Contra Costa County transportation tax fails, other measures pass

Final but unofficial election results for Measure J, a 35-year half-cent sales tax to raise money for local roads, buses, rail, ferries and other transportation improvement projects in Contra Costa County, fell far short of the two-thirds approval needed to pass, and in fact didn't even make 50 percent.

Measure J would have raised an estimated $103 million over the 35 years to "directly benefit Contra Costa County residents."

Measure J would focus on improving major roadways that suffer from the worst traffic, including Interstate Highways 680, 580 and 80; state Highways 4 and 24; and arterials including Ygnacio Valley Road, Kirker Pass Road, Vasco Road, Bollinger Canyon Road, Central Avenue and Richmond Parkway.

It also would address issues such as safety at Contra Costa-area BART stations and the better synchronization of traffic lights on major roadways. The need for more freeway expansion and improvement, better (cleaner and more crime-free) BART service, and a ferry boat service serving Contra Costa's north-shore cities, is almost universally acknowledged.

But critics have challenged Measure J's lack of specifics, and contend that similar past tax measures to improve transportation in Contra Costa have had negligible effect on the county's increasing traffic volumes.

Elsewhere in the county, voters in Danville narrowly approved, by a 51.5 percent vote, an ordinance to rezone to allow what would be the Magee Preserve project, which will include 69 single-family lots of approximately 29 acres of a 410-acre site on Danville's northwest edge and would preserve the remaining 381 acres as permanent open space.

Measure Y also calls for hiking and biking trails on the 381 acres. While supporters say the 381 acres would have to remain as open space in perpetuity, critics say it will allow a developer to build homes on what is now all open space, and that development there would increase traffic in the area.

The Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District's Measure A, a $63.5 million bond measure to upgrade and replace deteriorating restrooms, improve safety and security, upgrade outdated plumbing and irrigation and upgrade, renovate and expand various parks facilities, fell short of the two-thirds needed for approval, with 57.3 percent voting "yes."

Property owners would have been assessed approximately 1.9 cents per $100 assessed value, with an expected annual collection of $3.4 million.

Antioch Unified School District voters rejected Measure T, which received 52.1 percent of the vote but needed 55 percent to pass. It called for a $105 million bond to renovate classrooms, upgrade school safety and security systems, improve technology and energy efficiency, upgrade science labs, modernize schools and repair and replace roofs.

Voters in the Lafayette School District were supporting a seven-year, $290-a-year parcel tax to provide $3,011,360 annually in dedicated funding for neighborhood schools. Passage of Measure L, which required a two-thirds vote, received 69.5 percent.

Moraga's Measure M, which required a two-thirds vote to pass, fell just short, garnering 65.04 percent approval. The measure would have continued an existing $192-per-parcel tax to support school science, technology, engineering, math, arts and music programs, to maintain class sizes and keep schools safe. The parcel tax raises about $1 million a year.

By a similarly narrow margin, West Contra Costa Unified School District appears to have approved, by a 55.5 percent "yes" vote, a $575 million bond measure to raise $34.48 million per year to fund repairs and upgrades of neighborhood schools including updated technology and new or renovated air conditioning. The assessment would be 6 cents per $100 assessed value. This parcel tax requires at least 55 percent voter approval to pass.