Danville residents have officially signed off on the Magee Preserve residential project, passing Measure Y by a narrow but decisive margin, according to newly certified election results.
Measure Y, which asked Danville voters to settle the years-long debate over development on Magee Ranch property south of Diablo Road in the northeastern part of town, received 54.24% Yes votes to 45.76% No votes in the March 3 primary election, according to the final report from the Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters' Office.
Meanwhile, the countywide measure on Danville ballots during the election -- the proposed transportation sales tax -- failed by a considerable margin, with Measure J barely earning a majority of votes but finishing well short of the two-thirds support required for passage.
And the statewide school bond measure, the $15 billion Proposition 13, is all but confirmed for defeat, trailing 53.1% No to 46.9% Yes in the simple-majority election that is likely days away from certification.
Voters support Magee Preserve
Measure Y asked residents whether to approve the Magee Preserve project, which proposes to construct 69 new houses clustered on approximately 29 acres of a 410-acre property in northeast Danville, with the remaining 381 acres preserved as open space on a permanent basis.
The Danville Town Council approved the proposal from developer Davidon Homes last July, appearing to settle the long-disputed subject of development on Magee Ranch property.
But a group of residents pursued a referendum petition that garnered enough support to send the Magee Preserve project to the voters -- with a Yes vote on Measure Y approving the new development while a No vote would result in its denial.
Ultimately, the majority of participating Danville voters (turnout was just over 62%) sided with the development plan put forth by Walnut Creek-based Davidon and unanimously endorsed by the Town Council.
"With the passage of Measure Y, we are thrilled for the town of Danville in finally bringing to fruition its long-planned vision for the Magee Preserve property. This is a win for this great community, and the many public benefits this project brings will now become a reality," Steve Abbs, vice president of land acquisition and development at Davidon, told DanvilleSanRamon.com.
"Davidon intends to work diligently to provide all of the great public benefits as quickly as possible," Abbs added. "We look forward to working with all of the various public agencies in finalizing the details over the next several months, and expect to break ground sometime next year."
Save Mount Diablo was one of a handful of key environmental groups to publicly back the Magee Preserve project, supporting its land conservation and bicycle safety components among other aspects.
"We are incredibly happy with the Measure Y results. A win of 8.5%," said Seth Adams, land conservation director for Save Mount Diablo.
"Magee Preserve is spectacular with the best views in Danville," Adams added. "We could not have afforded this property even if it were available. Instead we worked with the Magee family, and Davidon to come up with a plan to protect 93% -- 381 acres -- at no cost to the public. We can’t wait to begin trail planning with Davidon and East Bay Regional Park District and to get neighbors and the public up onto the property."
Leaders of the No on Measure Y effort lamented the loss in comments to DanvilleSanRamon.com after the election certification.
"We are extremely gratified that many thousands of Danville citizens voted to prioritize the interests of their neighbors over outside special interests, and to voice real concern with development in our town. Hopefully the Town Council will hear their voices," Bob Nealis said.
"Regardless of their position on Measure Y, we thank all residents for their passionate support of Danville and hope that everyone remains safe and healthy during this very difficult time," he added.
Fellow No on Y leader Clelen Tanner said, "The outcome of Measure Y is what happens when a couple of thousand dollars comes up against $780,000. No doubt Davidon spent more than that."
"This neighborhood can be divided into three groups, Danville, Diablo community and county. All three are highly impacted by the Davidon development. Unfortunately, Diablo community and the county areas cannot participate or vote on Measure Y," Tanner said, adding:
"Town Council and Davidon Homes made a lot of promises. They are pie-crust promises. We will never see them."
Davidon's was the most recent proposal for the Magee property that has been long eyed for development with housing, including a previous version proposed by developer SummerHill Homes and approved by the Town Council in 2013 that led to a lawsuit that reached the state Court of Appeal. The civil case resulted in key changes to the project related to bicycle safety that Davidon carried through in its proposal after SummerHill bowed out.
The Davidon project was approved by the council during its regular meeting on July 2, with council members stating that the project’s superior environmental conservation, recreational and safety benefits would prove to be a major boon for the town, as would the new neighborhood.
The council’s approval was given over the objection of some residents who feared that the project would increase traffic in the area, limit evacuation routes in an emergency situation such as a fire and obstruct parts of the area’s open space -- among the arguments of the No on Y campaign.
The pro-Magee Preserve arguments ultimately resonated best with Danville voters.
Yes on Measure Y maintained a slim lead after early returns on Election Night, and that margin continued to widen in its favor as county officials processed more ballots in the days and weeks after the election until certifying on March 23.
In the end, Yes on Measure Y received 10,241 votes (54.24%), compared to 8,639 votes (45.76%) for the No side.
Turnout was 62.08% of the 30,982 registered voters residing within the town of Danville -- that total turnout included voters who recorded either no discernible vote ("under vote") or marked both bubbles ("over vote") on their ballot.
Danville's ballot splits included 14,552 people voting by mail and 4,328 at the polls on Election Day.
The Measure Y voter participation was nearly 12 percentage points better than the turnout for all of Contra Costa County during the March 3 primary election, which was a shade over half at 50.29%.
Reflecting on the Measure Y election, Danville Mayor Karen Stepper -- a supporter of the Magee Preserve -- said the outcome represents a vote of confidence for yet another example of the kind of measured growth that has been a hallmark for Danville since incorporation in the early 1980s.
"Measure Y is a validation of the vision of those people who grabbed the future to define Danville as the best place to raise families -- the safest community, the best schools, the most responsive fire department, cooperative agreements to build biking and walking trails and community parks, historic preservation, unique shops, and town-wide and community events," Stepper told DanvilleSanRamon.com.
"Those who voted for Y have continued that strong tradition as we reach a population of 45,000 people," she said. "It is our goal to help the newcomers (Danville residents) embrace the vision that brought them to Danville and to support the town that spends all of its funds and time building this community."
Measure J tax fails
Voters in Contra Costa County resoundingly defeated a bid from the Contra Costa Transportation Authority to enact another half-cent sales tax to fund transportation and other infrastructure improvements across the county.
Measure J -- which actually trailed in the minority on Election Night, 51.06% No and 48.94% Yes -- ultimately gained control of a slight majority as ballot processing carried on, but in the end it fell some 15% short of the two-thirds supermajority required for passage.
Yes on Measure J earned 164,748 votes (51.69%) across the county, compared to 154,001 No votes (48.31%).
Turnout was 49.96% of the county's 657,273 (a total that includes ballots with Measure J votes that didn't count, either as under or over votes).
Measure J proposed to enact a half-cent sales tax countywide from July 1, 2020, until June 30, 2055, that would have raised an estimated $103 million to be used on a variety of projects such as reducing congestion, fixing bottlenecks, repaving roads, making commutes quicker and more predictable, and improving the overall quality, safety and reliability of buses, ferries and BART.
Proponents argued that Measure J was a well-thought-out plan necessary to improving the region's infrastructure problems and supported by every town and city council in the county as well as the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.
Opponents countered that Measure J was costly and ineffective, claiming that yet another tax increase was not worth the level of benefits called for in the plan.
Prop 13 defeat all but confirmed
Seen as perhaps the greatest sign of California voter fatigue with new bond measures, Proposition 13 is still trailing -- now roughly 3% under the passage threshold -- statewide as it has since Election Night, though the result will not be confirmed until all 58 counties certify their election tallies.
Currently, Prop 13 is at 53.1% No and 46.9% Yes, with a simple majority either way determining the outcome on the $15 billion school facilities bond, which was the only statewide measure on the March 3 ballot. (In Contra Costa County, 50.51% of voters were Yes on Prop 13 compared to 49.49% voting No.)
Most, but not all, of California's counties have certified their results. Gov. Gavin Newsom extended the official canvass period by 21 days to April 24 due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, so the final outcome for Prop 13 won't be confirmed until that date at the latest.
But with the vast majority of ballots counted statewide, the margin appears too large for the Yes side to overcome in the end.
This year's Prop 13 was a proposal from the State Legislature seeking voter authorization to issue $15 billion in state general obligation bonds to fund construction and modernization projects at public education facilities across California.
The proposal called for $9 billion dedicated to support projects at local preschools and K-12 campuses and $6 billion for public universities and community colleges. State officials estimated the costs to repay the bonds (principal and interest) at $740 million per year for 35 years.
Note: The 2020 Prop 13 had nothing to do with the well-known 1978 California initiative measure by the same ballot designation number on property tax rate limitations.