The $124 million bond promoted by Santa Rosa’s City Council and a coalition of business and environmental groups to address the city’s deep housing crisis was headed for a resounding loss Tuesday night.
Measure N had received about 58 percent of the vote in early returns, far short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the property tax measure.
The bond issue was pitched by supporters as a way to put a dent in Santa Rosa’s housing shortage and aid the city’s recovery from October 2017’s destructive wildfires, which destroyed more than 3,000 homes in the city. But it was opposed by the region’s largest organized labor coalition and the allied Graton Rancheria tribe, which sent a surge of late advertising dollars to sway voters against the bond.
The loss was a rebuke for proponents, including Councilman Jack Tibbetts, who led the pro-bond efforts. He said it was incumbent upon city officials to ensure Santa Rosa receives a portion of the money California voters were on track to approve in Propositions 1 and 2 and to find another “out-of-the-box” solution to help local residents impacted by the housing shortage.
“They should still have hope,” Tibbetts said, while voicing doubt that any similar bond measure campaign could succeed in the near future.
Supporters, including several
Bay Area nonprofit affordable housing developers, invested more than $350,000 to advocate for Measure N. The campaign united business interests and environmentalists as part of a diverse coalition in favor of public money to spur private housing development.
But a disagreement over the terms of bond-funded projects spurred opposition from the North Bay Labor Council and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. The two entities spent about $27,000 combined on political advertising to sink Measure N, which they characterized as a ploy to line developers’ pockets at the expense of the workers who would build bond-funded housing.
Jack Buckhorn, executive director of the labor council, called Measure N a “miserable failure” and said he would start making calls Wednesday in preparation for a county-wide bond campaign in 2020.
Buckhorn noted how even a small dose of opposition like the $5,000 the labor council spent on social media could make it difficult for a bond measure to pass and alluded to the opposition voiced earlier this year by Sonoma County farming interests to a countywide bond, a move largely seen a scuttling that proposal.
“We need to get ag to the table,” Buckhorn said.
In the run-up to Election Day, even staunch Measure N advocates acknowledged the two-thirds approval threshold was a high hurdle to surmount. In essence, supporters had to convince enough property owners to tax themselves more to fund building new places for others to live.
For Sarah Azevedo, an administrative assistant and Santa Rosa homeowner, the additional housing that Measure N promised was worth the higher tax rate, even though she acknowledged the bond issue wouldn’t solve the housing crisis on its own.
“We desperately need more affordable housing,” she said after shepherding her two children in and out of the polling place at the Veterans Memorial Building on Maple Avenue.
Aaron Nelson, a salesman in the informational technology industry, was among the homeowners who voted against Measure N.