Voters appear to approve Bay conservation parcel tax

Bay Area-wide tax will cost homeowners $12 per year for 20 years

A regional ballot initiative proposing a parcel tax that would raise $500 million over 20 years to fund Bay conservation and flood protection projects appears to have been narrowly approved by voters in the nine-county Bay Area.

Unofficial Election Night results reports that Measure AA, which proposes an annual $12 parcel tax, had received about 69% of the vote, above the two-thirds needed to pass, with more than 965,000 votes counted as of early Wednesday morning.

The proposal was supported by many local politicians, business and environmental groups, who said the funding was critical to help reduce pollution in the Bay, restore wildlife habitat, protect communities from flooding and increase shoreline access, including the creation of 25 miles of new Bay Trails.

"(Tuesday's) vote is a resounding victory for wildlife and people who want a healthy, beautiful Bay for future generations," said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, one of the groups backing the measure.

The measure was overwhelmingly passed in counties like San Francisco, where it got about 77% approval, and Marin, where it got about 72.5%.

However, it fell short of the two-thirds threshold in other counties, including Contra Costa at 64.76%, Sonoma at about 62.5% and Napa at about 57% according to unofficial and incomplete results from those counties.

The official ballot argument against the measure was submitted by Jack Weir representing the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association. Weir wrote that the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority -- a government entity formed in 2009 -- can amend the measure with a simple majority vote and that the measure does not provide a specific spending plan.

The measure "is like taxpayers writing a blank check" and is "more about filling politicians' pockets than it is about helping the environment," Weir wrote.

Supporters said the measure includes an independent citizens' oversight committee to ensure funds are spent properly and that all funds must stay in the Bay Area to only be used on local habitat restoration and wildlife protection projects.

-- Dan McMenamin, Bay City News Service

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