The Alameda County Fire Department's $90 million bond measure failed by the slimmest of margins, falling short of the supermajority threshold by 95 votes based on the final voter turnout of just under 32,000 ballots.
Measure D, on voter ballots in unincorporated areas of the county including in the Tri-Valley, finished with 66.37% of voters in favor, leaving the ACFD fire safety bond proposal just below the two-thirds approval that was required for passage, according to newly certified election results released by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office.
In other final results, voters in Livermore signed off on the city's downtown hotel development agreement by a convincing margin, with the Yes side on Measure P outgaining No votes by nearly a 2:1 ratio.
And the proposed new countywide sales tax to fund child care programs, Measure C, also finished comfortably in the majority at 64.35% -- leading the proponents, who said they only needed a simple majority, to declare victory; although pending court cases on other special taxes (challenging California's typical two-thirds threshold for such measures) will likely tell the final tale.
Measure D falls just short
Measure D asked voters in unincorporated Alameda County (except for the Fairview area) to authorize ACFD to issue $90 million in bonds to fund fire facility projects in the unincorporated communities, including parts of Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore outside of the cities' limits.
To repay the bond debt, Measure D proposed to implement a new property tax of $16 per $100,000 of assessed valuation in the ACFD's unincorporated service area.
As a fire safety bond, Measure D needed approval from more than two-thirds of voters in order to pass -- and in the end, the high threshold made all the difference.
Measure D easily received majority support from voters, but came in just a hair under the required 66.67% level.
The Yes side garnered 21,188 votes (66.37%), compared to the No side with 10,735 votes (33.63%). Based on the total number of ballots cast, the difference between passing and failing was 95 votes.
Voter turnout for Measure D was 45.96% of the 73,023 registered voters in the ACFD boundaries (minus Fairview) -- that total participation includes voters who recorded either no discernible vote ("under vote") or marked both bubbles ("over vote") on their ballot.
"I want to thank every voter in the community who cast a ballot on Measure D which only fell short by a fraction of a percent with 66.37%. Clearly, an overwhelming percentage of voters recognized two of the issues with seven fire stations that are 50-70 years old," ACFD Fire Chief David Rocha told the Weekly.
"The ACFD’s unincorporated county fire stations are in need of significant seismic, ADA, gender equality and health and safety upgrades that would help us to improve our response times and delivery of emergency services," he added.
The Measure D bond sought to fund projects "to repair/replace outdated stations, thereby maintaining services in unincorporated communities (including medical emergency lifesaving services, fast 911 response, wildfire protection and disaster response)," according to the ballot question.
As proposed, bond funds could have only paid for projects at facilities within the unincorporated county, including the potential new ACFD fire station in the Greenville area of Livermore -- but not projects in incorporated cities served by ACFD by contract, such as Dublin.
With Measure D failing, the department will have to discuss options for funding needed facility upgrades, according to Rocha.
"The ACFD will continue to provide lifesaving services to our community regardless of the fire station conditions. The ACFD’s current revenue doesn’t include enough for us to repair/replacement seven fire stations in a timely manner," the fire chief said.
"While our attention today is on preparing and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to keep the community informed on our next steps," Rocha added.
Measure P cruises to victory
For many Livermore voters, the primary election represented a chance to weigh in on the longstanding debate over redeveloping downtown -- through the lens of the proposed new hotel, in support of either the city's downtown redevelopment plan (a Yes vote) or an alternate concept introduced last summer (a No vote).
Measure P qualified for the ballot after a successful referendum petition challenging a city-approved hotel development agreement.
A Yes vote would approve the hotel agreement endorsed by the Livermore City Council to allow developer Presidio to build a three-story hotel with 125-135 rooms next to the Bankhead Theater on the east side of Livermore Avenue -- a key component to the city's downtown redevelopment plan.
The hotel location and size were a main source of disagreement for the No on Measure P campaign. They instead want a larger hotel (up to 160 rooms) on the west side of Livermore Avenue, in keeping with their alternative idea for downtown overall. Their separate "Central Park Plan" initiative has been placed on the November ballot.
The heated campaign that preceded the Measure P vote didn't translate to as hotly contested an election.
Measure P received 19,546 Yes votes (66.29%) compared to 9,941 No votes (33.71%), a nearly 2:1 margin that signaled clear voter direction on the downtown debate in the eyes of city plan supporters.
"We're thrilled with the election result," said Lori Souza, a leader on the Yes on Measure P campaign.
"It was a decisive outcome, clearly indicating that the voters in Livermore want to continue with the city's approved plan, and most importantly to have a beautiful wine destination hotel adjacent to the Bankhead Theater," Souza added. "Now what's most important is for all of our residents to work together in unity to combat the COVID19 outbreak, and to help each other as needed."
Tamara Reus, a leader for the No on P campaign, also reflected on the Measure P outcome while recognizing the novel coronavirus crisis that struck the Bay Area less than two weeks after the election.
"At this time, it is important for us to set aside differences and work together to face the incredible challenges of the coronavirus pandemic," Reus said.
"If there is interest on the part of the city of Livermore to resolve our differences on the downtown plan and avoid another divisive campaign, we are open and willing to participate in meaningful discussions," she added. "We recognize that the City must make the pandemic its highest priority. However, we are available to work with city representatives as soon as practicable."
The opponents' alternative vision for downtown redevelopment -- their so-called "Central Park Plan" -- is still scheduled to head to a citywide vote as part of their separate initiative measure that qualified for the November general election.
It is not immediately clear what the full impact of the Measure P outcome will be on the future of the initiative measure, now that voters approved the city's hotel location.
Election turnout for Measure P was 54.89% of the 54,976 registered voters within the Livermore city limits.
Measure C earns 64.35%; now what?
Measure C, which appeared on ballots across all of Alameda County, proposed to establish a new half-cent sales tax in the county for the next 20 years, with 80% of the funds supporting childcare, preschool and early education programs and 20% supporting pediatric health care.
It was similar to the childcare sales tax measure that fell just short at the ballot box in Alameda County nearly two years earlier.
But this time, proponents added an early-age health care component to the tax measure in addition to childcare funding. They also put the 2020 measure on the ballot arguing it needed only a simple majority to pass -- unlike the two-thirds supermajority (typical of special taxes) that doomed the childcare-only tax measure in June 2018.
Measure C easily cleared the 50% level in the primary election, leading organizers to declare a decisive victory.
"When we organize, we win," said Clarissa Doutherd, director of Parent Voices Action, a parent-led group that helped lead the Yes on C campaign. "Every step of the way parents, child care providers, health care workers and community members were out in the community talking to neighbors, friends and family to ensure we passed Measure C."
"Measure C will save lives," added William Johnson, a data analyst at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. "Hospital workers like me volunteered to knock on doors and call people because we know how critical Measure C is to preserve our hospital's trauma center. As we confront COVID-19 and prepare for future public health emergencies, it is essential that we fully staff and equip the hospitals in our communities.”
In total, 287,027 voters said Yes to Measure C (64.35%) and 159,046 voters said No (35.65%), with voter turnout at 51.06% of registered voters.
Though the election statistics are now confirmed, the Measure C outcome appears to be not as clear as the Measure C supporters argue.
In their ballot submittal form, the proponents said the tax measure would need only a simple majority to pass, even though special taxes in California have typically required a two-thirds supermajority.
But First 5 Alameda County, which would be the administrator of the Measure C childcare program, provides some additional context on its website, saying the threshold for approving a voter-qualified special tax is unclear (simple majority or two-thirds supermajority) in light of multiple court cases pending appeal in California. "Consequently, the threshold will be determined in future court decisions."