Developers' attempt to overturn Measure D, the landmark open space initiative adopted by Alameda county voters in November 2000, failed on Thursday as a State Court of Appeal panel ruled unanimously that the developers' case against Measure D lacked legal merit to justify further court proceedings. Among other grounds for upholding Measure D, Presiding Justice Barbara Jones wrote, "Protecting open space and preventing against the ill effects of urban sprawl is, beyond question, beneficial to public health and welfare."
Dick Schneider, coordinator of the Yes on Measure D campaign for the Sierra Club, said "This ruling vindicates the choices made by a majority of Alameda county voters, who recognize that the county is a special place because of the beauty of its natural environment. Measure D will allow us to grow within our urban areas without destroying natural resources needed for agriculture, wildlife habitat, recreation and scenic beauty."
Measure Passed With Large Majority in 2000 election
Measure D passed with a 57% majority of Alameda County voters (243,094 in favor, 186,682 against). Measure D was placed on the ballot by citizens' groups and supported by a majority of voters because it will preserve vanishing agricultural lands, protect open space, watersheds, and wildlife habitat. The measure limits sprawl development by setting a county urban growth boundary, preventing subdivisions on the farms and ranches of eastern Alameda County and in the canyonlands east of Castro Valley, Hayward, Union City and Fremont. The measure encourages infill and transit-friendly development to help revitalize neighborhoods within existing urban boundaries. The court victory upholds a model for communities fighting sprawl across the country.
Having lost at the ballot box, developers Shea Homes Limited Partnership and Trafalgar, Inc. sued Alameda County early in 2001, claiming Measure D violated the California Constitution and other state laws. Citizens groups represented by Earthjustice, including Sierra Club, Preserve Area Ridgelands Committee, Golden Gate Audubon, and Greenbelt Alliance, joined with the county to defend the measure. A county superior court upheld Measure D as both constitutional and in compliance with housing laws and other state statutes in September 2001. The developers appealed.
"We believe Measure D is one of the best-written smart growth initiatives in the country. Because it is well written, it gained strong support from political leaders, community groups, and most importantly, county voters," said Trent Orr of Earthjustice, attorney for the environmental groups defending the measure. "Developers claimed that Measure D would keep us from reaching state goals for new housing, but this decision affirms the fact that we can meet our housing needs inside urban growth boundaries, without paving over our remaining open spaces."
"If developers are really interested in building affordable housing near public transit and cutting down on the traffic congestion that makes life miserable for Bay Area commuters, I'd be glad to take them on a tour of neighborhoods and communities, within the current urban boundaries of Alameda county, eager for such an investment," said Schneider.
View court decision here (three large documents) in .pdf