.What Does Measure D Really Say?

There’s a lot of speculation about the ballot measure, but here’s what it would really do

Measure D, also called the “Santa Cruz County Greenway Initiative,” is the most controversial item on the June 7 ballot—and certainly one of the most contentious issues county residents have faced in recent memory.

But somewhat lost among the back and forth between supporters and opponents has been what, exactly, the measure would accomplish if approved by voters, and who is funding the two campaigns.

What D Would Do

This measure, if approved, would change the county’s General Plan—the jurisdiction’s blueprint for meeting the community’s long-term vision for the future—to include the development of a multi-use bicycle and pedestrian trail between the San Lorenzo Bridge in Santa Cruz and Lee Road in Watsonville, while “railbanking” the existing rail line for future use. 

The measure needs only more than 50% of the vote to pass.

Santa Cruz County Counsel Jason Heath’s impartial analysis of the measure says the plan would include the removal of the existing rail tracks.

secure document shredding

The measure would add language to the General Plan supporting the building of the trail, while removing language that relates to rail services, both freight and passenger. 

Heath wrote that Greenway’s plans hinge on the approval of railbanking, which is a lengthy process that involves the federal government, freight operators and the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, which currently owns the 32-mile rail line.

Failing that, Heath writes, the change in language would have no real-world effect.

“The General Plan is a planning document and does not mandate that proposed infrastructure be built. Therefore, adoption of the Greenway Initiative does not guarantee that the Greenway will be constructed,” he writes.

The RTC, whose governing board is made up of local city council members, county supervisors and Santa Cruz METRO board members, has maintained that approval of Measure D would not stop the agency from studying or pursuing funds for passenger rail, or its construction.

Ultimately, that agency will have the final say on the rail line’s future. Currently, it is soliciting feedback on which option—a rail and trail option or a trail-only option—it will pursue on two segments between Santa Cruz to Aptos on unincorporated county land. Other segments in Watsonville and Santa Cruz have already been completed under the rail and trail design.

Who’s Behind D?

Proponents of Measure D—led by the organization Santa Cruz County Greenway—say the 32-mile trail is fully funded, and can be built now. It would be accessible to all county residents. They say it would reduce traffic and air pollution while giving residents a safe, healthy way to commute to work and school. It would also preserve the natural landscape of the area.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Greenway has raised $318,285.99 in total campaign contributions. 

Many of the campaign’s significant contributions have come from Bay Area and Central Coast figures such as author and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki ($20,000), Driscoll’s CEO Miles Reiter ($20,000), philanthropists Rowland Rebele ($23,000), Karen Hargrove ($25,000) and Alec Webster ($25,000), Looker co-founder Lloyd Tabb ($25,000), Bill Simpkins ($20,000) and Monterey Bay Aquarium Director Julie Packard ($15,000).

Who’s Against D?

The opposition to Measure D—spearheaded by the group No Way Greenway—say railbanking would bring the county’s existing plans to build a combination rail/trail corridor to an indefinite halt.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, this camp has raised $165,698.70 in campaign contributions. 

Among their top individual donors are Santa Cruz residents Christine Weir ($10,000), Dan and Jill Dion ($15,000 and $10,000, respectively), Mark Mesiti-Miller ($10,000) and Greg Larson ($5,000) as well former Santa Cruz Mayor Donna Murphy ($9,999).

Other notable donors include Santa Cruz City Council members and candidates for 4th District County Supervisor Justin Cummings ($250) and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson ($100). County Superintendent of Schools Farris Sabbah ($100), former Santa Cruz Mayors Michael Rotkin ($100) and Cynthia Matthews ($100), Monterey Bay Central Labor Council Political Coordinator Glen Schaller ($100) and Santa Cruz County Democratic Party Chair Andrew Goldenkranz ($100) have also donated.

In addition, Fred Keeley, a former member of the state legislature who represented Santa Cruz, also made a $2,608 “nonmonetary” contribution in the form of event services.

Roaring Camp Railroads, which has said that the Greenway initiative could significantly hurt its business, leads all business contributors with $13,310.28. That company’s CEO, Melani Clark, also contributed $500 as an individual.

No Way Greenway also received donations from the following committees: Democratic Women’s Club of Santa Cruz County ($475), Monterey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council ($500) and Santa Cruz for Bernie PAC ($2,000.71).

The last day to register to vote in the June 7 election is May 23. Voters can register online at registertovote.ca.gov or pick up a card at any post office, library, city hall or county elections office. There are 17 ballot drop boxes installed throughout the county. Ballots postmarked on or before June 7 and received by June 14 will be considered received on time under California state law. For information, call 454-2060 or visit votescount.us.


  1. Your first paragraph describing Measure D’s effects is a blatant falsehood.

    The county development plan already includes a trail in that location.

    Why would you make this error?

    Railbanking puts the trail at risk. It removes the federal monies to pay for the I-5 and Soquel Creek overpasses. It creates a situation where landowners can challenge the change in land use to claim the right of way.

    And Measure D would immediately stop the county from studying a rail plan, and erase all references to all the work we’ve done to complete the streetcar. To say it won’t stop furture rail is straight up plagiarism from the Measure D proponent’s website, word for word.

    • 1. The paragraph you are referring to is 100% accurate. Measure D would change not only the language in the General Plan related to rail (removing it) but also the language relating to the trail, adding specific plans for a multi-use bicycle and pedestrian trail that includes two lanes of bike traffic, a divider and a walkway. This is a shift in language around the trail, and is important to explain to voters who may believe, as you did, that the measure only affects language in the General Plan pertaining to rail.
      2. On the contrary, the claim that Measure D will not necessarily stop the study or implementation of future rail does not come from Measure D supporters, or their website, at all. As clearly stated in the article, it comes directly from the RTC.

  2. I do know that the spokesman for the greenway is an L.A. transplant Who works for WAYMO and really would love to see Us trapped in automobiles forever. What They will never admit is that the trail construction as planned and is proceeding will cease, yet The premise for Their campaign is pro trail. All They have ever done is stymie progress, even halting the latest segment until this Summer. Let Us all utilize that line, keep building the trail, save the rail. Dont make the mistake of discarding vital infrastructure. That line over the summit was a huge loss, Are We going to further limit Our transit options? We need to bring back the TIG coast futura clean ultra light rail at a fraction of the cost of removing the rails, building a trail, then ripping out the trail and replacing the trail and rails. That is not the green way. Vote NO on D.

  3. Typo in the link in this sentence:
    “Currently, it is soliciting feedback on which option—a rail and trail option or a rail-only option”

    It should be: a rail and trail option or a trail-only option

    Thanks for your coverage on this topic.

  4. Steve and Good Times ~

    Thank you so much for digging deep and providing information for voters. I do wish you had dug deeper about donations. This article only looks at donations since Jan 1. In it one will find a total of $30,000 from the Mesiti-Millers and another $30,000 from another couple. Both couples gave $30K before that.

    My husband and I donated a total of $75 to Greenway. We are one of 651 total donations so far and most of us have not donated beyond $100. So this truly is a grassroots, not rich outsiders, campaign. Since YES on Measure D signs are being vandalized and literally stolen from yards every day and overnight, I am glad that Greenway has the money to replace them. It should be noted that YES Greenway has refused to vandalize or steal the oppositions’ signs.

    • My “No on D” was stolen and replaced with a “Yes on D” days later, on my own property. So glad you’re cruising to a loss tonight.

  5. Since I cannot edit my comment, I am adding that I meant to say your article only considers donations mad as of January 1 and did not look at the April report, which included the larger No Way donations.

  6. Here’s a prediction: the current Measure D will fail. Here’s why: Santa Cruz County voters approved Proposition 116 by more than 2/3, and then we approved the old Measure D (that authorized funds to study passenger rail) by more than 2/3. In other words, the “rip-out-the-tracks/Greenway” folks seem to only garner about 1/3 of the votes in their zeal to kill light rail. This current measure D needs only 50% to pass but, if previous voting patterns hold, D will fail. SCC voters, especially in the South County, know that light rail will provide a green alternative to the Hwy 1 parking lot and give them a trail at the same time (some sections already complete). Good to see so many progressive organizations urging us to keep the tracks and vote NO on D.

  7. David Wright’s comments makes me add some comment on 2016 Measure D. The original language for 2016 Measure D was 24% for rail, including $14M for a Monterey Train Station. Trail Now became a PAC against Measure D – and RTC changed the language – reducing rail funding to 8%, transferring the funds to Metro LiftLine and killing the $14M for Monterey train station. Trail Now reversed and supported 2016 Measure D and our supporters contributed the most for it to win. 2016 Measure D did not win because of rail – it was because of other transportation investments – including the ability to have matching funds for Grants. 2022 Measure D will be the same landslide as that of Koenig to Leopold – which we won.

  8. Goodtimes: this article fails to clarify that voting “No” on Measure D is a vote to continue our County’s existing, long-term Plan in progress for a multi-use, multiple award-winning Trail along side our Rail (The Rail WITH Trail Plan). It’s completed and in use already in segments on the West Side and in Watsonville. Voting “No” on D will protect our only railroad for planned, clean, light rail service that will provide a desperately needed public transit option off our congested Hwy 1 corridor and surface streets. Additionally, our light rail will connect Santa Cruz County to the rest of our Statewide (and Nationwide) high speed rail network!

    Voting yes on D is a vote to rip out and pave over our only railroad in order to put a trail on top of it rather than next to it. (See our County Counsels’ Impartial Analysis below.)

    Per our County Counsel’s Impartial Analysis of 2022 Measure D,
    – “As proposed, the Greenway would involve the removal of the existing rail tracks…”
    – “If the Corridor is not able to be railbanked, the Greenway as proposed would not be feasible.”
    – “Moreover, the General Plan is a planning document and does not mandate that proposed infrastructure be built.”
    – “Therefore, adoption of the Greenway Initiative does not guarantee that the Greenway will be constructed.” https://www.votescount.com/Home/Elections/June2022CaliforniaPrimaryElection/LocalMeasuresJune2022/D-CountyGreenway/D-CountyGreenwayAnalysis622.aspx

    That’s really all readers need to know about this Measure. It’s a sham.

    * Fortunately, our existing, approved, multi-use Trail will continue construction as planned if discerning voters Vote “No” on Measure D. Our existing, multiple award-winning, multi-use Trail Plan underway is, in fact, the only guaranteed, trail from Davenport to Watsonville. So, if we want our multi-use Trail for sure, we must join all our local community organizations remarkably unified in resounding opposition to measure D.

    Vote NO on D–to both Finish our Trail and Protect our Rail.” #WiseUp #TransportationEquity #Accessibility #ClimateAction #EnergyIndependence #GasPrices #CommonSense #CommonGood #ShareTheRoad

  9. That’s a pretty straight story. I could quibble over semantics on at least one point, and I will. I really don’t think that juxtaposing a “rail and trail option” with a “trail-only option” as if these were two equivalently potential choices is appropriate. The only reason the design and environmental studies include consideration of the “interim scenario” (trail-only) is because Greenway threatened to sue the RTC on CEQA grounds unless the supposedly “reasonable alternative” was included in the scope of work. The RTC executive director chose to appease Colligan & Co. by spending lots of extra money to include the “interim scenario” as an alternative case. The “ultimate scenario” (rail and trail) in RTC’s recent planning studies is the present policy of the RTC. I would be shocked if the RTC commissioners were to vote to vitiate that policy.

  10. Voting against it simply means this: Nothing will happen to the 3rd transportation corridor, for decades. It will sit, while it could have been a multi-lane trail for 10-12k people a day, without the cutting down of all the trees, or building a county-long fence, or concrete-canyon retaining walls, or building/repairing the 20+ bridges to the tune of 1 billion, 300 million ….and much of the “trail” will still dump into surface streets. Rail bank. Train can come when it is time.

  11. Voting No will keep the approved plan progressing.
    Passage of D would require redesign and environmental clearance not otherwise needed.

    Vote No on misleading and confusing and anti-equity Measure D.
    Watsonville and mid-county want to be connected, not isolated even more than we are.

    Ask the RTC to pass the business plan and consider the Roaring Camp-TIG/m proposal

    This is what we could have, clean and affordable light rail: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQOW3dIU6Y4

  12. CEQA requires that when truly analyzing ENVIRONMENTAL impacts of a project that all reasonable alternatives be carefully considered.

    The environmental impact of building the trail on the edge of the corridor, instead of down the center, will be the destruction of the myriad tunnels of trees and associated wildlife habitat that currently lines the corridor. With this loss will come the silence of bird song throughout county neighborhoods adjacent to the corridor. “So what?” one might ask.

    So this: to say that it is better for the environment to create massive earthworks, clear cut trees, bulldoze living soil, build retaining walls and create dozens of new watershed manipulations is foolish as well as a show of ignorance. We have already created two industrialized transportation corridors through the county (Hwy 1 and Soquel Ave./Dr.) — enough landscape destruction to last more than a lifetime.

    Fix Metro to make it convenient and available to all. Leave this third corridor for public transportation by foot and cycling. The birds will thank us, if they have the habitat they need for their survival. We can survive without a train, they cannot survive without trees for resting, nesting, and rearing their young. How greedy do we need to be to constantly take homes away from other species?

  13. Who will own the “right of way” or the option to use the land on which it sits if Measure D is adopted?

  14. Light rail is a delusion. While it can work with subsidies in high density areas, it isn’t going to work in such a low density area like Santa Cruz County. It will never work. Passenger rail just is not feasible for most of America due to the spread out nature of everything. What will happen in the timeframe that rail could even be put into service is that self driving cars will become a reality and that will cause a turning point for people who don’t drive that much and mass transit can evolve into point-to-point service in smaller two person electric vehicles, because the make up of cars that are privately owned and cars that are active shuttles will start to evolve when self driving is fully realized. And that will happen long before rail could even be put into service on these lines. People who keep thinking that rail will happen are living in a dream that makes no sense if you logic it out.

  15. Low density compared to the SF-SJ-Oakland metropolitan area- absolutely we are low density. Yes, it’s crammed near the coast, but total served population is what matters. Passenger rail in the US rarely works, always ends up being heavily subsidized. Meanwhile, self-driving and EV technology is moving very fast and pod transit systems will be scalable in size and can support small deployments. They will also be options by the time *any* light rail could be constructed and the existing tracks fixed (not cheap by a long shot). Critical mass is needed to support $Billion rail investments, and we do not have that.

    NO on D appears to have won, but the trail loses. Tell me your dreamy solution for crossing all those trestles with trail in the current plan.

    I’ve lived in big cities most of my life- Santa Cruz is a small town be comparison. Yes, traffic is bad on 1, but it is not a big town.

  16. Remember the Trolly study way back when? The consultants concluded that we DO have the population density to support light rail. It makes sense when you consider our population is congregated along the rail line and exclude the empty hills. Then, add in a bunch of tourists and pass-thru traffic and, presto! Plenty of humans and a 24/7 traffic jam on Hwy 1.


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Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor of The Pajaronian for five years and three years as Managing Editor. He is a Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus.
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