G is for Go
Carmel Valley incorporation campaign hits gas as ballots hit mailboxes.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
On a sparkling autumn day in front of Carmel Middle School, two dozen politicians and their allies – outnumbering their audience three-to-one – crammed behind a podium to make yet another pitch for Measure G, the November ballot measure to incorporate the Town of Carmel Valley.
The move comes amid a final flurry of campaigning as absentee ballots are put in the mail. The November vote marks the end of a 10-year movement to incorporate; but even this late in the game, there are some surprises.
Carmel Unified School District stepped out of its generally apolitical role by endorsing Measure G. And Alan Williams – the developer, along with Clint Eastwood, of the proposed Rancho Cañada Village subdivision next to Carmel Middle School – announced the construction footprint has been scaled back by more than one-third.
During the Sept. 29 CUSD board meeting, pro-G activist Glenn Robinson focused on Rancho Cañada’s potential impacts on the school: more traffic, increased flood risk, an influx of new students, and health impacts from construction – particularly on vulnerable children such as his daughter, who has cystic fibrosis. “The only way to stop this project reasonably is through supporting Measure G,” he said.
But to anti-G activist Bob Sinotte, the connection is disingenuous. “Rancho Cañada Village has nothing to do with incorporation,” he told the board. He ominously listed the measures other local cities have taken to improve their finances: raising taxes, inviting development, promoting tourism and even discussing bankruptcy.
Williams then surprised the audience with an announcement that the Village proposal has shrunk from 281 to 180 units.
“I don’t like being demonized, almost like I’m the reason we’re incorporating,” he said. “We have a new plan. We’re going to pursue it, city or county, because we need it.”
Measure G’s proponents are unmoved. “When you have the threat of local control, all of a sudden the developers are responsive to the concerns of the local community,” says labor and land use activist Chris Fitz.
The CUSD board voted unanimously to endorse the measure. But anti-G activists question its purview to do so. “I think it’s a mistake,” attorney Frank Lunding says. “They’ve opened up their schools to political activity. They’re not going to be able to stop their teachers from being political in the future, because they’ve done it already.”
CUSD board member Annette Yee Stack defends the vote. “We need to sound off on what we think is right for our students and staff,” she says.
Oddly, both campaigns are warning that a win for the other side means more development. The pro-G camp predicts that if the measure doesn’t pass, Rancho Cañada Village and subsequent proposals will be approved by a rubber-stamp Board of Supervisors, ruining the valley’s rural character.
But anti-G activists say if voters approve cityhood, the need for dollars will compel bureaucrats to open the valley to rampant taxation and infill. The early September announcement of Quail Lodge’s planned closure fueled their claim that a new town would not be financially solvent.
Anti-G activist Lawrence Samuels offers a preview of a new ad, which shows a highway overpass, cookie-cutter housing developments and the ubiquitous Golden Arches Photoshopped onto bucolic Carmel Valley Road. “L.A. and San Jose were once rural areas, and look what happened,” he says. “A city is high-density; a rural area is low-density.”
Despite their recent ads, the forces against incorporation are outfueled financially.Through Sept. 19, the Yes on G campaign has reported almost $114,000 in monetary contributions, while the No on G campaign has taken in just over $18,000.
The anti-G campaign is also lagging in political support. Its only major endorsement is from the Monterey County Hospitality Association, while the Yes on G campaign is endorsed by Carmel Valley Association, League of Women Voters of the Monterey Peninsula, Sierra Club Ventana Chapter, Sustainable Carmel Valley, Carmel Valley Women’s Network, LandWatch Monterey County and Monterey County Democrats, among others.
At the Oct. 5 pro-G press conference, surrounded by signs that read “Yes on G: Don’t Yield to Developers,” those stumping for the measure included Congressman Sam Farr, Central Coast Assemblyman Bill Monning, former assemblyman John Laird, County Supervisors Jane Parker and Dave Potter, the “pro-town” slate of council candidates and members of the CUSD board.
Responding to the anti-G mantra that a Town of Carmel Valley would not be financially viable, Laird, the former chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, quipped: “This city is much more viable than the state is right now.”