News

Editorial: Yes on Santa Clara County measures A, B

Funds for affordable housing, transportation need challenging two-thirds vote for passage

Two important measures on the Nov. 8 ballot ask Santa Clara County voters to approve a $950 million bond measure to build badly needed housing to serve homeless and low-income residents and a half-cent sales-tax increase to fund transportation projects over the next 30 years.

Together, these measures seek to provide some relief to the region's two biggest and most urgent problems, and we urge a "yes" vote on both. With two-thirds voter approval required for passage, the success of neither is assured.

Measure A, the affordable-housing bond measure, was placed on the ballot by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in a unanimously vote and is part of a larger initiative to reduce homelessness and provide subsidized housing for very low-income individuals and families. Most of the funds would go to projects serving the homeless and those with incomes of less than 30 percent of the county's median income. Smaller amounts would target those making up to 50 percent and moderate-income individuals who are seeking to become first-time homebuyers.

Current property-tax rates would increase by $12.66 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. A resident with a home assessed at $1 million would pay $127 per year more in property taxes; $2 million assessed valuation would mean an increase of $254 per year.

The funds generated would be leveraged to attract matching funds from state and local government as well as nonprofit and philanthropic investment, with the hope that as much as $3 billion could ultimately be invested in new housing.

With a survey last year showing that the county had more than 6,000 unhoused residents and long wait-lists for federally subsidized housing, Measure A is the result of extensive work by county leaders to put together a plan that would more aggressively tackle the housing needs of our most vulnerable populations, including veterans, seniors, the disabled, low and moderate income individuals or families, foster youth, victims of abuse, the homeless and individuals suffering from mental health or substance abuse illnesses.

Measure B would raise the sales tax in Santa Clara County by a half-cent to fund more than $6 billion in transportation improvements over the next three decades.

It would be in addition to two previously approved transportation-related county sales tax increments totaling five-eighths of a cent, one for a half-cent expiring in 2036 and another for one-eighth of a cent expiring in 2042. With the passage of Measure B, the sales-tax rate in most cities, including Palo Alto, will rise to 9 3/8 percent.

This new tax, like those that preceded it, has been spearheaded by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, an organization funded by major Silicon Valley companies, and the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA.) Its timing -- during a booming local economy and amid high frustration over traffic and commuting -- creates the best chance of passage by voters frustrated by the state of local transit, but the measure must overcome a lot of discontent about the BART-centric approach to the use of tax measures already in place.

To address this concern, Measure B has emerged as a consensus plan after some tough bargaining by cities, particularly in north and west county. These cities have felt burned by the allocation of funds raised from the existing sales taxes and made clear that their support for Measure B was dependent on firm limits to spending on BART and the commitment to fund transit projects local communities consider priorities.

The result is a spending plan that will provide funding for the BART extension to downtown San Jose but that caps the allocation for BART at 25 percent of the total estimated $6.3 billion to be raised (in current dollars).

Funding for Caltrain improvements, including grade separations in north county, improvements to highway interchanges and expressways, local street maintenance and bicycle and pedestrian projects make up the bulk of the funding.

The VTA will issue bonds secured by the future tax revenues, a financing strategy that will reduce the total money actually available for projects but that will enable spending in advance of the receipt of the tax revenue.

We have many concerns over the VTA and transportation planning in Santa Clara County, but Measure B shouldn't fall victim to those frustrations. The region has severe transportation challenges requiring huge investments, and Measure B is a fair compromise of interests that will bring substantial improvements benefiting everyone, regardless of the means of transportation they utilize.

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Comments

34 people like this
Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of Los Altos
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:02 am

NO on B!

VTA wants to gut North County bus service under its "Network 90" plan at the same time that they're asking voters to approve yet another bump in the sales tax. Santa Clara County residents are already paying three sales taxes to VTA, a permanent 1/2 cent that was approved in 1976, plus the more recent Measures A and B, whose revenues are mostly going down the BART sinkhole. Plus, we're paying a Vehicle Registration Fee on top of that. Yet this is not enough, they want more tax money to flush down the BART toilet while eliminating local routes.

VTA is asking the voters for a fourth sales tax increase yet they refuse to “value engineer” their expensive projects. There is no reason that the BART extension needs to duplicate existing bus and train service between the San Jose and Santa Clara stations. And the proposed Bus Rapid Transit on El Camino could be constructed at lower cost by eliminating the dedicated center lanes and converting the curbside lanes to HOV use during peak hours.

Money saved from cutting the “gold plating” from big capital projects could be spent on supporting the bus system, including saving routes threatened under Network 90. Until VTA learns to use its existing resources more efficiently, vote NO on more taxes.

This tax is being pushed by Carl Guardino and the grossly misnamed "Silicon Valley Leadership Group," whose rich corporate members stand to benefit most from the hugely expensive BART extension. Rather than increasing sales tax A FOURTH TIME, maybe these rich companies need to step up and pay higher corporate tax.


7 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2016 at 11:49 am

Penny Ellson and I are circulating a petition in support of retaining our VTA 35 and 88 bus service, including service to Gunn High School and the VA Hospital. Cuts to VTA 35 and 88 buses can also result in cuts in Outreach paratransit service for seniors and those with disabilities because, by Federal law, Outreach paratransit rides for seniors and those with disabilities must be provided within 3/4 mile of a VTA transit route.

You can sign the petition at Web Link

VTA is scheduled to attend a City Council meeting on the evening of November 7 to discuss their Next Network plans including the concepts that would cut and/or change the VTA 88 and 35 bus service and related paratransit (also known as Outreach) service for seniors and those with disabilities. This is a public opportunity to ask questions and express concerns. The specific time for this item will be made available when the agenda is published. Nonetheless, block out some time that evening for this important opportunity to share your thoughts with City Council, city staff and VTA staff to inform their negotiations.


20 people like this
Posted by Megan
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 30, 2016 at 3:54 pm

After reading the ballot materials for Measure A, I'm voting NO. There is no assurance in the measure that the money generated by this bond issue will be spent on housing needs in Palo Alto. Correct me if I'm wrong, but there is nothing stopping the county from spending all of the proceeds in San Jose. And since that happened with the last two transportation sales taxes, I'm sure not going to get fooled again. Palo Altans should vote against Measure A and then ask the Palo Alto City Council to do a similar bond measure for just our community. I will support that.


8 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2016 at 8:45 pm

Measure B is still a big BART tax, but with some garnish. BART is looking for it's 3rd new source of taxes, and will be back at the tax trough to fund the > $4B tunneling project to complete their dream in a few years. Perhaps then they will want a permanent tax measure to feed the expanding beast. Measure B started as just a BART tax if I recall correctly, and it was resoundingly rejected as the idea was floated around Santa Clara County. All the other stuff was added to win supporters. Voters are tired of funding BART in perpetuity.

Frankly, I think Measure B would be a slam dunk win, if BART were removed and all the other things left as beneficiaries. Having VTA as a big booster of this tax does not encourage me at all. They are perhaps the worst run transit agency in the Bay area, and their last GREAT! transit project, light rail, is a fiscal disaster. That system may have the dubious distinction of having the lowest fare box recovery rate in the entire bay area, meaning that tax dollars are needed to pay perhaps close to 90% of its operating expenses. Throwing tax dollars at VTA may very well prove to be a sad waste of money better spent almost anywhere else.

The only thing I like about this tax measure is the claim that $700M will be directed at grade separations in Santa Clara County. I believe that there are 4 at grade rail crossings in Palo Alto, 2 in Mt. View and 2 in Sunnyvale that would benefit tremendously from a grade separation. I imagine that funding 8 Grade separations will almost certainly cost much more than $700M. Which crossings get funded? Who decides? Where does the rest of the funding come from?

I appreciate the need to improve mass transit, but these ever abundant and seemingly never ending tax measures are really turning people off, including me.


18 people like this
Posted by mmmmMom
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2016 at 7:09 am

Vote NO on A

Once again, the lower (and very low) middle class will be shut out. Those on poverty level should not be taking all the tax money, especially since one of the reasons they always qualify is the number of children they have.

What is needed is more BMR (below market rate) housing for the previously mentioned very low WORKING middle class. This housing should be rentals, as well as housing to be purchased. It should also include "seniors," since rentals are always increasing, but your retirement income/social security does not.


19 people like this
Posted by Vote the Bums Out
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2016 at 1:13 pm

It is never enough. Every tax hike is squandered. Double dipping government technocrats create more boondoggles that waste our money and then retire to their lifetime pensions.

They promise a shiny city on a hill but give us Pottersville. Only look to the recent bait and switch from PAUSD as the most recent example.

No new taxes until we have an administration with more competence and credibility.


Like this comment
Posted by Daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 16, 2016 at 6:11 am

The West Bay needs BART with too many accidents on Caltrain and not enough bullet trains. It takes 3 hours or more when there is s death or accident on the tracks. Electrifying Caltrain is one thing but having BART on both sides of the bay would reduce travel time to San Francisco,SFO,Palo Alto,Redwood City etc.

With major Biotech companies who could privately fund BART. Caltrain needs to close stations and reduce stops. San.Jose,Sunnyvale,Mountain View,Palo Alto,San Mateo,Milbrae is plenty and then get free shuttles' sponsored by Google,Genentech and Facebook to the station with guaranteed connections.

Caltrain needs to run TGV trains to make the San Jose to San Francisco trip with stops in 45 minutes or have an elevated BART train.


22 people like this
Posted by Bay Sider
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 11:21 am

Vote "NO" on A.
It will increase the cost of home ownership by adding yet another fee to the house tax bill. Many homeowners are either barely holding on, or just can't make the annual payments and are shut out of the market. Measure A makes housing more expensive!

Vote "NO" on B. There is no accountability and visibility into the spending. I ride BART and VTA and both are badly operated. B would be money down the drain, unless they can put forth a better plan with administrative controls to run these services like a business.


6 people like this
Posted by yet more taxes
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 16, 2016 at 11:31 am

Vote "NO" on A.

Yet another in a long list of taxes to residents that add up and add up. This is a government created tax to solve a government created problem. Remove the building restrictions first and only then, if you still cant' get funding, consider another tax.

Raising taxes should be the last resort not the first!


6 people like this
Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 16, 2016 at 8:54 pm

NO on B!

VTA wants to gut North County bus service under its "Network
90" plan at the same time that they're asking voters to approve yet another bump in the sales tax. Santa Clara County residents are already paying three sales taxes to VTA, a permanent 1/2 cent that was approved in 1976, plus the more recent Measures A and B, whose revenues are mostly going down the BART sinkhole.
Plus, we're paying a Vehicle Registration Fee on top of that. Yet this is not enough, they want more tax money to flush down the BART toilet while eliminating local routes.

VTA is asking the voters for a fourth sales tax increase yet they refuse to “value engineer" their expensive projects. There is no reason
that the BART extension needs to duplicate existing bus and train service
between the San Jose and Santa Clara stations. And the proposed Bus Rapid
Transit on El Camino could be constructed at lower cost by eliminating the
dedicated center lanes and converting the curbside lanes to HOV use during peak hours.

Money saved from cutting the “gold plating" from big capital projects could be spent on supporting the bus system, including saving routes threatened under Network 90. Until VTA learns to use its existing resources more
efficiently, vote NO on more taxes.

This tax is being pushed by Carl Guardino and the grossly misnamed "Silicon Valley Leadership Group," whose rich corporate members stand to benefit most from the hugely expensive BART extension. Rather than increasing sales tax A FOURTH TIME, maybe these rich companies need to step up and pay higher corporate tax.

Three pro-transit and environmental groups, BayRail Alliance, the Sierra Club, and Silicon Valley Transit Users are urging a “no" vote on the upcoming VTA sales tax increase. VTA proposes to use Measure B funds to extend BART beyond San Jose Diridon Station to Santa Clara Station, completely duplicating existing Caltrain service. This is a clear example of VTA's poor decision-making. It explains why Caltrain supporters like BayRail Alliance still cannot trust VTA.

The groups believe that the funds to run BART trains between San Jose and Santa Clara would be better used to boost Caltrain frequency to a BART/light rail level of service between Palo Alto and San Jose.

Visit Web Link to read more and join the No on B Campaign.


2 people like this
Posted by margaret
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2016 at 12:05 pm

No on any more government loans, No on everything

Everything this government does makes things worse, the more money they have, the more bad they do

Global warming consciousness means:

Time to stop the evil, time to stop the leaf blowers and the park groomers and let the land breathe, time to open the prison-like schools and bring the children back into the community, time to let the dogs run free, time to let local business thrive and stop encouraging so much commuting and subsidies that work only in favor of mega corporations, time to restore nature and learn to live well







1 person likes this
Posted by Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2016 at 2:17 pm

No on 'B'

Firstly, it will not help. The more you ease congestion, the more greedy developers will stuff the region with high-density housing until congestion gets back to unbearable levels. Stop the collusion between builders and city/county/state officials first.

Secondly - No more money to BART until they stop paying low-level employees like an escalator repairman $150,000 Annual salary - This is true. Look it up.

Thirdly - Enough with tax increases until you fix the accountability and waste first. It's rampant


1 person likes this
Posted by Rich Resident
a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 4, 2016 at 4:05 pm

No on A and B. Increasing property tax and sales tax across the board hurts the poor the most. Rich people (including me) should fund these kind of projects. It should be progressive tax.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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