Minutes before the first election results were released on June 5, 2018, Brian Schmidt of Greenbelt Alliance reminded me, “We did everything we could.” He was right. For months, we had poured all our spare time, energy, and resources into the campaign to defeat Measure B and pass Measure C. And with a 20% margin, our months of hard work paid off.
Meeting the Threat
Measure B posed a significant threat to undeveloped space throughout San Jose, including Coyote Valley. In addition to approving a 900-unit gated luxury home community on the open space of the Evergreen hillsides, it would have rewritten the General Plan to allow similar developments in many other places in San Jose. In November 2017, all polls indicated that the developers would win. Voters had been flooded with innocuous images of watercolor homes and assured by the developers that Measure B would benefit San Jose. Community advocates knew the importance of establishing a counter-narrative, but without available campaign funding, no one had leapt forward to lead an organized opposition.
Despite our odds, I decided to roll up my sleeves and call an emergency meeting at Pizza My Heart in downtown San Jose. Twenty passionate people became the early core of the campaign. This included Mayor Sam Liccardo, leaders of the Evergreen community – Wesley Lee, Robert Reese, and Jeremy Barrouse, Councilmember Sylvia Arenas, Former Vice Mayor Rose Herrera – and environmental nonprofit staff and volunteers from Audubon Society, California Native Plant Society, Greenbelt Alliance, and my own organization, Committee for Green Foothills.
Outspent but not Outnumbered
We hosted a community forum at Grace Church in Evergreen on December 18 to build up our base of volunteers. Nearly 100 people turned out. Bonnie Mace, a member of the Evergreen School District Board, volunteered that night to be our endorsement committee chair. Shortly after, Larry Ames, a local advocate who wears more hats than anyone I know (including one hat as a board member of Committee for Green Foothills), volunteered for that most important and legally responsible role, treasurer. We promised him that we didn’t expect to raise much money; in fact we would get $100,000 in donations and $150,000 in in-kind contributions before the campaign ended.
We knew our opposition would pour in millions in an effort to deceive San Jose residents with promises of abundant senior housing that were little more than blueprints for luxury condos. Final campaign reports tell us they spent $6 million — an unprecedented sum for a local ballot measure.
From November 2017 to June 2018, we engaged hundreds of people in our effort. Canvassers who got sunburnt knocking on doors, volunteers who made presentations to community groups and neighborhood associations three nights a week (shout out to Mackenzie Mossing and Alice Kaufman), people who stayed up until late in the night doing data entry (shout out to Laura Wells–thanks, mom!), and others who made themselves available 24/7 for anything that needed to get done. This field operation was led by two of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, Jordan Eldridge and Kat Baumgartner.
A Winning Coalition
By the end of the campaign we secured well over 1,000 endorsements, knocked on tens of thousands of doors, made ten thousand calls, hosted three press conferences, spoke in one radio forum, and participated in dozens of debates and presentations.
Our grassroots campaign was bolstered by parallel efforts from a Yes on C, No on B campaign committee Mayor Sam Liccardo created in the spring. His committee paid for two costly mailers in addition to ads on television and online, which helped counter the multi-million dollar media output from the opposition.
The No on B, Yes on C campaign united everyone: the entire San Jose City Council, every local environmental organization, and affordable housing advocates, veterans, senior advocates, and community leaders throughout the city. These groups didn’t just lend their names. They donated to the campaign, hosted precinct walks, participated in community forums, spoke at press conferences, sent emails to their networks, created mailers — the list goes on.
I hope our win on June 5 encourages anyone thinking of getting a land use decision through the ballot box to instead work with elected officials and neighbors on development projects. Sprawl is no longer a winner at the ballot box no matter how much campaign funding backs it, especially if it’s up against a community-backed General Plan.
Thank you for everyone who united with us. San Jose owes you a huge debt of gratitude for years to come.
So many hundreds were vital to carry us to the finish line. Our core team alone included several dozen incredible people. I’d like to recognized 100+ people who went above and beyond for this campaign. Based on my best recollection, they include:
Teresa Alvarado, SPUR
Former County Supervisor Blanca Alvarado
Larry Ames, Campaign Treasurer, Committee for Green Foothills Board member
Councilmember Sylvia Arenas
Jeremy Barousse, SIREN
Kat Baumgartner, Field Director
State Senator Jim Beall
Bryan Beck, Committee for Green Foothills Board member
Fred Buzo, AARP
Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco
Brandon Chapman, District 6 Captain
Helen Chapman, District 6 Captain
Dan Chapman, District 6 Captain
Claire Chiara, District 4 Captain
Gloria Chun Hoo
Leslye Corsiglia, SV@Home
Councilmember Dev Davis
Councilmember Lan Diep
James Eggers, Sierra Club
Jordan Eldridge, Campaign Manager
Jacquie Heffner, District 2 Captain
Former Vice Mayor Rose Herrera, District 8 Captain
Melissa Hippard, District 6 Captain
Khanh Hoang, District 8 Captain
Leslie Holder, Committee for Green Foothills
Bill James, Santa Clara County Democratic Party
Councilmember Sergio Jimenez
Councilmember Chappie Jones
Assemblymember Ash Kalra
Alice Kaufman, Committee for Green Foothills
Councilmember Johnny Khamis
Shani Kleinhaus, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society
Paul Kumar, Save the Bay
Karen Lattin, District 2 Captain
Wesley Lee, District 8 Captain
Bob Levy, District 1 Captain
David Lewis, Save the Bay
Mayor Sam Liccardo
Ava Lindstrom, Committee for Green Foothills
Pilar Lorenzana, SV@Home
Bonnie Mace, Endorsement Chair and District 8 Captain
Diego Martinez, District 5 Captain
Mackenzie Mossing, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society and District 10 Captain
Sharon Ngo-Tran Bang Nguyen
Vy Nguyen, District 7 Captain
Councilmember Tam Nguyen
Bob Nunez, Santa Clara County Republican Party
Smita Patel, District 2 Captain
Councilmember Raul Peralez
Dave Poeschel, District 10 Captain (walked 27 precincts!)
Former Councilwoman Nancy Pyle
Robert Reese, Fundraising Chair
Daniel Reyes, Co-Treasurer
Councilmember Don Rocha
Brian Schmidt, Greenbelt Alliance
Justyne Schnupp, Committee for Green Foothills
Chris Sturken, Committee for Green Foothills
Matt Vander Sluis, Greenbelt Alliance
Laura Wells, the queen of data entry
Helen Wolter, Committee for Green Foothills
Kiyomi Yamamoto, Greenbelt Alliance
County Supervisor Ken Yeager
Beckie Zisser, Save the Bay