Election '08: The Pros and Cons of California's Ballot Measures

By Daniel Heimpel, Max Taves and Jill Stewart

Statewide Measures

Proposition 1A

$10 billion bond. High Speed Passenger Train Bond Act. Total price tag with interest: About $19 million.

Proposition 1 would give the state the right to sell $10 billion in bonds to build an 800-mile high-speed train network connecting San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego, which, if ever completed, could fundamentally alter lifestyles in California, bringing huge metropolises closer together.

PRO: Rail advocates, many environmental groups, big construction companies and their unions say the electric-powered trains will reduce dependence on foreign oil and emissions of global-warming-causing greenhouse gases from cars. They argue that trips on the high-speed train, including a jaunt from Los Angeles to San Francisco in about two and a half hours, could remove 70 million passenger trips per year from congested highways. They say the project, supported by California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, will create 160,000 construction jobs and 450,000 permanent jobs.

CON: Proponents have no proof that 70 million car trips, or even a fraction of that, will be removed from the highways, or that Californians will buy the pricey tickets, especially in an economic downturn. Opponents note that this is a half-measure that doesn’t begin to pay for the full line, and private investors would have to be found. Then there’s the $19.2 billion price tag with interest for taxpayers. Detractors include the fiscally conservative Orange County Register, which calls it a “Fast Track to Bankruptcy” and the liberal Oakland Tribune, which dubs it the “Boondoggle Express.” Fiscal watchdogs including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association note that Californians will have to pay $640 million a year in interest, and voters’ grandchildren will be paying off these bonds nearly a generation from now.

RAND transportation expert Martin Wachs says the uncertainties could derail the benefits if airlines vigorously compete against the bullet trains, eating into the line’s touted ridership.

— Max Taves

Proposition 2

Standards for Confining Farm Animals

This measure would require California farms to provide bigger cages or living spaces for three specific animals: egg-laying hens, calves raised for veal and pregnant pigs. In practice, it will mostly apply to egg-laying chickens because California has minimal veal- and pig-breeding industries.

PRO: The Humane Society of the United States has put $3.6 million into this measure in the hope that it will spark a national movement if approved. Backers argue that it is cruel to confine hens and other animals in cages to small for them to freely turn around or fully extend their limbs. It is also backed by numerous environmental groups who point out that the California farms that may be forced to close contribute to water pollution.

CON: The only thing opponents agree with proponents on is that this measure sets up California as a launch pad for similar laws nationwide. The American Farm Bureau Federation predicts sharp new costs for eggs, as well as some meats and farm closures, if the measure is adopted in other states. Opposition money has poured in from midwestern and southern egg farms and national egg shippers.

Proposition 3

$980 Million Bond. Children’s Hospital Bond Act. Total price tag with interest: About $2 billion.

It would provide $980 million in bonds to fund “construction, expansion, remodeling, renovation, furnishing and equipping of children’s hospitals.”

PRO: The hospitals that treat serious children’s illnesses say they don’t have the capacity to serve the needs of California’s growing pediatric needs. The bond money would go toward increasing bed space and purchasing medical equipment. While the hospitals still have unspent money leftover from a 2004 bond measure, they say they are quickly running out due to skyrocketing construction and other costs. have not built or completed many of the projects they promised. They argue that the new round of investment will go to “pediatric centers of excellence” that perform the majority of the state’s heart surgeries, organ transplants and cancer treatment.

CON: Proposition 3’s description sounds like something Californians would normally want to spend money on. A successful proposition in 2004 used a similar bond scheme to raise $750 million for children’s hospitals. Now the same groups — dominated by private, not public state-owned hospitals by an 80-to-20-percent margin — are back, asking for a nearly identical infusion of additional state bond help even though there is nearly $350 million in unspent money from the last bond measure.

Detractors, including many newspapers and citizen groups who supported the 2004 bond measure, say that while improvements to acute care facilities that handle everything from leukemia to heart defects are important, this measure is poorly timed and too narrowly focused on a few lucky hospitals that already enjoy vast private and public resources.

— Daniel Heimpel

Proposition 4

Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy

This measure requires all unmarried minors seeking an abortion to wait at least 48 hours after the doctor formally notifies at least one parent. A doctor can void the rule if a girl fears physical, sexual or severe emotional abuse, and can instead report the situation to a law enforcement or child protection agency before the girl proceeds.

PRO: Backers say the law helps alert parents to the need for medical care and to deter possible sex abuse of their child. Many backers also hope it will give parents the ability to counsel their daughters and forestall abortion. In 2005 and 2006, California voters rejected a tougher “parental consent” measure, similar to those already in place in 24 states. Proponents note that Prop. 4 has been softened to require only parental notification, not parental consent, making it similar to laws in place in 10 states. Polls show that change seems to appeal to some voters, including Latinos. Some polls show that a large Latino turnout could put this measure over the top.

CON: Opponents, including several leading health groups, argue that it would impede girls’ safety and privacy, tempting them to seek an illegal abortion. UCLA public health professor Paula Tavrow says, “The teen who doesn’t want to go to her parents has a reason. Can a law make parents and children have better relationships? I don’t think that’s something you can legislate.” Dr. Stanley Henshaw of the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute says studies show that when girls’ parents learn about a pregnancy from somebody other than their daughter, they may face physical violence or get kicked out of their homes.

— MT

Proposition 5

Nonviolent Drug Offenses, Sentences, Parole and Rehabilitation

PRO: Nearly 200,000 inmates live in 33 state prisons at an annual taxpayer cost per prisoner of $46,000. This year, taxpayers will spend $10 billion to run the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. This measure attempts to change that by dividing the department into two entities, substantially reducing penalties for nonviolent drug offenses, and spending $1 billion, possibly more, on rehab programs. The measure will save, not cost, taxpayers money. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst Office predicts a one-time savings of $2.5 billion, due to the lack of need for new prisons, and eventual savings of $1 billion by gradually reducing the inmate and parolee populations, by 18,000 and 22,000 respectively. Supporters include the California Nurses Association and California Academy of Family Physicians, who say it expands the practices allowed by Proposition 36, approved by voters in 2000, which one study says has provided drug treatment to 84,000 abusers and saved about $2 billion in jail costs. Proponents say this change is needed to save money and reduce recidivism, by putting non-violent drug offenders in rehab.

CON: The measure reduces penalties — even for crimes involving victims — and is opposed by associations representing district attorneys, police chiefs and prison guards. Among other things, opponents argue that punishment for auto thieves and home-entry robbers could be reduced if the perpetrators convince the courts that their crimes were caused by their drug addictions. The measure is extremely complex, with 19-plus pages of fine print included at the back of the California 2008 Official Voter Information Guide explaining it. The measure seeks major changes to sentencing guidelines that would weaken the courts’ power to incarcerate some drug criminals. For example, possession of less than 28.5 grams of marijuana would be an infraction, and parole for convicted meth dealers could be cut from three years to six months.

The measure’s complexity and unknown potential consequences have turned off some proponents of drug rehab. Ronald Huff, dean and criminologist at UC Irvine, applauds the effort, but says, “the stuff is too complicated to be in a proposition.”

— MT

Proposition 6

$1 Billion Fiscal Mandate. Police and Law Enforcement Funding. Criminal Penalties and Laws.

This fiscal mandate directs how the legislature must divide up and spend the California General Fund. Specifically, it would mandate that the legislature dedicate $1 billion annually to police departments, probation divisions, jails, prisons and other law enforcement programs. It also makes some 30 changes to California criminal law, many related to gang offenses. It also relaxes hearsay rules.

PRO: Backers, including California prison guards and district attorneys, say the mandate will make the streets safer by significantly boosting penalties for gang crimes, auto theft and possession of meth. Gang members, for example, would face 10 more years in prison for attempting a violent crime and a life sentence for robbing a home.

CON: Opponents say this is the latest in a long and disastrous history of legislative mandates approved by voters that have forced the legislature to shift money out of badly needed areas to cover newly mandated areas. Opponents say it would further gridlock the legislative budget process in Sacramento, fall heavily on minorities and boost the prison population. “Speaking as a someone who has done gang research since the 1980s, this is a dramatic overreach in terms of juveniles who are charged with delinquent acts,” says Ronald Huff, criminologist at UC Irvine.

The most under-reported fine print in this measure is arguably the most important: It loosens the restrictions on use of hearsay in trials. According to the nonpartisan California State Legislative Analyst, courts almost always disallow a witness from repeating someone else’s accusations “for the purpose of proving that the content of that statement is true,” but Prop. 6 would expand the use of hearsay.

Last year, the state of California spent more than $600 million in the areas covered under this “unfunded mandate.” An additional $365 million would have to be found in the cash-strapped General Fund budget.

— MT

Proposition 7

Renewable Energy Generation

This measure will create highly complex new standards intended to compel utilities to generate 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2010, 40 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2025. To accomplish this, Prop. 7 would increase the requirements under the “renewable portfolios standard” (RPS) already imposed by the State of California on publicly owned utilities, electric service providers and investor-owned utilities. The renewable portfolios standard is a requirement that utilities use renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar or hydroelectric power. The proposition will increase the RPS and wipe out a cap on penalties against companies and utilities that fail to meet the requirements.

PRO: The United Farmworkers Union and Californians for Solar and Clean Energy say this measure will fast-track the existing effort by California state government to transition the big utilities to renewable energy. They point out that the bill includes provisions that limit the costs to consumers of this major switchover, holding electric bill increases to three percent. Moreover, they say the measure insures that the big utilities will be monitored for follow-through. A key author of the bill is Arizona billionaire Peter Sperling. Supporters include 3 Nobel Prize-winning scientists and so-called eco-pioneer David S. Freeman.

CON: A broad range of detractors from both sides of the political aisle, including the fiscally tough California Taxpayer’s Association, the pro-green Environmental Defense Fund and Sierra Club, and the small-business-oriented California Solar Energy Industries Association, have joined against this measure, saying it will have the opposite intended effect, impeding the tough 20 percent RPS goal that already exists in state law, and hindering the aggressive 33 percent RPS goal endorsed by the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Further, the measure’s wording appears to exclude the use of renewable energy resources produced by sources under 30 megawatts, which critics say could force small solar and wind businesses out of California’s energy market.

— DH

Proposition 8

Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry

Last May, a split vote by the California Supreme Court invalidated Proposition 22, passed by California voters in 2000, which banned gay marriage. The court majority found that civil unions granted as a substitute for marriage were a form of “separate but equal” discrimination and therefore unconstitutional. Gay couples are now being legally married in California, but Prop. 8’s key promoters — mostly Catholic, Mormon and other Christians and anti-gay groups — want to end that by specifying in the California Constitution that marriage is valid only between a man and woman. (Also see LA Weekly, “California GOP: The Queer Enablers of Gay Marriage” for an in-depth report on the battle.)

PRO: Backers, including leaders of the Mormon and Catholic church, argue that it’s not about an “attack on the gay lifestyle” but rather a restoration of the longtime definition of marriage. They claim the current court ruling could force churches to accept beliefs against their teachings, and allow the schools to take a pro-gay marriage stance in books and curriculum.

CON: Supporters argue on two fronts. They say this is an issue of civil rights for gays, affording them the same societal traditions afforded to heterosexuals, and will not force churches or schools to alter their approaches. In addition, they argue that although marriage and domestic partnership provide similar benefits, a husband and wife have rights in nine additional areas that gay partners do not. Marriage affords traditional couples more privacy and less tax liability options than does a domestic partnership, for example. Also, if Prop. 8 passes, it could make it more difficult for gay state government employees to share their health insurance with their partners.

Polls show that California voters lean against the ban, but that individual voters display mixed feelings. According to a fresh poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, a slim margin of likely voters disapprove of gays getting married, but a similarly slim margin do not want to actually ban gay marriage.

— MT

Proposition 9

Criminal Justice System, Victims Rights, Parole Initiative.

This measure dramatically alters criminal justice practices, giving victims and their families a significant role in bail, plea, sentencing and parole phases of an arrest and trial. The California State Legislative Analyst predicts significant new county jail costs if it is approved by voters.

PRO: Proponents say that crime victims, who have won increasing roles in California courts, should have even more say over the law enforcement process.

CON: A broad range of opponents say such rights will muck up the system, take the focus off the crimes themselves, and weaken prosecutors and judges.

— Jill Stewart

Proposition 10

$5 Billion Bond. Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy Bonds. Total price tag with interest: $10 Billion.

This would provide $5 billion in bonded funds to pay rebates to Californians who buy low-emission vehicles, and would also fund renewable energy research. The bond would not be paid off by California taxpayers until the year 2038, meaning voters’ grandkids will pay at least some of the bill. Roughly $3.4 billion of it would go to rebates ranging from $2,000 to $50,000 per vehicle, with the biggest rebates going to the buyers of heavy-duty, natural gas–powered trucks. The remaining $1.6 billion would be spent on financial incentives for technology that leads to lower emissions, as well as grants to colleges and universities that finance attempts to develop renewable technologies.

PRO: It is being heavily backed and promoted in ads by Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens and Oklahoma natural gas–magnate Aubrey McClendon, who both bill it as measure that promotes low-emission vehicles and renewable energy. It also has support from some significant energy and smog experts in California, including members of California Air Resources Board, who argue that Prop. 10 will create new green-technology jobs and reduce the state’s dependence on foreign oil.

CON: A broad range of opponents call this a Trojan Horse designed to boost natural gas sales for T. Boone Pickens, while taking money out of working-class taxpayers’ pockets to subsidize car purchases of Californians who can afford new cars and trucks. Detractors point out that it subverts the purpose of state bonds — i.e., to pay for shared, permanent infrastructure like bridges, schools, public hospitals and roads — dangerously shifting such money into impermanent consumer purchases. Opponents, from the Sierra Club to clean air advocates, point to the taxpayer debt, lasting until 2038. “Taxpayers will be paying off Proposition 10 for 30 years, long after the vehicles it subsidizes go to the junkyard,” writes Judy Dugan, research director of the Santa Monica–based Consumer Watchdog.

— DH

Proposition 11

Redistricting Initiative. Constitutional Amendment.

Prop. 11 ends legislative gerrymandering. It creates a bipartisan commission similar to ones used in other states that would take over the job of drawing up California’s voting districts, a process that now unfolds in secret and is controlled by powerful Sacramento legislators. The bipartisan citizen panel would be required to draw up voting districts that generally respect community lines and natural geography.

PRO: This measure is backed by a broad mix of liberal, moderate and conservative good-government groups including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, AARP and the California Taxpayers’ Association. They are calling for an end to “gerrymandering” — a closed-door process in which top leaders of the Sacramento legislature and their private consultants use sophisticated computer programs and detailed street maps to draw tortured, zig-zagging lines that cut through communities and ignore city limits in order to create “voting districts” that ensure re-election of the Democratic and Republican incumbents from those areas.

CON: It is opposed by many Sacramento state legislators and unions who contribute large sums to their legislative races. Opponents say gerrymandering is an arcane, confusing subject best left to elected leaders. Some black and Latino organizations oppose the use of a bipartisan panel, saying such a group might try to water down minority voting rights protected by federal law.

Polls show that California voters are deeply confused about what gerrymandering actually means or what redistricting is about. This arcane subject has in the past turned off California voters, who, in recent decades, have rebuffed all reform efforts.

— JS

Proposition 12

$900 million Bond. Veterans Bond Act.

Continues home mortgage program for soldiers.

PRO: Amidst a long list of bond measures and new tax hikes that would heavily nick Los Angeles and California taxpayers, this measure stands out as the only one that does not boost any taxes or add a penny to the State of California’s groaning debt. With soldiers streaming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, a broad array of California politicians and organizations are urging voters to approve the latest in a series of 27 veterans’ home loan bonds that have been issued, successfully, since the close of World War I.

Prop. 12 continues a longtime program that, to date, has not cost California taxpayers any money. It calls for $900 million in funds to assist veterans in buying homes and farms, and will generate an additional $856 million in interest costs, all of which is to be paid back by the veterans themselves. Unlike sub-prime mortgages, this lending program has proved to be fiscally sound over the decades, regardless of economic trends. The Department of Veterans affairs would use the funds to buy property, which they would resell to vets at a reduced interest rate.

CON: The initiative has not met any major resistance from taxpayer watchdog groups. It has no serious opposition. The measure was placed on the ballot after being unanimously passed by the assembly and senate, and signed by the governor.

— DH

LOCAL MEASURES

Proposition A — City of Los Angeles. Special Gang and Youth Violence Prevention, After-School and Job Training Programs Tax.

This $36 parcel anti-gang tax is unlike a typical property tax in that it charges all owners of land, buildings or homes a flat fee for each parcel of land, rather than charging them based on property value. Owners of two parcels will be charged double, owners of three parcels will be charged triple, and so on. It would fund Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s proposed gang prevention program.

PRO: The millions generated by this new tax would go to apprenticeship, tutoring, training and community programs designed to keep young people out of gangs. But unlike the failed, multimillion dollar L.A. Bridges program created by elected city leaders, this program would include closer monitoring by the city’s controller to determine whether the programs are working. According to Police Chief Bill Bratton, street gangs lure and recruit kids at a young age; offering an alternative will help kids resist the lure of the streets.

CON: Opponents note that the city controller study of City Hall’s previously failed anti-gang efforts found that money was not the problem with L.A. Bridges — disastrous management of those funds by the city was. To date, the mayor and council have been unable to prove than any children were saved from gangs by the millions spent on city contractors and subcontractors. Taxpayer rights groups say working-class and middle-class property owners are overwhelmed with taxes, and City Hall politicians should stop misspending the millions they already have before asking taxpayers to back a vaguely outlined program, with no track record, again being run by politicians.

— JS

Proposition B — Update of Low-Rent Housing Authorization. City of Los Angeles.

This measure allows the city to continue to receive state help to build housing for low-income residents. But Prop. B, also known as Measure B, goes much further, wiping out restrictions created by voters in five prior measures that strictly limited the height and size of such housing. The previous five voter-approved measures, in 1973, 1977 and 1980, were designed to prevent City Hall politicians from letting developers erect high-rise poverty housing, a social experiment that proved disastrous around the nation. In the last change, made in 1980, L.A. voters placed strict two-story limits on government-funded low-income housing, and limited the density of such apartments to 30 units per development. However, the language of Proposition B does not inform voters that the measure ends the size and height limits.

PRO: Proponents, including City Councilman Eric Garcetti, insist that the ballot language was not intended to be misleading, and promise that politicians and bureaucrats will not use the removal of size limits to erect high-rise housing for the poor. They argue that without this lifting of height and size limits, Los Angeles will have tough time qualifying for state affordable housing funds. Supporter Larry Gross, director of the Los Angeles Coalition for Economic Survival, says, “Any initiative to spur affordable housing needs to be supported.”

CON: Critics, including members of some neighborhood councils, are crying foul over the omitted language that leaves voters unaware they are lifting longtime size and height restrictions. “Housing for working families is crucial,” says City Hall activist Zuma Dogg. But he argues that the Los Angeles City Council purposely crafted this confusing measure for an indefensible reason: to reap state housing money from the loophole-riddled 2006 Affordable Housing and Shelter Trust Fund Act, to enhance high-density proposed luxury projects such as downtown’s Grand Avenue.

—DH

Proposition J — $3.5 Billion Bond. Los Angeles Community College Classroom Repair, Public Safety and Job Training Measure. Total price tag with interest: About $7 billion.

This bond measure pays for upgrades to a broad range of projects on nine community college campuses, including modernized campus signs, bathrooms, lighting, furnishings, equipment, walkways, security systems, parking lots, sports facilities, phone systems and other improvements.

PRO: Backers, including the Los Angeles College Faculty League and construction unions, say this wide-ranging upgrade of aging community college campuses will ultimately save money by boosting energy efficiency with modernized buildings and equipment, improve campus safety and fix deteriorating roofs, wiring and other deferred maintenance. Numerous politicians and organizations are backing the measure, saying it was fully vetted and carefully conceived, and should not be confused with a badly planned Los Angeles Unified School District bond measure that has suffered wide ridicule.

CON: Opponents, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, say the colleges’ own budget numbers show that the nine community colleges are sitting on $656 million of unspent money from two previous voter-approved bond measures. They argue that this list of mostly non-critical improvements comes at the worst possible time for financially strained taxpayers and includes hidden pork-like taxpayer funding for the privately owned Southwest Museum.

Rancor has broken out, with opponents filing a complaint against the college district with the State Attorney General and Fair Political Practices Commission, claiming that school district officials are illegally using public time and public funds to push the measure.

Proposition Q — $7 Billion Bond. Safe, Healthy Neighborhood Schools Measure. Total price tag with interest: About $14 billion.

The 700,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District is seeking a $7 billion bond for capital improvements to existing schools.

PRO: The LAUSD board approved the ballot language in July with big support from government employee unions and construction unions, long before the Wall Street meltdown. The elected school board argued that the bond money was needed to modernize several schools and create smaller, less-crowded campuses. Also known as Measure Q, its chief proponents have publicly wavered on whether LAUSD needs $7 billion, with Superintendent David Brewer admitting to the Daily News that the district could do sufficient school upgrading if it had $3 billion more.

CON: Brewer, Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia, and the school board have drawn intense and widespread criticism for placing this barely discussed borrowing plan on the ballot, then celebrating at a pricey dinner. It is opposed by the Los Angeles Times and Daily News, which often back school bonds, and is pilloried by taxpayer groups who point out that the school district, still flush with billions of unspent dollars from past bond measures, is not growing but losing student enrollment. Says Kris Vosburgh of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Institute, “The LAUSD already has enough money to continue building through 2013.”

— DH

Proposition R — Traffic Relief, Extensions, Reduce Foreign Oil Dependence. Mass Transit. $40 Billion Tax Increase.

PRO: Proponents say the money is badly needed to fund several massive rail projects and highway improvements. They claim commuter rail projects would get $4.2 billion to extend the Red Line from Downtown to Westwood; $2 billion to expand the Gold Line; $1.6 to build the light-rail Expo Line to Santa Monica; $1.4 billion to “accelerate” the Crenshaw Transit Corridor in South Los Angeles. Metro also says it hopes to spend more than $22 billion on highway improvements.

CON: Traffic sucks. Gas is expensive. And global warming is bad. Metro is hoping that voters are reminding themselves of those three truths when they vote on Prop. R, also called Measure R, and not these three truths: Metro is incompetent. The economy is horrible. Taxes are bad. If voters approve Prop. R, they’ll be raising L.A. County’s sales tax by a half-cent, to 8.75 cents per dollar for the next 30 years — enough to raise $40 billion. It will give working-class Los Angeles County the highest sales tax in California, tied with more upscale Alameda County in the Bay Area.

Metro’s plan has incensed some groups who say it funds the wrong kind of transit. The Bus Riders Union wants the money spent on flexible, much cheaper bus routes that, unlike rail, don’t require massive construction and can be moved around as neighborhoods grow or wane. Los Angeles County supervisors Gloria Molina, Don Knabe and Mike Antonovich decry Measure R because the congested San Gabriel, San Fernando and Antelope valleys will get far less of the money, but will pay the same tax increase, estimated at $88 per person, per year. Moreover, none of the projects on Metro’s wish list have to actually be completed, and promised projects can be abandoned to fund other projects.

Will it pass? Transportation expert Martin Wachs of the non-partisan RAND Corporation says an existing statewide gasoline tax, intended to pay for roads and transit, has been eaten up by inflation. As a result, “There’s so much less federal and state money flowing into L.A. [for transportation],” he says. But because it would increase the county sales tax, it must get 66 percent voter approval — a major hurdle in the current economic climate.

— MT

Proposition T — Commercial and Office Construction Limits, City of Santa Monica

Proposition T would amend Santa Monica’s General Plan to limit annual commercial development in the heavily gridlocked city to 75,000 square feet until the year 2023.

PRO: Proponents, calling their movement RIFT, are primarily neighborhood groups led by the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City who hope to discourage traffic by dramatically reducing the development of new retail, office and industrial buildings. “By limiting annual commercial development to a level that allows a reasonable rate of growth, this measure will ensure that our city has the time to develop the infrastructure to keep pace with future growth,” the group says.

CON: Opponents, including several unions, are being underwritten by a group of out-of-state landowners and developers who have poured in 98 percent of the $740,000 in contributions against the plan, which would slash the city’s commercial development at least in half. They argue that Prop. T won’t reduce traffic in Santa Monica because it does not offer any actual traffic mitigation plan, and they claim that the reduced developer fees paid into the Santa Monica city treasury will affect funding for local schools and public safety.

One of the less-discussed outcomes of Prop. T is potentially the most important: If it passes, it could inspire a wave of citizen-led slow-growth movements in other cities in Southern California, where residents are angry over high-density projects and other development deals frequently backed by local elected leaders.

— DH


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