City’s open space protection measure has narrow lead

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez voters showed Tuesday they want a say if open spaces are to be developed, but by a 75-vote margin so far, indicate that such referendums should not apply to privately-owned properties.

Measure F, placed on the ballot by the Martinez City Council, has received 2,762 “yes” votes and 2,542 “no” votes, or 52.07 percent favoring. That measure excluded private property from a requirement of a public referendum on applications that would intensify the use or development.

Measure I, which was initiated by Martinez residents, many of whom belong to Friends of Pine Meadow that oppose a housing development on the closed golf course, would have applied to private property as well as publicly owned land.

It has received 2,687 “yes” votes and 2,562 “no” votes, or a 52.19 percent positive vote. However, as established by the Council before Tuesday’s primary election, the measure that received the most votes, would prevail.

But some votes have not been counted, and Clerk-Recorder Joseph Canciamilla has until July 6 to report the final result of Tuesday’s election to Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who must certify the results by July 13.

Once the final votes are tabulated, the ballot measure with the most “yes” votes will prevail, and will become effective 10 days after Tuesday’s election.

“It seems as though Martinez voters affirmed their support of public open space, parks, recreational areas and private property rights,” Mayor Rob Schroder said Wednesday.

“Now is the time to stop the fighting and to join together to save some really valuable open space and ridgelines, Alhambra Highlands,” he said.

But Councilmember Noralea Gipner was not ready to claim victory.

“First of all, we cannot say that Measure F has won. There are is only 75 votes difference between the two measures,” she said.

“I spoke with Joe Canciamilla…and he told me there were 80,000 ballots yet to count. Ten thousand of those need to be done by hand. Martinez is mixed in there,” she said. “So it’s going to take between two and four weeks before it certified. That can’t be helped.

“The numbers tell me that about half of the folks who voted want a say in what happens with parks and open space. The other half do not believe they should be involved. And the Council should be making that decision,” she said.

Tim Platt, Mark Thomson and Kerry Kilmer, who were responsible for the Citizen Initiative Measure I, issued a joint statement of their own about the status of the ballot measures.

“Both the Citizen Initiative Measure I and City Council Measure F passed with over 50 percent approval for each measure,” they said.

“Martinez voters’ message was loud and clear—they want to protect open space and parks, including private open space. They want a say on City Council decisions to convert open space and parks to more intensive development,” they said. “We are proud of the thousands of Martinez citizens who have shown this City Council and other powerful interests that we will stand up and fight for what is right for our neighborhoods and our city.”

They also pointed out the results aren’t yet complete, and that provisional ballots and late vote-by-mail ballots could change the outcome.

However, they also agree it’s clear that residents favor protecting open space and parks, whether through the city’s Measure F, which excludes private property, or their own Measure I, which does not.

However, the three chided the Council, saying its “unfair and unethical tactics confused voters about which measure is true protection,” and accusing the Council of misleading and deceiving voters by putting on a competing measure and of “fearmongering, breaking the law and outright falsehoods.”

Although the city attorney’s office is mandated by law to write an analysis and a description of both measures, the statement questioned Senior Assistant Attorney Veronica Nebb’s impartiality.

“The central point of our initiative is giving Martinez voters the right to approve any City Council votes to convert open space or parks to more intensive development. It is the first point made in our initiative and in every piece we write and talk we give. The city left that out of the ballot description they wrote for Measure I…but they highlighted it in the description for their Measure F,” Platt said independently.

“Those of us who work diligently for Measure I will hold this Council’s feet to the fire on these open space and park decisions,” the Measure I proponents’ statement said. “And in November, we will support Council candidates who are ethical, fair-minded and respect Martinez citizens.”

Meanwhile, the Alhambra Hills Open Space Committee has been seeking ways to preserve nearly 300 acres called the Alhambra Highlands and prevent its development. That’s the land to which Schroder referred.

Should Measure F remain ahead of Measure I, it will streamline open space designations to “public permanent open space,” primarily open land, scenic areas and environmentally important resources, and “park and recreation,” places suitable for parks, playgrounds and other recreation uses.

Open space alterations would be limited to naturalistic and agricultural plantings, fencing, trails and visitor serving areas.

Measure I would create Protected Open Space and Parks overlay designation based on the city’s original 1973 General Plan, and that would apply to both public and private property. Existing legal uses that are either already built or are vested would be allowed, but new or expanded uses would trigger a referendum. Excepted would be the city’s marina and harbor lands.

Among other decisions made Tuesday, Martinez motorists who cross Bay Area bridges, excluding the Golden Gate Bridge, will start paying more in tolls next year.

Although Contra Costa County and Sonoma County opposed Regional Measure 3, other Bay Area counties’ voters favored the measure, which needed only a simple majority of voters to pass.

Bridge tolls go up $1 next year, another dollar in 2022 and another dollar in 2025, by when a trip across the Benicia-Martinez Bridge will cost $8.

By law, the Bay Area Toll Authority must use 16 percent of the Regional Measure 3 funds to pay for up to $60 million in annual transportation operating programs.

The rest, estimated at $4.45 billion, would be earmarked for transportation capital projects, including new BART cars; extending BART from Berryessa/North San Jose to San Jose and Santa Clara; widening U.S. 101 through the Marin-Sonoma Narrows to provide new carpool vehicle lanes; making improvements to State Route 37 that serves Marin, Solano, Napa and Sonoma counties; expanding ferry service; extending Caltrain to downtown San Francisco; and improving Interstate-680, State Route 4 and the I-80, I-680 and State Route 12 interchanges.

It authorizes discounts to high occupancy vehicles and vehicles equipped with transponders and to certain other commuters crossing two bridges. An oversight committee will monitor how the toll increases are spent, and must report annually on such spending to the state Legislature.

U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Walnut Creek), who represents part of Martinez, said Bay Area traffic is “a serious challenge to our economy and quality of life,” but said the measure is “a missed opportunity to provide significant, timely relief.” He has called for “honest information about delays and cost overruns” should they take place during the undertaking of the 35 projects that will be funded with Regional Measure 3 revenues.

In his own race, DeSaulnier received 54,786 votes in Contra Costa County, or 66.88 percent of the vote. Second in that race is John Fitzgerald, a Republican, who received 20,354 votes, or 24.85 percent, qualifying him for the runoff in November. Dennis Lytton, a Democrat, received 4,215 votes, or 5.15 percent, and Chris Wood, who listed no party preference, received 2,566 votes, or 3.13 percent.

Martinez’s other U.S. Representative, Mike Thompson (D-Napa), received 6,872 votes in Contra Costa County, or 75.62 percent of the votes in this portion of his district, which extends into Solano and Napa counties. His closest challenger, Nils Palsson, who had no party preference, received 989 votes in Contra Costa County, or 10.88 percent of the vote. Anthony Mills, also without a party affiliation, received 852 votes, or 9.38 percent, and Jason Kishineff, of the Green Party, received 375 votes, or 4.13 percent.

Tim Grayson, whose Assembly District 14 includes Martinez, received 84.08 percent of the Contra Costa County primary votes, or 24,805. His rival, Aasim Yahya, received 4,696 votes, or 15.92 percent.

Lynn Mackey received 45.28 percent of the votes for the county superintendent of schools, or 44,658, compared to Cheryl Hansen’s 30.53 percent, or 30,115 votes, and Ronald E. Leone’s 24.19 percent, or 23,864 votes.

Robert Campbell, with 76,220 votes or 80.06 percent, outdistanced Ayore Riaunda, who received 18,984 or 19.94 percent of the votes for auditor-controller.

In the district attorney race, Diana Becton, appointed last year to complete the term of Mark Peterson who resigned after being accused of misusing campaign funds, received 49.66 percent of the votes, 51,522. Challenger Paul Graves received 42.12 percent, or 43,699 votes, and Lawrence Steven Strauss received 8.21 percent, or 8,521 votes.

Several incumbents were unopposed in reelection, and received all votes cast.

Clerk-Recorder Canciamilla was reaffirmed by 87,701 votes, Assessor Gus Kramer received all 91,267 votes, Sheriff David Livingston received all 85,761 votes and Treasurer-Tax Collector Russell V. Watts received all 87,930 votes cast in their respective categories.

Countywide, 20.74 percent of eligible voters, or 124,874, turned out for Tuesday’s primary elections.

Martinez’s rate was slightly better, at 23.74, with 5,505 of 23,188 registered voters casting ballots by Tuesday, according to primary election day numbers provided by the county elections office.

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