Voters strongly support smart growth measures on Election Day 2014

Maine’s small businesses, like these in Bar Harbor, will get new help thanks to yesterday’s passage of Question 3. Photo by Duluoz via Flickr.

On Tuesday, voters across America passed statewide, county-wide, and citywide measures in support of smart growth and better development strategies. Here’s a short roundup of what passed, what failed, and what it means for community development.

Statewide measures

Voters in Florida voted yes on Amendment 1, which designates billions of dollars to conservation efforts over the next 20 years. As our partner organization 1000 Friends of Florida explains, “Amendment 1 will protect our drinking water and preserve the water quality of our rivers, lakes, springs, and coastal waters for future generations — with no tax increase.”

Voters in Maine voted yes on Question 6, a Clean Water and Wetlands Bond. The bond will fund infrastructure improvements, wetlands restoration, and the state’s Revolving Loan Fund—all of which will help keep Maine’s water clean. According to analysis by Associated General Contractors of Maine, the measure will create or sustain 1,000 jobs, add $119 million to Maine’s gross domestic product, and add $38.5 million to personal earnings.

Mainers also voted yes on Question 3, a bond to support small business loans, which will help to create jobs, revitalize downtowns, and strengthen the rural economy. “Maine needs strategic investment in small business to create jobs in communities across the state,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of GrowSmart Maine.

Voters in New Jersey said yes to Public Question No. 2, the Open Space Preservation Funding Amendment, which will fund open space, farmland, and historic preservation by reallocating some of the corporate business taxes currently dedicated to various environmental programs. “This measure is critical to both the state’s health and its economy,” Peter Kasabach, executive director of New Jersey Future, said in a statement. “But is no free lunch, and the money for this initiative comes from other important environmental programs. We now need to turn our attention to such issues as water quality, brownfields cleanup, and investment in our parks.” Read more about the benefits of the new amendment here.

Rhode Island voted yes on Question 6, for Mass Transit Hub Infrastructure Bonds. The new measure will permit the state to issue $35 million in bonds to fund enhancements and renovations to mass transit hub infrastructure throughout Rhode Island. On Twitter, Grow Smart Rhode Island explained that the bond “will help Rhode Island compete for talented millenials and capitalize on our compact density.”

Rhode Island also voted yes on Question 7, the Clean Water, Open Space and Healthy Communities Bonds, which will provide a big boost for cleaning up Rhode Island’s brownfields. Grow Smart Rhode Island called these two successfully passed bonds “the most significant investments in smart growth and community revitalization since our founding 16 years ago.”

County measures

Beaufort County, SC voted yes on Rural and Critical Lands funding, which will raise money to buy or place conservation easements on environmentally sensitive property.

Alameda County, CA voted yes on Measure BB, the 30-Year Transportation Expenditure Plan, which will expand and modernize BART in Alameda County, improve transit connections to jobs and schools, fix roads, improve highways and increase bicycle and pedestrian safety, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality, and keep senior, student and disabled fares affordable. “These investments are critical to the creation of walkable, transit-friendly neighborhoods with new homes and successful businesses within our cities and towns,” the Greenbelt Alliance explains.

Arlington County, VA voted yes on Bond Referenda 1, 2, and 3, which will fund a variety of transportation, road, pedestrian enhancement and transit projects; local parks and recreation; and neighborhood-identified capital improvement projects (such as sidewalks, curbs and gutters, traffic management, pedestrian enhancements, park improvements, street lighting, recreational facilities, landscaping, and beautification), respectively.

Note: At the time of publication, results were still not final on Santa Clara County, CA’s Measure Q. We will update this post when those results are announced.

City measures

Voters in Seattle, WA passed Proposition 1, which will prevent cuts to transit service that had been scheduled for 2015. The measure will also expand bus routes with more than 80% of their stops within the city of Seattle.

Berkeley, CA defeated Measure R, the Initiative Ordinance Amending Downtown Zoning Provisions. The Greenbelt Alliance explains that the measure would have “stifled the revitalization of downtown Berkeley and made finding an affordable place to live in a walkable neighborhood further out of reach for Bay Area residents. The measure would have rolled back progress toward a greener, thriving downtown.”

Dublin, CA defeated Measure T, an initiative to annex nearby Doolan Canyon. The measure would have nullified Dublin’s recently adopted urban limit line, which defines a clear boundary where development can and cannot go. The Dublin City Council unanimously approved the urban limit line in June—with overwhelming community support—so the measure’s failure came as no surprise.

Union City, CA defeated Measure KK, the Union City Flatlands Development Initiative, which would have broken voter-approved open space protections to allow hundreds of housing units and strip mall development on 63 acres of land at the eastern edge of Union City.

San Bruno, CA voted yes on Measure N, the Downtown and Transit Corridors Economic Enhancement Initiative. The new measure modifies city planning rules and development guidelines, slightly altering height limits along El Camino, San Bruno Avenue, San Mateo Avenue (downtown), and near a new Caltrain station to spur private investment. “This slight alteration will make a huge difference for the city’s future,” says The Greenbelt Alliance .

And in San Francisco, CA, voters approved a spate of development-related measures. They voted yes on Proposition A, which will invest in the city’s 100-year-old transportation system, including sorely needed Muni repairs and improvements for bicycle and pedestrian safety. They voted yes on Proposition B, which will help address the backlog of transportation needs plaguing the city. The funding would be used for new buses and trains and more public transportation operations. They voted yes on Proposition F, which authorizes the $100 million redevelopment of Pier 70. The proposed plan—spearheaded by LOCUS Steering Committee member Forest City Enterprises, Inc—will renovate and rehabilitate three historical buildings on 28 acres of pier space into office space and buildings for retailers, artists, and manufacturers.

San Francisco also voted yes on Proposition K, the Additional Affordable Housing Policy, which will help construct, rehabilitate, and maintain affordable housing in the city. And they defeated Proposition L, which would have rolled back San Francisco’s forward-thinking parking policies and made the city’s streets more clogged and more dangerous.

Not all of Tuesday’s news was good, though. Voters in Massachusetts said yes to Ballot Measure 1, the Automatic Gas Tax Increase Repeal Initiative, which will eliminate indexing of the gas tax to inflation. The Conservation Law Foundation explains that defeating Ballot Measure 1 would have sent “a clear message that we are against crumbling roads, bridges, and transit and for a better, more sustainable transportation system.”

In Pinellas County, FL, the Greenlight measure failed. The measure would have created a new 1% sales tax to fund the improvement, construction, operation, maintenance, and financing of improved bus service, bus rapid transit lines, and work to create a 24-mile light rail line connecting downtown St. Petersburg to Clearwater.

And in Austin, TX, Proposition 1 failed. The measure would have authorized a $600 million bond to begin the construction of the city’s first light rail line, as well as $400 million in bonds for road and highway improvements.

Overall, voters across the country spoke a resounding “yes” for development strategies that support economic growth. Congratulations to the cities, counties, and states that passed these impressive measures.

UPDATE: Congratulations also to Spokane, WA, which voted yes on Propositions 1 and 2. Proposition 1 will help build improved and integrated streets, and Proposition 2 will help improve Spokane’s Riverfront Park. “The Parks Bond and Streets Levy represent government at its best,” said Kitty Klitzke of Futurewise. “A strategic refinancing proposal to maintain and rebuild streets and reinvigorate and update Riverfront Park is government doing its duty to take care of our city.”