Alameda County voters will decide whether to amend the "Save Agriculture and Open Space Lands" initiative known as Measure D, which was initially passed by voters in 2000 and has recently undergone a review of its effectiveness at balancing open space preservation and agriculture, particularly in the Livermore Valley.
Earlier this year, the Alameda County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) prepared a 20-year report analyzing Measure D and as a result, recommended text changes to the county's planning documents -- including the East County Area Plan -- to allow more flexibility for the size and location of buildings and expand permitted wine country visitor-serving uses.
The amendments to the original voter-approved initiative are also headed to the Nov. 8 general election ballot as Measure D.
Proponents of Measure D include county supervisors Nate Miley and Richard Valle along with Tri-Valley Conservancy board chair Lori Souza, the original Measure D's co-author Dick Schneider and grassroots organizer Diana Hanna, who are all signatories on the ballot argument in favor of the measure.
"The current update of the original Measure D continues the moratorium on development in protected areas but allows for limited and essential agriculture and equestrian improvements. The original proponents of Measure D urge your support," the argument reads.
The argument lists what Measure D will do if approved by voters such as continuing to prohibit uncontrolled development in areas in Alameda County designated as protected open space and agricultural areas and prohibiting any structure on ridgelines or hilltops or where they will project above a ridgeline or hilltop, as viewed from public roads, trails, parks and other public viewpoints.
The measure would allow ranchers and equestrian facilities to provide more space for covered corrals, practice areas for people learning to ride horses and performance areas. It would also allow expanded storage, processing and retail facilities for wineries, olive presses, etc. to serve the public, according to the argument.
Additionally, the amended Measure D would still require any changes in the overall general plan for the protected areas to be approved by voters.
The argument against Measure D, as well as the ensuing rebuttal to the proponents' statement, were submitted by the Alameda County Taxpayers' Association.
Both statements cite concerns about the potential growth of the county's larger wineries into "wine factories." The rebuttal to the argument in favor of the measure specifically names Livermore-based Wente and Darcie Kent vineyards as "Big Wineries."
"Huge factories in scenic parts of Alameda County are bad. Measure D would permit such destructive industrial expansion with ugly pipes and storage tanks," the argument against the measure reads.
Citing the measure's environmental impact report, the taxpayers' association states in its argument that Measure D would allow a handful of larger wineries to triple in size. Although Measure D is separate from Livermore's Measure P, the argument also references the sewer line extension project that aims to help revitalize the city's wine economy.
"Larger wineries use more taxpayer-subsidized freshwater and produce more wastewater. This is the reason why Big Wineries want to hook up to our public sewer system and have you to pay their bill. The county is gifting $6,500,000 of your tax dollars to extend sewer lines several miles to Big Wineries. Small property owners right next to city limits are left out," the argument reads.
The group's argument against Measure D also makes a comparison to other Bay Area wine regions, noting that "Napa County and Sonoma County 'Wine Country' have ordinances that restrict vineyards on hillsides and near arroyos and creeks. But Alameda County and Measure D do not embrace these commonsense protections."
In their rebuttal, the supporters of Measure D argued that the "opponents of Measure D are well known opponents of important issues. They write ballot arguments against measures they know nothing about, including this one, to bring attention to their organization at public expense."
In addition to reiterating the terms of Measure D outlined in the argument in favor of the measure, the proponents' rebuttal also states that, "There are no factories planned, there are no corporate land barons, there is no public giveaway of funds, no authorization for construction in sensitive spaces."
The measure will be on the ballot for all voters in Alameda County, including Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and Sunol in the Tri-Valley.