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Measures differ on urban sprawl

Kelly Davis Special to the Daily Planet
Friday November 03, 2000

As more and more people move into Alameda County, residential and commercial developments are pushing into the area’s open spaces. 

On Nov. 7, voters will find two measures on the county ballot that claim to slow urban sprawl.  

Measures C and D have different plans to save the county’s landscape, and are in direct competition with one another. If both measures are passed Tuesday, the one with the most votes will prevail. 

The measures aren’t just trying to save the county’s pretty views. They’re part of an ongoing struggle to find a balance that supports farming, industry, affordable housing, and the environment. While economic growth in the county may be good for business, it has also led to a bitter struggle over new land development. 

“Right now, there’s a tidal wave of sprawl in eastern Alameda County,” said Steve Bloom of the Sierra Club, who helped draft Measure D. “We’ve come to the point where we have to decide whether the remaining space will be preserved or given over to sprawl.” 

Although both measures claim to curb growth, they represent the bitter struggle over how it should be done. Measure C is primarily backed by business and farmers. Measure D gets most of its support from environmental groups. 

Measure D supporters collected 63,000 signatures to require Alameda county to stop the spread of cities like Livermore and Dublin. “It doesn’t make growth impossible,” said Bloom. “It just makes it difficult.”  

Bloom said the measure forces cities to revise their growth plans to avoid spreading beyond their current boundaries. He said under Measure D, a city would have to annex new land to grow outward, and do so without subsidy from the county.  

One project that would be wiped out by Measure D is the planned construction of 12,500 homes in North Livermore, not yet a part of the city of Livermore. Tom O’Malley, president of the Tri-Valley Business Council, which got Measure C on the ballot, said the cancellation would be inappropriate. He said new growth boundaries should mark where previously-approved expansions end.  

“Measure C represents a build-out of approved general plans,” O’Malley said. He said the measure develops growth boundaries, but doesn’t infringe on growth that cities are already counting on. “These general plans have been through the public process,” he said.  

O’Malley said Measure C represents the needs of the community of Eastern Alameda County, and preserves the farmland and wildlife habitat. Measure C proponents say measure D will cause city housing costs to skyrocket, and will require county-wide voting for trivial changes in land use.  

Bloom said measure C is “an utter fraud.” He said it’s intended to look like it will slow growth, but it will actually give developers a free hand. Bloom said he’d rather see both measures fail than have measure C put into effect.