Local slow-growth advocates and environmentalists chalked up a win in the Nov. 3 San Benito County election as Measure N—which would create the Strada Verde Specific Plan—appears headed for a resounding defeat.
The county registrar’s “semi-official results,” with all polling locations reporting as of the morning of Nov. 4, show that about 59 percent of voters—or 13,200 ballots cast—said “No” to Measure N. Those voting “Yes” to Measure N number 9,031 ballots counted so far.
About 65 percent of the county’s 35,480 registered voters cast a ballot for or against Measure N.
“San Benito County voters deserve a lot of credit,” Mary Hsia-Coron, treasurer of a local campaign committee that opposed Measure N, said about the election results. “They’re not as gullible as the Strada Verde developer assumed. They didn’t fall for the big promises and slick ads. I’m grateful to the voters for choosing to protect our county from urban sprawl.”
The Measure N campaign was characterized by big spending by the Strada Verde developer, Newport Pacific Land Co., and accusations of political practices guidelines violations—one of which ended up in court this summer.
Measure N would have created the Strada Verde Specific Plan on a 2,777-acre agricultural property in northern San Benito County, in the area of Highways 25 and 101. The plan would have created zoning for a variety of commercial and industrial uses—including an automotive testing facility—as well as a 209.5-acre park. The plan would also preserve about 561 acres of the site for farmland.
The measure’s language vowed to conduct a California Environmental Quality Act study on the site before building.
Developer Newport Pacific Land Co. is the proponent of Measure N.
The proposed Strada Verde site is just over the Santa Clara County line, and about seven miles from Gilroy.
Opposition against Measure N was organized by the Coalition to Protect San Benito County, of which Hsia-Coron is the treasurer. The coalition raised campaign funds and produced signs and other materials urging residents to vote “No.” The coalition is supported by Preserve Our Rural Communities, a group of San Benito County residents that successfully opposed Measure K in March, which would have created a new commercial zoning classification.
Also supporting the Coalition to Protect San Benito—and thus opposing Measure N—are Green Foothills, Sierra Club, Audubon Societies in Monterey and Santa Clara counties, Indian Canyon Nation, and South Bay Indigenous Solidarity, according to the coalition’s website, protectsanbenitocounty.org.
Organizing a separate campaign committee against Measure N was Frank Barragan, who ran unsuccessfully for county supervisor in the March primary election. Barragan sued the county in August over the wording of Measure N, leading a superior court judge to order slight changes to the measure as it appeared on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Barragan and his group Concerned Citizens of San Benito County have also been the subject of accusations of campaign law violations regarding some mailers he sent in opposition to the Strada Verde development.
Another controversial aspect of the Strada Verde development was a county-commissioned report this summer that found that the development was proposed in a hazardous proximity to the TriCal facility, which stores chemical fumigants. The report cautioned that the Strada Verde proposal was within a “buffer zone” that would otherwise offer a layer of protection to those outside it in the event of a hazardous incident.
But in October, Newport Pacific Land Co. and TriCal announced they had reached an agreement to implement mitigation measures to ensure the safety of the Strada Verde site.
Newport Pacific Land Co., or even another developer, could still develop the Strada Verde plan or a project like it at the same site, even without the Measure N zoning. That process would likely be more prolonged as it would require more approvals and zoning amendments.
Scott Fuller, spokesperson for the Yes on Measure N committee, has not responded to requests for comment.