Growth and whether to alter County Measure D, which involves the county’s urban growth boundary, were the main topics debated by the four candidates running for the open 1st District seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
The district includes Livermore, Dublin, and most of Fremont. The position became open when longtime Supervisor Scott Haggerty announced his retirement after 24 years on the board. His term ends on Dec. 31.
Those seeking to replace him are Dublin Mayor David Haubert, Dublin Councilwoman Melissa Hernandez, state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, and Fremont Councilman Vinnie Bacon.
About 200 people attended the debate, held Jan. 12 at the Pleasanton Senior Center. Dublin Vice-Mayor Arun Goel, the master of ceremonies, said the venue was chosen because it is not located in the 1st District. Holding the debate within the district may have brought a less objective, more emotional mood to the proceedings, he explained.
Measure D, which voters approved in 2000, prevents growth in a 250,000 acre unincorporated area, except for services that support agriculture. Most of the area is located in the 1st District. The rest lies in the 4th District, where Supervisor Nate Miley is also on the March 3 ballot against one opponent.
Three of the four 1st District candidates were open to possibly modifying Measure D. Bacon was opposed.
For the past two years, Haggerty and Miley have suggested changing the measure’s “floor-to-area” ratio, so that agriculture-related buildings can be added to expand an operation. The change, they say, would also help out small businesses, such as a Castro Valley riding academy. The business is seeking permission to build a bigger roof on its stables so dry hay can be stored there. But opponents maintain that a riding academy is not agriculture-related, but recreational, so it does not meet expansion requirements.
Meetings seeking changes have occurred over the past two years between winegrowers, farmers, and defenders of Measure D, but there has been no agreement.
The Board of Supervisors late last year voted 3-2 to review what a “floor-to-area” change might look like, with Supervisor Wilma Chan joining Haggerty and Miley. The request was for staff to return with a draft of potential modifications to make Measure D more flexible. That report is not yet completed.
Changing Measure D appears to be limited to two options: Supervisors may go ahead and make the changes themselves, or they could ask voters to approve the proposed changes in a ballot measure. Those who oppose changing Measure D say that while the supervisors are allowed to make minor changes, the floor-to-area ratio is not one of them.
During the debate, Hernandez said that cities go back to their general plans and change them. She said she was at the board meeting when the supervisors voted to review the issue. “It’s not about building more housing. It’s more about changing the floor-to-area ratio to accommodate winegrowers and agriculture,” she said.
Haubert noted that the measure passed 20 years ago, and should be reviewed to keep up with the times. “I believe it’s about making possible changes to technology,” he said. “The Livermore people I talked to believe they will have to (address) it. They need to find answers, not just for winegrowers, but also for people who own land.”
Haubert said that the goal of the South Livermore Valley Plan was to create 5,000 acres of vineyards, but it is only up to about 2,800 to 3,000 acres. If reaching the target means bringing a water pipe with Livermore city water to help the vineyards, “that would be OK.”
Wieckowski said his understanding of the issue is that there were unintended consequences from passage of Measure D.
Bacon said he opposed making any changes. “I am against changing Measure D, unless you have more restrictions to add. Clearly there is sprawl in the Bay Area, for example, in West Tracy,” he said.
On another growth issue, SB 50 by state Sen Scott Wiener of San Francisco, a range of opinions were expressed. As proposed, SB 50 would require cities to build apartments and condos within a quarter-mile of transit hubs, such as BART stations and major bus lines. Cities oppose it as a violation of local planning rights.
Hernandez said that Dublin already has its high density apartment/condo area in the transit village near the East Dublin/Pleasanton BART station. “We’re not for it at the City Council level, but it should be looked at. They are trying to get affordable housing close to transit. We’ve been doing that.”
Haubert said, “I oppose all changes to local control.” However, a “lot of open space could come before the supervisors. I would look very hard at taking away open space for housing.”
Wieckowski noted that he voted for SB 50. “It will be back. I’ve been the leader in challenging local control. I don’t want City Council members to control what you can build in your back yard. (As of) Jan. 1, you can build a small cottage in your back yard. You hear (at this debate) it’s a decision the council wants to make, but I believe the decision is up to you.”
Bacon said that cities and counties should require inclusionary housing at a 60% effort, not the 15% most cities use now. Inclusionary housing is the requirement that a developer either build a certain percentage of homes at affordable sale prices, or donate the equivalent money to a city fund that would use the money to build the affordable housing.
“In Fremont, you are fighting for the people, or for campaign contributions (from real estate). I have to agree with what Haubert said. There is a lot of open land that developers would like to get their hands on.”
The candidates were asked how they would go about addressing homelessness.
Haubert noted that, in general, homelessness “is caused by unemployment, poor health and addictions, which grab people. It’s a catastrophic, life-changing event.” People need jobs, Haubert added, and it needs to be seen as a “moral imperative” in the community in order to make progress in solving the problem.
Upcoming Board of Supervisors Candidate Forum
A Board of Supervisors Candidates Forum is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23 at Granada High Schoolís Little Theater, 400 Wall St., Livermore. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Attendees may submit questions to candidates on index cards, or email candidate questions (or other inquiries) to email@example.com.