October 9, 2008

Measure K is Right for Moraga

By Dave Trotter

IN 2006, I made open space and ridge line protection central goals in my campaign for election to the Moraga Town Council. Two years later, I wholeheartedly endorse Measure K in support of these goals.

I am writing this to set the record straight about what Measure K is truly about, in light of the misinformation campaign being waged against it.

It's tempting to imagine Moraga's open space and ridge lines are sufficiently protected under current regulations, but that is simply not the case. Moraga's first voter-approved open space initiative (MOSO 1986) addressed the development pressures faced at the time, but MOSO 1986 did not protect several important open space areas and ridgelines that are now at risk.

The proposed Rancho Laguna development, today awaiting approval before the Planning Commission, is a case in point. It would build houses on the prominent ridge line along Rheem Boulevard, just outside the reach of MOSO 1986's safeguards. Bollinger Canyon, which MOSO 1986 did not protect, is proposed for a 126-lot subdivision including dozens of houses on a 1,000-foot elevation ridge line. Indian Valley, a pristine area located right next door to EBMUD watershed lands, is currently zoned for 150 to 200 houses.

Measure K would protect these open space areas and ridge lines from large subdivisions. It will prevent the additional 3,000 daily car trips these developments would otherwise bring to our town and roads. It will ensure the single-family homes that are someday built in these open space areas will preserve natural resources and scenic views.

Unfortunately, Measure K's opponents are distorting its effects in a calculated attempt to scare voters away from this responsible and well-crafted measure. Here is the truth about some of their most blatant fabrications.

First, contrary to opponents' false claims, Measure K's new protections apply only to specifically designated open space areas and ridge lines -- not to the town as a whole. Moraga's town attorney has made an impartial analysis of Measure K and publicly confirmed this fact. As an attorney familiar with land use law, I agree unequivocally with her assessment. To claim Measure K imposes new restrictions on existing residences throughout town, outside these designated areas, is nonsense and a willful distortion of its text.

Second, far from "banning" single-family housing as opponents charge, Measure K expressly allows single-family housing, at reasonable levels, in open space areas where it applies.

Third, the talk about putting affordable housing downtown has nothing to do with Measure K. The downtown planning process for the Moraga Center Specific Plan has been underway for several years -- long before Measure K came along.

As a member of the town council's Specific Plan subcommittee in 2007, I attended numerous meetings with the Bruzzones -- the owners of this downtown land. I can attest that in those meetings, the Bruzzones repeatedly and vociferously lobbied to maximize the residential densities in the Specific Plan area. The 720-unit proposal currently undergoing environmental review -- along with several lower-density alternatives suggested by the town -- is a direct consequence of the Bruzzones' own insistence on high-density development.

A very large number of units downtown was the Bruzzones' own clearly stated preference. For them to suggest otherwise now is to rewrite history.

When the Specific Plan comes before the Town Council, I will push for appropriately lower densities and high-quality single family homes adjacent to existing residential neighborhoods.

Measure K does not force low-income housing downtown, nor would it eliminate the opportunity for secondary units that would help meet Moraga's affordable housing goals. Scores of secondary units are planned for the Palos Colorados development. More can be included with new homes built in Measure K open space and elsewhere in town.

Finally, opponents' claims of protracted lawsuits are scare tactics -- the same ones unsuccessfully used against MOSO 1986. Measure K is like other, similar voter-approved open space initiatives that have been upheld by our courts -- just as MOSO 1986 was given a judicial stamp of approval after Moragans approved it. Existing legal precedent provides ample basis to conclude Measure K can be readily defended if necessary and that its defense would be swift.

Adoption of Measure K will ensure Moraga's natural resources and scenic views are preserved, while allowing a reasonable and legally sustainable level of development. I urge Moraga voters to ignore the misinformation campaign against Measure K. Vote Yes on K. Protect Moraga's open space, ridgelines and the semi-rural qualities that make Moraga a great place to live.

Dave Trotter is Moraga's vice mayor. He served on the Moraga Planning Commission from 1991-1998, and is a 20-year Moraga resident

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