February 11, 1998
AGENDA ITEM 1
Initial Report From the Ad Hoc Committee of the Board of Directors on San Mateo County Coastal Preservation
AD HOC COMMITTEE'S RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Accept this informational report from the Ad Hoc Committee on San Mateo County Coastal Preservation.
2. Authorize staff and the Ad Hoc Committee to proceed with the recommended actions as contained in this report, which will allow for further research into the feasibility of expanding the District by annexation to establish a system of open space preserves, parks, and beaches on the San Mateo County coast in coordination with existing and planned District preserves and trails.
Last spring, the District received resolutions from the Half Moon Bay City Council, the Pescadero Municipal Advisory Council, and the MidCoast Community Council, as well as a letter and petition from the Coastal Alliance (a grassroots land preservation organization), asking that the District formally begin an active exploration of coastal preservation in San Mateo County.
At your meeting of April 9, 1997, you authorized the General Manager to utilize a limited amount of District resources to research possible methods or processes for preserving open space on the San Mateo County coast, and to report findings back to the Board. At the same time, you appointed Directors Crowder, Davey, and Hanko as members of an uncompensated Ad Hoc Committee representing the Board on this issue (see report R-97-63). Undertaking such research was deemed consistent with the District's overall mission and goals.
Subsequently, at your meeting of April 23, 1997 you approved a budget of $25,000 for District out-of-pocket expenses to research open space preservation on the San Mateo County coast (see report R-97-74). Staff was directed to utilize that budget to research the feasibility of establishing a system of open space preserves, parks, and beaches on the San Mateo County coast in coordination with existing and planned District preserves and trails. At your meeting of October 8, 1997, you authorized staff to execute a contract with Godbe Research & Analysis to conduct a public opinion survey on this issue, at a cost of $25,717 (see report R-97-144).
The Ad Hoc Committee has met many times with representatives of the Coastal Alliance and other interested citizens. District staff has met with staff from agencies with an interest in coastal land conservation and has also met, along with members of the Ad Hoc Committee, with a variety of elected officials as well as members of the Coastal Alliance and individuals with an interest in this issue. The public opinion survey was also completed and analyzed. This report summarizes the results of those meetings and the findings of the survey, and proposes recommendations for further action.
Preservation methods and involved agencies
As a result of several brainstorming sessions with District staff and the Ad Hoc Committee, and with members of the Coastal Alliance, many issues and questions related to the District's potential role in coastal preservation were identified. A number of methods and approaches to coastside land preservation were also identified, including:
1. Expanded responsibility for coastside land preservation could be undertaken by a public agency with existing coastside jurisdiction (National Park Service, California State Department of Parks and Recreation, San Mateo County Parks Department);
2. A new special district could be formed;
3. One or more private non-profit land conservation organizations (Peninsula Open Space Trust, Save-the-Redwoods League, Sempervirens Fund, Trust for Public Lands, Nature Conservancy) could assume a high degree of involvement in coastside land acquisition;
4. The State Coastal Conservancy or Coastal Commission could take a higher-profile role in coastside land preservation;
5. The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District could expand its boundaries to encompass the coastside area.
It was agreed that meetings would be scheduled with local elected officials, staff of stakeholder agencies and private non-profit land trusts, and staff and members of the two relevant County Local Agency Formation Commissions. These meetings would help determine other agencies' potential plans for, or roles in, coastal preservation, as well as their perceptions of a possible District expansion to include the San Mateo County coast.
District staff subsequently met with staff from Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), California Department of Parks and Recreation, San Mateo County Parks Department, California Coastal Conservancy, California Coastal Commission, Nature Conservancy, Peninsula Open Space Trust, Save-the-Redwoods League, and Sempervirens Fund.
Each of these agencies expressed a high level of interest in coastal preservation, and would encourage and welcome District expansion; however, none appear to be in a position, financially, to take a major role in preservation efforts on the coastside. Some land management assistance might be available from the state or county on a very limited basis.
The GGNRA is involved in a land preservation study in the City of Pacifica, which would likely be that agency's southernmost boundary and area of activity. The apparent top priority for State Parks (assuming sufficient funding) is implementation of deferred maintenance projects, followed by adding staff and new facilities, and, finally, consideration of major key acquisitions.
San Mateo County Parks is also experiencing funding difficulties, and is not in a position to implement major acquisition projects on the coastside or elsewhere. While supportive of District annexation to the coast, County Parks expressed concern that a funding measure by the District (particularly if it includes the remainder of urbanized San Mateo County) might dilute possible future effo rts by County Parks for its own funding measure. Staff of the Coastal Conservancy and the Coastal Commission both expressed strong support for District coastal expansion, as did each of the private non-profit land conservation organizations, some of which indicated they may be able to provide some financial support as well.
Members of the Ad Hoc Committee and District staff met with all members of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, with Assemblymembers Elaine Alquist, Ted Lempert, and Jim Cunneen, with Senator Byron Sher, with United States Representative Anna Eshoo, with an aide in the office of United States Representative Tom Campbell, with members of the San Mateo County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), and with the executive director of the Santa Clara County LAFCO. In addition, the Board has held joint meetings with the Santa Clara and San Mateo County Parks Commissions, during which the issue of a possible District expansion to the coast was addressed.
In summary, there is general support among local elected officials for the District to at least consider expanding to the coast. Several of these officials suggested a slow, cautious approach, while others urged action as soon as possible.
PUBLIC OPINION POLL
An executive summary of the public opinion poll, provided by Godbe Research and Analysis, is attached for your review. The poll was implemented in three geographic areas: the Coastside from just south of the City of Pacifica to the San Mateo/Santa Cruz County line; the Existing District; and North County, the remaining portion of San Mateo County not within the District, exclusive of the coastside.
District annexation of the coastal area does not legally require a vote of the electorate. However, any funding measure would require a two-thirds majority vote (approximately 67 percent). In general, a public opinion poll should show a significantly higher level of support in order to ensure that the final vote reaches the two-thirds mark.
The Godbe Research and Analysis public opinion poll indicates that 93 percent of respondents on the coast, 88 percent of respondents within the District, and 86 percent of respondents in the remainder of San Mateo County feel that preserving open space from west of Skyline Boulevard to the coast is either "very" or "somewhat" important.
A total of 63 percent of coastside voters would favor annexation, when no additional funding is requested. Since annexation does not require a vote, this percentage represents a more-than-adequate level of support if an advisory vote is held.
When asked if they would increase taxes to help fund coastside land preservation, 60 percent of coastside respondents said yes. This relatively low level of support is of concern, in that it would be very difficult, although not impossible, to increase that percentage to the necessary two-thirds majority. There was also a 14 percent "don't know" response (the "swing" vote). One objective of any potential campaign would be to convince some portion of these voters to vote yes, thereby increasing the existing level of support. The consultant points out that lowering the prospective annual funding level to below $10 per parcel might have a positive effect on the potential for a successful measure.
If a significant number of the "swing" voters were influenced to vote yes, then it is possible that the necessary two-thirds vote could be achieved on the coast. However, it should be noted that the arguments and features which were tested in the poll did not seem to indicate that an adequate number of "swing" voters would be influenced to move to a "yes" vote.
Within the District, the poll indicates a strong support for both annexation to the coast (72 percent) and additional funding (68 percent). With the addition of some portion of the possible "swing" voters (8 percent), a two-thirds majority vote within the District seems feasible, although by no means certain. The $12 per year funding level showed the highest level of support in the District.
In the remainder of San Mateo County, there is strong support for coastal annexation (72 percent), but minimal support for additional funding (55 percent). The addition of the possible "swing" voters (14 percent) would increase the support, but not to the level necessary to result in a solid two-thirds majority vote.
The survey consultant concludes that it would be very difficult to pass a funding measure in all three areas, and, in fact, only within the existing District boundaries would there be a reasonable probability of success. The arguments tested do not appear to have a strong enough impact to influence significant numbers of "swing" voters to move to a "yes" vote, although some level of influence would be seen.
The Ad Hoc Committee has discussed a number of scenarios related to a possible annexation and funding measure. One would be to annex the coast with or without an advisory vote prior to a funding measure. In that case the funding measure would include the coast and the existing District. Conversely, annexation could occur after a District funding measure with or without an advisory vote even though the survey indicates a high level of support for annexation. The consultant points out that resources that would be used toward an advisory measure could instead be earmarked for use in preparing a funding measure. An advisory vote in the coastside area alone would not be so costly, however, it would necessitate two separate ballot efforts if a funding measure follows at a subsequent election.
Staff and the Ad Hoc Committee have met and discussed these issues with both the survey consultant and representatives of the Coastal Alliance. It is the conclusion of the Ad Hoc Committee that voter approval for a funding measure is feasible within the existing District boundaries and possible on the coast, and that annexation to the coast would be met with more-than-adequate support. However an advisory vote on the coast was felt to be important by some. There does not appear to be sufficient support from the balance of urban San Mateo County to warrant further consideration of a funding measure in that area.
The Ad Hoc Committee recommends that the Board authorize staff and the Committee to further research the feasibility of expanding the District to establish a system of open space preserves, parks, and beaches on the San Mateo County coast in coordination with existing and planned District preserves and trails. Specifically, the recommended actions are:
1. Discontinue consideration of annexing the remainder of northern San Mateo County not currently within the District.
2. Schedule two public meetings of the Ad Hoc Committee to be held in the coastside community, at which the Committee will gather input from coastside residents.
3. Further analyze the results of the public opinion poll to determine the likelihood for success of a funding measure within the District, and possibly on the coast.
4. Proceed with a mailing of the District's 25th Anniversary Newsletter to all coastside residents, accompanied by a cover letter (copy attached) explaining the District's consideration of expansion.
5. Finalize a proposal for specific timing and procedures of annexation, including a determination as to the desirability of holding an advisory election regarding annexation.
6. Continue to pursue grant funding to be utilized for mapping, parcel identification, ballot measure preparation, and additional research.
7. Return to the Board by May 31, 1998 with the results of further investigation, including an outline of the specific tasks that would be necessary to go forward, and their estimated costs. If there is a recommendation to go forward, and grant funds are available, a budget should also be included for approval at that time.
If the Board decides to proceed, there are a number of key questions that will need to be discussed and answered when this issue comes before the Board again. Four of these questions are summarized as follows:
1. Should there be an advisory vote for coastal annexation, and if so what area should vote, and what would a campaign strategist advise?
2. Should a funding measure or measures take place, and if so what area(s) should vote, and in what order should annexation and funding measure(s) be implemented?
3. What is the most effective overall timing of annexation and possible funding measures?
4. What are the impacts of the annexation on current District operations?
With the Board's approval, the Ad Hoc Committee will conduct research and obtain sufficient information to assist the full Board in answering these and other related questions.
C. Britton, General
M. Smith, Public Affairs Manager
S. Schectman, Legal Counsel
Ad Hoc Committee - Directors Davey, Hanko, and Crowder
C. Britton, General