Almanac

Viewpoint - May 7, 2014

Guest opinion: League of Women Voters: Measure AA is Important to the Peninsula

by Linda Craig League of Women Voters

Since its founding in 1972, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District has preserved 62,000 acres of rolling hills, forests and farmland. Through the district's foresight and diligence, land has been set aside for hiking, biking, wildlife conservation and other uses, while natural areas around creeks, streams and lakes have also been protected.

The Leagues of Women Voters in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties have been there from the start, endorsing the formation of the district, and its expansion into San Mateo County. Today we're supporting the bond measure that will continue the process of protecting some of the most pristine land on the peninsula, including redwood forests and the San Mateo County coast.

Measure AA is a $300 million, 30-year bond that will pay for additional acquisitions, long-delayed repairs, infrastructure and other land improvements, opening up access to thousands of preserved acres via 200 miles of new trails. This is the first time Midpen has gone back to the voters for more funding since it was established 42 years ago.

Through an extensive open review process, Midpen has identified 25 priority projects that provide the broadest public benefit. These are described in detail in the ballot pamphlet.

Several of these projects are located in the south San Mateo County area, including the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve, where multi-use trails would be added and the wildlife habitat restored around Los Trancos Creek. The Hawthorns area would also be opened with trail connections to Windy Hill, and partnerships explored to preserve historic buildings.

Importantly, the La Honda Creek and Tunitas Creek preserves would improve passage and breeding conditions for coho salmon and steelhead in the San Gregorio watershed. At Russian Ridge, trails would be extended, opening up new areas of the preserve to the public for the first time, including spectacular Mindego Hill. At Coal Creek, Alpine Road would be reopened as a trail connection between Portola Valley and Skyline Boulevard. And redwood stands, animal habitats and additional open space would be preserved throughout the region.

The Leagues of Women Voters were impressed by the public, open process that the district used to identify projects and to narrow down the list that is included in the bond proposal. Few public agencies have done as well. The League believes that this money will be well spent.

Each year, funds generated by Measure AA would be publicly reviewed and reported on by a seven-person Community Oversight Committee — so there is accountability regarding the expenditure of bond monies.

This bond measure reflects a significant benefit at a modest cost — from $1 to a maximum of $3.18 per $100,000 of a property's assessed value, or a maximum of $32 a year in property taxes for the owner of a $1 million home.

The Leagues of Women Voters in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties can think of no better legacy to leave our children and grandchildren, and we urge the residents of the peninsula to vote YES on Measure AA.

Linda Craig is president of the League of Women Voters of the Bay Area and a Menlo Park resident.

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