Ballot backlash

Call it the Great Growth Revolt of 2000.

An unprecedented number of measures aimed at controlling growth crowd local ballots this year. In Sacramento County, it’s Measure O. Davis has its own measure O, a property assessment for the preservation of open space. In Placer County, measures V and W would levy a half-cent sales tax for the proposed Placer Legacy open-space acquisition program.

But the raft of growth-related ballot measures reflects a bigger trend throughout California. It’s a kind of backlash; voters everywhere are reacting to local government’s inability or unwillingness to control growth in their communities and are taking matters into their own hands.

No fewer than 11 growth-boundary measures are being considered in the state this election. San Jose voters will decide whether to reaffirm that city’s Urban Greenline, while Alameda County voters will decide between two competing growth boundaries.

Dozens of local ballot measures concern other growth-related areas.

“People are fed up,” said Terry Davis with the Mother Lode chapter of the Sierra Club. “It wasn’t that long ago that if you talked about sprawl, people just sort of looked at you and said ‘huh?’ Now it’s very much in the mainstream.”

Going to the ballot may not be the most effective way to deal with sprawl, but as Sharon Sprowls of the California Futures Network notes, many communities feel as if they have no choice.

“We think [the measures] are symptomatic of the lack of a state policy in dealing with growth. There’s no state vision,” said Sprowls.

It’s not just California. Slow-growth ballot measures in Colorado and Arizona have prompted another kind of backlash, from a nervous building industry.

A recent fund-raising letter from the National Association of Home Builders warns “The Sierra Club and other no-growth extremists … want to drive homebuilders out of business and force American families into crowded high-density neighborhoods against their will.”

And the battle rages on.