A grassroots ballot initiative aimed at strengthening voter rights on future development may have garnered enough support, but will no longer be under consideration as a ballot measure due to a technical error.
Approximately 3,300 residents signed Save Open Space Danville's preservation initiative that would end the sunset clause Measure S -- which requires a resident vote on requested land use designation changes to the town's General Plan and prevent zoning that organizers feel is wrong for agricultural or open space land. The initiative was submitted to the town clerk on April 12 after making the rounds in Danville since October 2012.
The Contra Costa County clerk verified the petition as valid for the November 4, 2014 election, having received signatures from more than 10 percent of registered voters. Danville Town Council was set to approve the County Clerk's certification at its May 7 meeting but notified SOS Danville that two omissions from the petition prevented it from being considered.
"The people of Danville have made it clear through their signatures on our Open Space Protection initiative petitions that they want to protect their Measure S rights to vote on important decisions about open space lands. The Town of Danville government has made clear its position to limit public votes on such decisions," said SOS Danville representative Maryann Cella.
Town Manager Joe Calabrigo said the petition was missing pre-circulation preparatory elements required in three penal codes: a complete title and summary prepared by the town attorney (Election Codes 9203 and 9207) and a notice of intent to circulate a petition with the names of the proponents (E.C. 9201) attached. While all of the documents exist, SOS did not put the three petition proponent names on the petition or the entire title and summary, Calabrigo said.
"Presumably, these were omitted in error. Elections code is pretty clear in terms of this is what needs to be included….when you deviate from the requirement by that extent there is no option but to not act on it," he said.
Cella said her group was notified of this error approximately 2 1/2 hours before the May 7 meeting. She noted that the petition was prepared by an attorney "expert in election law hired by SOS Danville."
"We haven't formulated our plan of action yet, but are certainly disappointed by the timing of the town's decision to derail the petitions, given that they have been in circulation in Danville since late October 2012, and were turned into Danville's town offices nearly one month ago," she wrote.
Calabrigo added that, because of the short time frame, the town wanted to make sure SOS Danville and its legal council had an opportunity to review the documents and will consider any additional information added to the document. Calabrigo dismissed suspicions about why the town did not notice the errors earlier.
"The focus was probably on trying to quantify for the proponents the number of total signatures submitted before the petition was sent off to the county for review," he said. "That notwithstanding, whether they had been told in middle of April or whether they were told earlier this week, it doesn't change the outcome."
SOS Danville's window of opportunity to resubmit the initiative has closed, the group would have to circulate a new petition and gather new signatures in order to qualify for the ballot.
The preservation initiative would have removed the 2020 expiration date on Measure S and solidify Danville resident's right to vote on whether to allow clustered residential development on open space land designated for agricultural use. Danville's recently adopted 2030 General Plan update retains the 2010 General Plan definition of agriculture and incorporates the "full language of Measure S as a part of the Draft 2030 Plan."
The initiative also called for lands with expired Williamson Act contracts ---- an agricultural preservation act which expires after 10 years or whenever the landowner decides -- contracts to retain the one unit per 20 acres A-4 zoning designation. Prior to a Town Council vote on the 2030 Plan, Williamson land out of contract could be developed with one house per five acre (A-2) zoning.