In the next few months, Sunnyvale’s City Council will consider allowing Animal Assisted Happiness (AAH) to lease an unused parking lot at Baylands Park. AAH provides special needs children and their families with opportunities to interact with barnyard animals in a safe setting.
The City Council approved studying this partnership after receiving strong community interest in supporting AAH, and identifying the unused parking lot as an option. Unfortunately, if Sunnyvale's Measure M passes in November, the AAH proposal will likely be summarily terminated.
Measure M requires voter approval before signing land use agreements like this. It would force the city to delay approval of AAH’s lease for two years so Sunnyvale can pay $41,000 for a November 2018 ballot measure, asking voters for permission to sign the AAH lease. Under Measure M, the only alternatives are to pay $767,000 for a special election sooner, or to kill the proposal. Faced with a two-year delay and $41,000 price tag, both Sunnyvale and AAH lose.
This isn't an exception.
Sunnyvale signs a dozen routine land use agreements each year, from month-to-month office leases to larger agreements. Measure M also applies when leasing land to or from others, and Sunnyvale leases much of its open space (Baylands Park, Sunnyvale Golf Course) from other agencies. Measure M forces long delays and requires voter approval for each individual ballot measure costing $41,000 or more. Finally, Measure M requires public votes before existing leases can be renewed—even for cell towers, and California law prohibits approving multiple leases with a single catch-all ballot measure.
But wait, there's more!
Measure M also restricts property purchases, because it prohibits “transfers” without a public vote. Add a two-year delay to land purchases, and you can forget about the city purchasing land in this Silicon Valley real estate market.
This is the reality of Measure M. An independent analysis of the ballot measure found that Measure M would result in:
- a dramatic increase in election costs.
- a significant loss of revenue from canceled leases.
- loss of grant funding and debt financing opportunities.
- a substantial reduction in city services due to these revenue impacts.
- an onslaught of Measure M lawsuits from anyone unhappy with any land-use decision,
Why was Measure M proposed? The proponents peddle the necessity to “stop the loss of Sunnyvale's public lands.” They’ve silently ignored the fact that Sunnyvale has increased its public land in recent years, adding more new park space in four years than in the previous three decades. Two new parks, a new fire station (the first in 50 years), a third expanded park, another new park on the way and two more in early discussion, all within the past four years. No other nearby city has done as well. And this all happened by simply letting the City Council do its job.
Sunnyvale’s civic leaders recognize the real threat posed by Measure M, and they’ve overwhelmingly stepped up to oppose it. County Assessor Larry Stone and former Sunnyvale Mayor Dianne McKenna, Sunnyvale’s traditional good government advocates, both oppose Measure M.
Ten current and former Sunnyvale mayors, 15 current and former Sunnyvale council members, seven of the 10 November council candidates, the County League of Conservation Voters, the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce, the South Bay Labor Council and the Sunnyvale Democratic Club have all united to oppose Measure M.
Measure M is the opposite of good government. It’s obstructionism that hurts city services and costs Sunnyvale opportunities for future gains in parks and public land. Sunnyvale voters should soundly reject Measure M.
Jim Griffith is a Sunnyvale council member. He wrote this op-ed for the “Vote No on Sunnyvale Measure M” campaign. For more information, visit www.SaveOurSunnyvale.com. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.