Letters to the Editor

Pro & Con: Measure G’s empty promise of open space

The issue: Should San Luis Obispo’s Measure G, an extension of the half-cent sales tax, get voters’ approval?

Click here to read an argument for Measure G »

The first reason cited in the ballot language on Measure G and on the “Yes on G” website — the “preservation of open space” — is nothing more than a myth. This promise, designed to entice city voters into supporting a half-cent sales tax increase on Nov. 4, was also a top reason voters approved Measure Y, Measure G’s predecessor.

Yet examining the city’s actual use of Measure Y funds to acquire open space within San Luis Obispo’s greenbelt reveals an anemic effort since it was approved in 2006. Far from making the major strides we had hoped for, the city has accomplished far less than it had in previous years.

After spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on public polling consultants who found that the measure would do better with voters if “preserve open space” was mentioned, the city used this “hook” to get Measure Y approved. Those who wanted to believe it took the bait, including me. But I will not make that mistake again with Measure G!

The Sierra Club, a prominent backer of Measure Y because of its preservation promise, recently expressed its profound disappointment with the city’s preservation efforts since Measure Y in their September 2014 newsletter. The club has not endorsed Measure G.

Historically, our city was far more effective in preserving our greenbelt before Measure Y. In 1971, when I was elected to the San Luis Obispo City Council, I broached the subject of creating a permanent greenbelt around our city. That council, composed of visionary Mayor Ken Schwartz and council members Myron Graham, John Brown and Emmons Blake, embraced the idea and updated our General Plan to make the greenbelt a cornerstone of city policy.

After leaving the council in 1977, I was fortunate to become a consulting urban designer with a firm that shared my passion for open space preservation. In that capacity, we facilitated many open space transactions that permanently preserved key sites within our greenbelt, including all four transactions totaling 635 acres that led to the permanent protection of Bishop Peak, as well as open space easements covering 132 acres in the South Street Hills and Islay Hill, the southernmost of the Morros.

All of these transactions, and many others that added up to a total of 5,504 acres permanently preserved as open space, occurred well before the passage of Measure Y.

Thanks for these early preservation efforts don’t belong to Measure Y, but to landowners like Harold Miossi, the Gnesa family, John King, Felton Ferrini, Ray Bunnell and others who were willing to be part of this open space preservation legacy. Thanks also go to my former business partner Vic Montgomery and the visionary public officials in our city and county who had the courage to embrace them.

How has Measure Y revenue helped preserve our greenbelt? A public records request recently revealed that only $952,500 of Measure Y funds have been used to acquire open space in the eight years since it was approved. That’s barely 2 percent of the $46 million raised by Measure Y since 2006. Is that setting a “high” priority for preservation? Hardly! Inexplicably, the city recently spent another $75,000 to acquire open space adjacent to another city that is miles away from our greenbelt!

While our councils prior to 2006 proved to be far more nimble and resourceful in their preservation efforts, our current City Council seems content to feed the beast of bureaucracy over preserving open space.

The “open space” promises used to pass Measure Y and now repeated for Measure G are nothing more than pure mythology, a bait and switch tactic, a clever smokescreen designed to fool voters. We were fooled last time, but we won’t be fooled again! Voters, don’t take the bait again. Don’t be tricked by the hollow promises of Measure G. Vote NO on Measure G!

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