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OPINION: Measure R Post-Mortem


OPINION: Measure R Post-Mortem 

By Jay Beckwith

In a stunning upset the Healdsburg housing Measure R went down in flames on Nov 8th. Opposed by a largely fact averse campaign, funded primarily by a single individual who does not live in town and thus qualifies as an outsider, Measure R garnered only 40% of the vote. The Yes campaign stuck to the facts which turned out to be so complex and confusing that most voters eyes glazed over just reading the voter summary let alone the actual ballot language. Sound familiar?

This outcome was unexpected since both sides overwhelming agree that Healdsburg needs workforce housing and fewer McMansions. A strident part of the campaign rhetoric was that there was nothing concrete in the measure to insure control of growth and that politicians can’t be trusted not to cave in to developers. That argument turned out to be baseless in that the incumbent City Council members won handedly.

Talking with both sides the consensus seems to be that the measure was simply too complex and lacked concrete assurances. A proposal that identified a specific project coupled with a limited exemption to the growth management ordinance could have been placed on the ballot and would very likely have past.

The dilemma for our fearless leaders now is what’s next? The two years of effort and buckets of money poured into this effort is clearly a bust. The City’s well-intentioned effort to educate and build consensus appears to be successful in that the consensus is that the approach that was used and the product produced is an unmitigated failure.

Healdsburg still has a critical housing shortage and the efforts to-date give us little hope for a quick attack on the problem. The City Council needs to rebuild its credibility and to begin to lead rather than just facilitate. A great place to start, that won’t require any ballot measure, is to jump on Governor Brown’s recently enacted SB-1069 that gives a significant boost to accessory dwelling units. With the success of Measure S the transit occupancy tax has been raised by 2% and that can easily be used to eliminate the onerous fees now levied on granny units.

Only a fool would expect any help for critical housing emanating from Washington anytime soon and California will continue to send its tax dollars to D.C. and receive much less in return. Our plans must be based on going it alone for the next four years. We cannot afford to spend another couple of years and 100’s of thousands of dollars on nice planning proposals. We need concrete action. Hopefully the forth-coming Housing Summit on Nov 17 will get to the heart of the issue.