Measure Q, a hotly contested ballot question that would have required future voter approvals for many new construction projects in San Benito County, appears headed toward defeat.
Early, unofficial results of the Nov. 8 election, posted to the county’s elections site, show that “No” votes on Measure Q so far make up 56% or 4,671 of the ballots counted as of Nov. 9.
Measure Q would have amended the county’s General Plan to require voter approval for the future rezoning of agricultural, rural, rangeland and other open space properties in San Benito County. It would also remove commercial “node” designations from the county’s general plan. The measure resulted from a citizens initiative petition drive led earlier this year by proponents Mary and Andy Hsia-Coron and the group known as Campaign to Protect San Benito.
Measure Q was opposed by numerous organizations and public offices who worried that it would put a “devastating” halt to commercial development, and thus to economic development revenues needed for local services and infrastructure.
Wayne Norton, member of the San Benito County Democratic Central Committee and a principal officer of Neighbors to Preserve San Benito, which raised funds to campaign against Measure Q, said the results posted so far show that local citizens are not as opposed to commercial development as some have speculated.
“I think the voters realized the effects of the passage (of Measure Q) would be devastating to San Benito County and our developing economy,” Norton said. “Our residents know that most of us drive out of the county each day for work, and the need for local jobs is a priority.”
A fiscal analysis conducted by the county auditor found that by 2035, if Measure Q passed in the Nov. 8 election, it could result in a loss of $6.56 million in annual revenue.
Andy Hsia-Coron, one of the leaders of the Measure Q signature drive and election campaign, said its failure at the polls benefits developers more than it helps the residents of San Benito County. He said the opponents of Measure Q ran a campaign “built on confusion and fear.”
“It’s really clear to those of us who were out there talking to people, that most people in the county agree with us,” Hsia-Coron said. “They don’t like what’s going on with these big developers in the county, and they don’t want us to be a poor copy of San Jose. When we reached out to people it was clear they were on our side.”
Tied closely to the issues surrounding Measure Q is the Strada Verde Innovation Park project proposed near Highways 101 and 25. If the measure had passed, the SVIP commercial proposal could have been subject to future voter approval, as it requires a General Plan amendment on the undeveloped 2,777-acre site.
Hsia-Coron noted that the residents already expressed their disapproval of the SVIP proposal in the November 2020 election, when more than 60% of voters cast “No” ballots on Measure N against the project.
If Measure Q fails, SVIP is subject to approval only by the county board of supervisors.
Newport Pacific Land Co., the developer of the SVIP proposal, and its associated companies contributed more than $45,000 to the No on Measure Q campaign.
Measure R, which also would have heavily restricted growth in a largely agricultural area of San Benito County, is also likely headed toward defeat, according to election results. As of Nov. 9, No votes made up about 64% (or 5,233 ballots) of the tally. More than 8,500 Measure Q and R ballots have been counted so far.
Measure R would have amended the county General Plan to establish a 3.5-mile radius buffer around the TriCal property on Highway 25 “that is authorized to handle bulk scale potentially hazardous chemicals such as chloropicrin or methyl bromide (or similar soil fumigants),” reads the measure text. No future construction would have been allowed in the buffer zone if the measure had passed.
TriCal, which was founded in 1961, distributes agricultural fumigants such as chloropicrin and methyl bromide throughout the nation. The Hollister facility, located at 8770 Bolsa Road off of Highway 25, has consistently operated in compliance with no violations, according to five-year data by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Measure R proponent Frank Barragan said the goal of the citizens initiative was about the health and safety of residents in northern San Benito County. During the campaign leading up to Nov. 8, he and other supporters frequently cited a study commissioned by the county last year, which found that an unexpected release of chemicals in the air from TriCal—whether by system failure, human error, act of terrorism or other cause—could cause a hazardous zone of roughly six miles surrounding the facility.