An appellate court ruled Thursday that Santa Clara County’s half-cent sales tax—passed by voters in 2016 as Measure B—is legal, contrary to a Saratoga woman’s claim that the ballot language was unclear and misleading.
Cheriel Jensen, a 79-year-old Saratoga resident and retired architect, sued to block the measure in 2017, accusing the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) of deceiving voters over how much of the $6.3 billion in tax proceeds would go to the BART extension from Fremont to downtown San Jose.
Jensen’s lawsuit was dismissed by a trial court judge earlier in 2017, but she took her case to the 6th District Court of Appeal. On Thursday, an appellate panel upheld the lower court’s decision.
“We find her arguments pertaining to the validity of Measure B are meritless,” the appeals court said in its ruling.
While the county has collected the tax since April last year, it has had to keep the revenue in an escrow account until the litigation is resolved. As of this week, the balance in that account is $274 million, according to the VTA.
Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino, one of the measure’s biggest backers, said Jensen’s obstructionism undermines the will of the electorate.
“It’s rather ironic that the main roadblock blocking road and transit improvements is a frivolous lawsuit by a single resident in Santa Clara County who continues to thwart the will of 72 percent of the voters who approved Measure B in 2016,” Guardino, a member of the California Transportation Commission, said in a news release. “Two courts have now found the arguments against Measure B’s tax proceeds to be meritless. If she drags this on with further appeals, she will be continuing to thumb her nose at 1.9 million residents eager for traffic relief, road repairs and transit improvements.”
Measure B sunsets in three decades. Its proceeds will pay to upgrade and expand roadways and public transit in 15 South Bay cities, build the BART line to downtown San Jose and the city of Santa Clara and improve pedestrian and bike paths.