Opinion

COMMUNITY OPINION: Vote yes on Measure Q to protect open space

Brian Schmidt writes that a yes vote on Measure Q will stop the warehouse/traffic jam proposal at Strada Verde that voters already voted down in 2020.

This community opinion was contributed by Brian Schmidt with Green Foothills, an environmental advocacy group based in Palo Alto, Ca. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors. BenitoLink invites all community members to share their ideas and opinions. By registering as a BenitoLink user in the top right corner of our home page and agreeing to follow our Terms of Use, you can write counter opinions or share your insights on current issues.

 

What’s worse than a proposal for a sprawling warehouse development blocking traffic north of Hollister – one that was already rejected by 59% of voters in 2020? It’s the current version of the proposal – known also as Strada Verde – now before county planners and supported (sadly) by most county supervisors. While relatively the same version put before voters in the form of Measure N in 2020, this updated proposal has one very important omission. It’s missing the 25-year guarantee against adding housing to the project, the last element to making Strada Verde into a new city that sprawls across northern San Benito County.

That’s why Green Foothills recommends voting yes on Measure Q. Voting yes on Measure Q will put a stop to this new – and worse – version of the Strada Verde proposal (2020’s Measure N). Voting yes on Measure Q will send a clear message to the Strada Verde developers and the supporting supervisors that attempting to do an end run around voters is not acceptable.

Strada Verde developers paid to put Measure N on the ballot in 2020 to fast-track their sprawl proposal, and its massive defeat by the voters should have ended any prospects of separate approval by the supervisors. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and unless Measure Q passes, the supervisors have the right to overrule their voters and approve Strada Verde themselves.

Why is Strada Verde so bad? Despite what you might have heard, this is not a magnet for high-tech jobs. It is a warehouse proposal with high-tech window dressing, bringing low-paid jobs that will snarl San Benito highways with traffic.

“Warehouse distribution & logistics” is allowed per the proposal throughout seven million square feet of the planned building development. High tech is allowed too, but what do you think will actually get built? The only developed area not permitted for warehouses is the “Commercial” district, which functions more like the downtown core of a new city than anything else. The proposal also allows developers to build “by-right” with almost no authority for the county to reject building plans.

As for that commercial district, the developers’ plans sound like they intend to build an entire downtown for a new city, not a tech campus. They literally plan for colleges, gyms and spas, museums, parks, restaurants, and certain retail shops. It is more evidence and reason for voters to reject this proposal by voting yes on Measure Q.

Don’t be fooled by the developers’ promise – and the claim by some supervisors – that Strada Verde won’t become an entire new city because housing isn’t allowed as part of the plan. The truth is that the current Strada Verde plan, unless stopped by Measure Q, could be amended at any time by a vote of three of the five supervisors, which means the supervisors can allow any type of development they wish. Factor in the recent news about a housing developer transferring thousands of acres of land adjacent to Strada Verde, and the threat of a new city with all the traffic it will generate to the north is even more real.

As to whether the Board of Supervisors would do something that unpopular with the public, look no further than what they are doing right now. Despite voters’ decisive defeat of Measure N, a majority of supervisors have signaled their general support for moving Strada Verde forward. They also strongly oppose Measure Q which would stop it.

Voting yes on Measure Q is necessary to uphold the voter defeat of Measure N and more. In the March 2020 referendum over Measure K, 60% of voters decided to stop sprawl development along the environmentally sensitive Highway 101 nodes, a decision the supervisors are also trying to get around. Measure Q stops the end run against the voter’s’ will. It will require a vote of the public before that development can happen. It will also more broadly  preserve farmland and ranchland through much of the county.

Yes on Measure Q is not a vote against new development. Rather, it will help ensure better development proposals for San Benito County by requiring voter approval for large new developments in rural areas.

Let voters decide before creating widespread sprawl that would turn the county into an endless suburb of Silicon Valley, and stop the supervisors from continuing wrong decisions they’ve made for such a long time, by voting yes on Measure Q.

-Brian Schmidt, Policy and Advocacy Director

Green Foothills

Brian Schmidt