Measure A’s campaign gains speed

April 20, 2009

Measure A’s campaign gains speed

Natalie Everett

The Committee for Measure A is mounting a vigorous and far-reaching campaign for the passage of the downtown redevelopment measure, but whether or not the message will reach and convince the on-the-fence public is yet to be seen.

Measure A would allow 500 residential units to be built downtown by exempting them from the details of the city’s growth control ordinance while maintaining its main intention, a population cap of 48,000 people by 2020. The city defines downtown as the 18-block area surrounding Monterey Road between Dunne and Main avenues.

Measure A proponents have launched an active Internet campaign centered at yesona.blogspot.com, which boasts a video series discussing the measure, endorsement letters and articles from the Times.

Most all movers and shakers in town approve of Measure A, from the city council’s unanimous vote to put it on the May 19 special election ballot to the Greenbelt Alliance, Sierra Club and League of Women Voters, all of which endorsed it. At Thursday’s Measure A mixer, Mayor Steve Tate, former mayors John Varela and Dennis Kennedy, who chair the Committee for Measure A, joined about 35 others, including council members, downtown residents and developer Gary Walton in discussing Measure A, passing out green Yes on A lawn signs and collecting donations for the campaign. Kennedy said they were hoping to run the campaign with between $15,000 and $20,000 and had $12,000 already committed to the cause.

Proponents see the measure as the linchpin to the city’s vision of a bustling downtown, which includes mixed-use housing with retail or offices on the ground floor and residences above.

Varela pointed to the Skeels building at Monterey Road and West Third Street as a small example of the possibilities Measure A would allow. The Skeels building, designed by Weston Miles Architects, features 10 residences, mostly on the second floor, and the restaurant Ragoots on the ground floor. Architects Charles Weston and Lesley Miles have also endorsed Measure A.

Although the council approved the measure, the city is prohibited under state election code from using taxpayer’s money to support the measure. City Manager Ed Tewes, on hand at Thursday night’s meeting, assured the crowd that denser downtown housing would uphold one of the growth control ordinance’s main tenets, that new development pays for itself. The downtown area is well-developed already, and city infrastructure like power and sewer lines are already in place there, he said. Likewise, Police Chief Bruce Cumming has addressed crime concerns by saying that while the department could see a minor increase in calls for service but having more people downtown could enhance crime prevention by having more eyes and ears to observe, deter and report criminal activity, according to a Q&A sheet handed out at the meeting.

The city spent $6,800 in Morgan Hill Redevelopment Agency funds to print and mail 14,500 fliers to residents about an upcoming downtown implementation plan informational meeting. The meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on April 30 at the Community and Cultural Center.

The flier features a rendering of a two- and three-story mixed-use project filling out the southeast corner of Monterey Road and First Street, where the city-owned Downtown Mall is currently located. Measure A would allow a project like this to happen.

City Manager Ed Tewes said a mixed-use project like the one pictured would be “theoretically possible” if Measure A were to fail.

“It would be very unlikely to be built (without Measure A), but there may be other ways to make it happen that would take longer and be more difficult,” Tewes said, giving as an example the city council’s ability to reserve all building allocations for an upcoming year to the downtown, as opposed to spreading it out to different uses, such as suburban residences and small projects.

Such a strategy “would be undesirable, because of its bad public policy implications,” Tewes said.

However, Tewes insisted that the meeting is “not about advocacy for Measure A.”

There is no organized opposition to Measure A. But voters’ uncertainty about the overall downtown plan and how it will affect them could still prove to be a hindrance to Measure A’s passage.

Some residents are worried about the impact of increased parking and foot traffic on the quiet residential streets east and west of Monterey Road.

East Second Street resident Jonathon Becerra said he supports Measure A, but still has some concerns as do his neighbors.

Hot Java owner Bill Quenneville has been the most vocal opponent to Measure A, saying the city is “thoroughly out of touch with what people want downtown.”

Quenneville said he was considering mounting an opposition campaign, but that personal obligations might stop him from doing so.

A nearly-identical measure on the November ballot, Measure H, failed by 10 votes.

This article was originally published in the Morgan Hill Times.

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