Housing / Land Use

Primary Election 2020: Measure K

FAQ about the controversial ballot measure on commercial zoning and development along Highway 101.
Map of nodes in San Benito County. Image from General Plan Update 2035.
Map of nodes in San Benito County. Image from General Plan Update 2035.

What is Measure K?

Measure K is the result of a referendum spearheaded by Preserve Our Rural Communities (PORC), a group of residents who oppose the county’s ordinance 991 which establishes additional regional commercial (C-3) zoning regulations for development on four areas along Highway 101, known as commercial nodes. The four areas—Betabel, Highway 129/Searle Rd, Livestock 101 and Rocks Ranch—involve a total of 298.6 acres. 

What does voting ‘yes’ on K mean?

Voting ‘yes’ means supporting development of the four nodes under C-3 regulations, which is intended to serve tourists.

What does voting ‘no’ on K mean?

Voting ‘no’ would keep the nodes under present zoning. The Betabel (29 acres) and Highway 129/Searle Road (33 acres) node areas are zoned agricultural rangeland-floodplain; Rocks Ranch (77.3 acres) is zoned agricultural rangeland (AR) or agricultural productive; and Livestock 101 (159.3 acres) is rural and neighborhood commercial (C-2).

What uses are permitted under C-3 zoning?

Permitted uses include public parks; retail business establishments; eating and drinking establishments including drive-in eating; motels, hotels and bed and breakfasts; recreational trailer parks; museums; sporting and social clubs; automobile service stations with incidental minor repair; less than 5,000 square feet of agricultural product sampling; laundry services; a maximum of 30 residential units per node; truck stops/travel plazas; medical offices or clinics; fruit and vegetable stands; and souvenir and curio shops.

What is required of development projects under C-3?

All proposed projects must have a master development plan, a site plan review permit or a conditional use permit (CUP) that must go through public review. These require developers to include plans for marketing, lighting, landscaping, site plan and sign programs.

Within the C-3 district, developers are limited to constructing buildings up to 65 feet in height which cannot cover more than 40% of the lot area (not inclusive of river banks or hillside reservations). It also limits total retail commercial floor area within any node to 100,000 square feet with a master development plan and 85,000 square feet without one (which still requires a site plan review). No development is allowed on slopes in excess of 30%.

Hotels or other overnight accommodations are limited to 125 rooms within any node. The rooms cannot exceed 750 square feet. 

Residential units that could be used by caretakers and employees are limited to 30 per node. The units cannot exceed 1,400 square feet and are required to be a “minor component within any node.”

C-3 also requires a setback of at least 150 feet from the nearest travel lane of Highway 101 and 50 feet from the nearest on- or off-ramp.    

Does stopping the C-3 zoning ordinance stop development at the nodes?

No, voting against C-3 development regulations does not guarantee open land. Landowners can submit development applications that meet each zone’s requirements. 

Development standards for AR zones with a conditional use permit allow bed and breakfast establishments, veterinary hospitals and clinics and residential units. Any development in an AR zone is restricted to 35 feet in height. 

Rural development standards allow for a single-family dwelling per five acres for family members and full-time employees. The standard also allows conditional uses in the AR zone. The height limit of any development is 35 feet. 

Neighborhood commercial (C-2) development standards with site plan review, administrative permits or use permits allow art or antique shops, automobile service stations, bakeries, banks, stationary stores, shoe stores, grocery stores, restaurants, trailer parks, drugstores, meat markets and offices. Developments are restricted to 30 feet in height. 

Can node property owners submit a rezoning application?

Yes. For example, Rider McDowell, owner of the Betabel node, applied for a commercial thoroughfare (C-1) overlay on Nov. 20, which was approved by a 3-2 vote of the San Benito County Planning Commission.

If the C-3 ordinance is repealed, can developers submit for C-3 again?

Yes. While repealed city ordinances (California Law 9241) cannot be enacted again for a year, county ordinances (California Law 9145) do not have a one-year restriction.

Who are the major funders for the Yes on K campaign?

According to campaign documents, Yes on K has raised $70,800 as of Feb. 11, including non-monetary contributions, such as donation of time to install signs. Major contributors include Livestock 101 ($15,000), Gregroy Weiler ($11,000), Mark Johnson ($11,000), Rocks Ranch node property owners’ 2004 Bingaman Irrevocable a Trust #1 ($22,000) and Betabel node property owner Rider McDowell’s Children’s Cancer Funding Group, Inc. ($5,900). 

Who are the major funders for the No on K campaign?

According to campaign documents, No on K has raised a total of $26,550 as of Feb. 10, including non-monetary contributions. Major contributors include Ruth Snow ($2,000), PORC Treasurer Thomas Karis ($1,800), former PORC Vice President and current Morgan Hill interim principal planner Gina Paolini ($1,340), PORC Vice President Mary Hsia-Coron ($1,000) and Christopher Wilmers ($1,000).

Paolini spoke against Measure K at the May 15 meeting of the San Benito County Planning Commission, where she identified herself as a PORC member, but did not as a Morgan Hill planner.

 

Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.