SCC measures tackle two big challenges: Housing and transportation in Valley

Two measures on the Nov. 8 ballot address major issues that threaten to derail Silicon Valley growth and overall quality of life – affordable housing and transportation.

Measure A

Measure A proposes a $950 million bond to “acquire or improve real property” for affordable housing throughout Santa Clara County. Beneficiaries would include homeless residents, veterans, the disabled and victims of domestic violence.

Measure A asks property owners to pay an annual fee of $12.66 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. That works out to approximately $63 per year for the average county homeowner. Measure A needs a two-thirds majority to pass.

“Measure A is a smart solution for our community’s needs,” Los Altos resident Sue Russell wrote to the Town Crier.

Russell, a member of the Mountain View-Los Altos League of Women Voters, supports the initiative, as does the League. She said Measure A would allow the county to acquire and improve housing “for our most vulnerable populations as well as our low-income and working families.”

The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to place Measure A on the ballot.

Russell said Los Altos residents may be interested in the first-time homebuyer program component of the measure.

“(It) will support affordable housing options for working people like our teachers and nurses, who might otherwise be unable to build their lives and homes here,” she wrote to the Town Crier. “We all hear too many stories of teachers who can’t afford to live in the districts they serve. Measure A can help.”

The Libertarian Party and the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association comprise the chief opposition.

“The main reason that we don’t have affordable housing is the law of supply and demand, the basic economic principle we learned in high school,” reads the ballot argument in opposition. “When housing demand exceeds the supply, the price of housing goes up. So, why hasn’t the supply kept up with the demand? Answer: Too much government.”

The supply is restricted, opponents say, because of government zoning laws and housing building fees. They also note a much greater cost to the taxpayer than the $950 million listed, because the bonds will have to be paid back with interest. The county is estimating $1.9 billion with interest paid.

Measure A backers noted the more than 6,500 homeless people in Santa Clara County, more than 4,600 of them unsheltered. Proponents said it costs government more to continually deal with the homeless – including moving them out of encampments – than it would be to provide housing.

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Measure B

Measure B is a half-cent sales tax placed on the ballot by members of the Valley Transportation Authority Board of Directors. Los Altos Mayor Jeannie Bruins serves as vice chairwoman of the board. The tax, which would raise Santa Clara County’s total sales tax to 9 percent, is good for 30 years. Measure B also needs a two-thirds majority to pass.

Like other county transportation measures before it, Measure B would fund a wide range of projects, including repairing local streets and fixing potholes, completing the BART extension through downtown San Jose and to Santa Clara, implementing assorted bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, increasing Caltrain capacity and improving safety at railroad crossings, relieving traffic on the expressways and key highway interchanges and enhancing transit for seniors, students, low-income residents and the disabled.

Bruins said Los Altos could receive $500,000 from Measure B for its street repairs. Other Measure B improvements would include auxiliary lanes along Foothill Expressway between El Monte Avenue and San Antonio Road, interchange and mainline improvements along Interstate 280 through Los Altos and Los Altos Hills and an additional transit-only lane down the center of Highway 85.

Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, leads the campaign in favor of Measure B. He touts his group’s solid track record of support for transportation tax measures that led to building Highway 85 and transforming Highway 237 into a freeway.

Addressing an oft-heard North County complaint that most transportation funds are spent on BART and in San Jose, Guardino said no more than 25 percent of Measure B funding would be spent on completing the BART extension.

He was also quick to note that “not a dime” would go toward realizing a controversial VTA proposal to install a rapid-transit bus lane along El Camino Real.

Bruins said it’s up to the county to pay for its own traffic solutions.

“There’s no money coming from the state or federal government, so we have to self-fund,” she said.

“I hate taxes,” Guardino wrote in a recent blog. “I just hate traffic more.”

The same groups opposed to Measure A also voice opposition to Measure B, claiming further tax burdens on residents for a measure that would not relieve gridlock, like the others before it. Proponents claim otherwise, adding that the opposition offers no alternative solutions.

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