The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District has flown under the radar of the general public over the course of its 42-year history. Did you know, for example, that the district has purchased and kept as open space nearly 62,000 acres in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties? Did you know that the district’s headquarters are located right here in Los Altos?
The district doesn’t seek the spotlight. It focuses on matters a public agency should: managing funds responsibly and fulfilling its mission conscientiously. No headline-making scandals here.
For the first time since its founding in 1972, the district is requesting financial help from the public in the form of Measure AA, appearing on the June 3 ballot. The $300 million bond measure, which requires approval from two-thirds of voters to pass, would fund 25 projects in the district’s network of preserves, making them more accessible to the general public. We think it’s a cause worth our investment.
The bond arose from the district’s 2011 Master Plan, which plots its course over the next 40 years. With dwindling areas of untamed land left to purchase, the district faces transitioning from a land-purchasing focus to a land-management one. The district has involved the public heavily in every step of the process to determine the priorities for improvement. No. 1 is access. Although the preserves are public, they aren’t easy to hike or bike in. The 30-year obligation bond would allow for additional trails and infrastructure as well as underwrite cleaning up streams, restoring native vegetation, preserving redwood forests, protecting wildlife and helping agriculture thrive.
As Steve Abbors, district general manager, put it: “This is what the public wanted. This is what it will take. Do you want to do this?”
A bond measure now would allow the district to begin implementing upgrades soon and continue over the next 10-20 years, enabling the next generation to enjoy the preserves.
The burden of paying for the bond is spread over an area one-third the size of Rhode Island. Collectively, the cost is $1 per $100,000 of assessed valuation annually for the first few years, increasing incrementally after that. For a $2 million home in Los Altos, that would mean $20 a year.
We would all benefit from Measure AA and can say that we each played a role in protecting our environment.