The Evergreen Senior Homes Initiative (Measure B on San Jose’s June 2016 ballot) purported to be about affordable housing for seniors and veterans — but in fact it would have facilitated residential sprawl out on the farthest edges of San Jose, including North Coyote Valley.
Measure B would have approved a gated development of more than 900 homes on 200 acres of open space on San Jose’s eastern border. This was directly in contravention of San Jose’s General Plan, which prohibits gated developments and calls for multifamily housing (not luxury homes) to be built in infill locations near transit, not on open space on the urban edge. In order to overcome this prohibition, Measure B would have rewritten the General Plan to allow similar luxury gated developments on all “underutilized employment lands” in San Jose. This term was not defined in the initiative, but North Coyote Valley could have been one of the areas targeted.
Measure B was opposed by an unprecedented coalition of environmental groups, affordable housing advocates, senior citizens, veterans, and others. Even business leaders opposed it because it would have converted employment lands to residential development.
The Measure C initiative grew out of the campaign to defeat Measure B. Measure C was put on the same ballot by the San Jose CIty Council in order to negate the worst effects of Measure B. It limits residential sprawl by requiring that if certain employment lands within 1 mile of the Urban Growth Boundary (the “Greenline”) are converted to residential development, the developer must make 50% of the units affordable, as well as follow sustainability practices, pay for road improvements, and provide support services for elderly and disabled residents.
Committee for Green Foothills helped to lead the charge against Measure B and in support of Measure C, giving presentations to neighborhood associations and advocacy groups, writing op-eds, and walking precincts and talking to voters. Together with our allies, we won a David-and-Goliath contest where the other side spent over $6 million on their campaign. Measure B was defeated and Measure C passed, both by a commanding margin (59% voted no on B; 61% voted yes on C).
The Measure B/Measure C victory was not just about this one election. If Measure B had succeeded, the precedent-setting effect could have been huge. Because Measure B was brought by billionaire developers to get around the requirements of the General Plan, we might have seen more and more developers attempt to use this shortcut in the future to get approval for their projects. As it is, the voters of San Jose sent a strong message to any future attempts of this sort: spending millions of dollars on slick political ads and filling up voters’ mailboxes with mailers doesn’t work when the community unites against you.
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