information on both measures is http://www.cityofmartinez.org/gov/june_2018_election___open_space_park_and_recreation_lands_measures.asp.

Those interested in emailing Martinez Citizens for the Protection of Private Property, Parks and Open Space do so at ProtectMartinezCitizens@gmail.com.

Measure I advocates Martinez Open Space and Park Protection Committee’s website is www.martinezopenspace.org, and can be mailed at martinezopenspace@outlook.com.

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