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.
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.