City Staff and proponents’ attorney already disagree about the meaning of several of Measure C’s provisions. This lack of clarity is likely to lead to litigation — with uncontrolled legal fees — about whether a transaction meets Measure C’s requirement of voter approval.
Some of the contested elements of Measure C potentially causing legal challenges include:
Many services that we rely upon, such as our libraries and fire and emergency services, have leases on City-owned land. Beloved institutions that help define Los Altos’ small-town character, such as the theater and History Museum, may also be affected. When their leases expire and if terms are renegotiated, voter approval will be required. Voter approval could delay lease decisions and affect the continuation of services and institutions that bring indisputable benefit to our community.
Per City Staff, one fiscal impact of Measure C is the cost to conduct an election if the City takes an action that falls under Measure C. Potential costs of each election range from approximately $50,000 if held during a November of an even year election to as much as $500,000 if held during a stand-alone special election. These are discretionary City funds that could be otherwise spent on repaving streets, improving traffic safety, and increased services for seniors and youth.
If there is an election, cities are precluded by law from campaigning for or against ballot measures. This means that the cost of future campaigns would be borne by citizens for or against a particular ballot measure.
In its 66-year history, the City has never disposed of parkland. Instead, history demonstrates a clear track record of adding parkland (Lincoln Park was purchased from the County in 2016) and protecting these assets.
Proponents of Measure C suggest that our parklands are at risk because there have been proposals to develop them. In fact, proposals were initiated by residents, not developers, and through deliberative, public processes, our City Councils have respectfully considered and rejected them all. This is how government should operate.
Proponents say that City Council members change every two years so we cannot rely on them to save our open spaces. In fact, elections occur every two years, and since 1952, the average tenure of Council members has been 5.5 years.
In our representative democracy, we elect our City Council to govern. Councilmembers weigh the collective wisdom and perspectives of professional staff, of residents serving as advisers on City Commissions, and of the public at large. Measure C will bog down City operations and increase costs to taxpayers.
Petition circulators presented this initiative as “Save Our Parks.” And indeed, the proponents’ website was called ProParksLosAltos.org.
To quote one of the petition signers, Measure C has “Implications far beyond what I was told.”
Many who signed the petition had no idea that the initiative included the “Public & Institutional” land-use designation — defined as governmental, institutional, academic, group residence, church, community service uses, easements, rights-of way, facilities of public and private utilities, and parking — so much more than parks.
Many signers regretted signing the petition and some went so far as to ask the City Clerk to rescind their signatures.
Proponents of Measure C suggest that the sale of the City-owned land at 400 Main Street to a developer would have been brought to voters if Measure C had been in place. The truth is that 400 Main Street was zoned Downtown Commercial, and properties with that land-use designation would not be subject to a vote as specified in Measure C.