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This week, voters across the nation went to the ballot box and the electorate’s vote resulted in a clear change in direction for Congress. While the results in California and locally broke the national trend, many of the results will impact our industry.

In Washington, D.C.: Voters ousted roughly 60 Democratic members of the Congress, giving the Republican Party a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Although Democrats lost the majority in the House, they were able to maintain control of the U.S. Senate by three votes. Republicans, however, have enough senators to bring any vote to a grinding halt through a filibuster on party-line issues. The National Association of REALTORS® feels confident it will be able to work with the new majority in the House. NAR is one of the most effective lobbying forces on Capitol Hill. Preserving the mortgage interest deduction and getting the housing market back on track will continue to be key priorities for NAR.
 
In Sacramento: Jerry Brown was soundly elected back as California’s governor and the Democrats still maintain a majority in the state legislature. The California Association of REALTORS® did not have a position on the gubernatorial race, but C.A.R. has a strong relationship with the governor-elect and is confident it will be able to continue that relationship over the next four years. Many key appointments will be made in the near future, including that of DRE commissioner. These appointments will have a direct impact on REALTORS®. C.A.R.-supported Rich Gordon, was also elected to replace termed-out Assembly member Ira Ruskin.
 
On the proposition front, C.A.R.-opposed Proposition 19 (legalization of marijuana) was defeated. It was the only proposition on which C.A.R. took a position. With its defeat, landlords will continue to have the right to prohibit tenants from smoking, growing and possessing marijuana on their property.

Two other successful propositions, Proposition 25 and Proposition 26, will have a lasting impact at the state and local level. Prop. 25 lowers the legislative voting threshold for approving a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority. This new lower threshold might have resulted in a proliferation of property transfer fees and new withholding requirements for REALTORS®, but Prop. 26 makes that possibility remote. Prop. 26 will prohibit the legislature and local governments from raising or creating fees without a two-thirds vote (for local governments it is a two-thirds vote of the people). Experts believe with the passage of the two propositions, it will be easier to make cuts to services, but harder to raise taxes and fees. Prop. 26 will have a significant impact on local governments, where fees for everything from business licenses to recreational classes will now require citywide votes.
 
In the Valley: SILVAR PAC saw mixed results in this election, but is confident its interests will still be protected at the local level. SILVAR PAC had endorsed Measure E, a parcel tax for the Foothill De Anza Community College District, and opposed Measure Q in Saratoga, a two-story height limit for commercial and office property. Measure E, which would have insulated the district from many of the budget cuts made by the state and preserve many key educational programs, was defeated.

After providing significant support behind an opposition campaign against Measure Q, the election is still too close to call. The opposition is currently ahead by 39 votes, with over 100,000 ballots still outstanding countywide. If Measure Q is defeated, it will be a huge victory for businesses and property owners in Saratoga.
 
The candidates endorsed by SILVAR PAC saw both strong victories and disappointing losses. Here is a quick breakdown of those races:

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, District 1: SILVAR PAC-endorsed Mike Wasserman was successful in his election bid, and will now replace termed-out Supervisor Don Gage on the board.

Santa Clara Valley Water District, Seat 7: SILVAR PAC-endorsed Lou Becker was defeated by environmental lobbyist Brian Schmit.

Atherton Town Council: SILVAR PAC-endorsed Bill Widmer received the most votes in the election, and will be a fresh new voice in a town council that has seen much contention in recent years.

East Palo Alto City Council: Both SILVAR PAC-endorsed candidates Ruben Abrica and David Woods were re-elected.

Los Altos Town Council: SILVAR PAC-endorsed incumbent Val Carpenter, was successful in her re-election bid and council newcomer Jarrett Fishpaw was successful waging an upset against former council member Curtis Cole. Fishpaw was financially supported by SILVAR PAC, and will bring fresh ideas and perspective to the council. 

Los Altos Hills Town Council: SILVAR PAC-endorsed John Radford and Gary Waldeck were both successful in their election bids to serve on the council for the first time.

Los Gatos Town Council: All three SILVAR PAC-endorsed candidates, including incumbents Diane McNutt and Joe Pirzynski and REALTOR® Steve Leonardis, were elected to the council.

Menlo Park City Council: SILVAR PAC-endorsed Rich Cline and newcomer Peter Ohtaki were both elected to the council, with non-endorsed incumbent Heyward Robinson failing to win re-election.

Monte Sereno City Council: In the most heartbreaking result in the election, SILVAR PAC-endorsed mayor and REALTOR® Don Perry was denied a second term on the council by voters. His advocacy for the rights of homeowners will be missed on the council. 

Mountain View City Council: Both SILVAR PAC-endorsed incumbents Margaret Abe-Koga and Jac Siegel were re-elected.

Saratoga City Council: In a very close election, the sole SILVAR PAC-endorsed candidate Chuck Page was re-elected to the council, earning more votes than any other candidate.
 
Most of the positions taken by SILVAR PAC were supported by member contributions to the REALTOR® Action Fund. Our success could not be possible without your generous support!

By Adam Montgomery, SILVAR Government Affairs Director

Since August, SILVAR has been working to support property owners, businesses and residents in Saratoga, to work against an ill-conceived two-story height limit measure in Saratoga (Measure Q).

Going into the last two days of the campaign, there are almost no new ways to convince voters on an issue, so I would usually save my breath, but an e-mail I received this weekend, while picking out pumpkins with my wife, inspired me to share some thoughts on the current state of affairs in Saratoga.

On Saturday, I was forwarded a chain e-mail that originated as a neighborhood alert, warning residents through an alarming recent account of a robbery at gunpoint that occurred at a Saratoga home. A comment made by a supporter of Measure Q in the chain left me speechless: “Vote YES on Q.  Do we really need to draw more attention to Saratoga?” The only way to interpret this comment is that either the campaign has directly contributed to the robbery, or a NO vote would mean more armed robberies.

This comment might make sense if this was a campaign to support public safety funding, but for a ballot box zoning measure to limit commercial, retail and office property to two stories for 30 years, is inflammatory. As I learned back in Constitutional Law 101, defamation is not a protected form of speech, but along with fear and intimidation, this has been a cornerstone for the YES campaign.

This is simply the nastiest campaign I have ever witnessed. Beyond the theft of over 150 legally placed signs in opposition to Q, threats of boycotts against businesses against Q, and unsolicited harassment of residents at street corners or at their home if they openly oppose Q, there have been many lies put out in support of Q.

Lie #1: SILVAR has no representation in Saratoga, with no board members residing there, and they should have no say over the residents of Saratoga. SILVAR does have a board member who lives in Saratoga – his name is Bryan Robertson. SILVAR also has over 300 members living there, representing over one percent of the population. Also, since when do REALTORS® have no say on real estate and land use issues? Last we checked, that is our bread and butter.

Lie #2: Measure Q will bring less attention, preventing armed robberies. The complete opposite may be true. Measure Q’s restrictions will turn businesses away from locating downtown, creating more blight and restricting the tax base used to fund public safety. Remember the broken glass theory – with blight and less foot traffic, come vagrants, loiterers and crime. 

Lie #3: Measure Q will prevent overcrowding of Saratoga schools. Saratoga’s enrollment numbers have been declining for years. Downtown is the only area that could allow more than two stories under current height limits, which is not zoned currently for residential development. Also, the Measure Q restrictions will negatively impact commercial property value and tax receipts, reducing school revenues.   

Lie #4: Without Measure Q, small businesses will be pushed out of Saratoga. There are no plans under the current rules changed by Measure Q to evict businesses. Business is going really bad in downtown, which has lost 30 businesses so far. Without some significant investment, Saratoga’s downtown will slowly dwindle into a ghost town. Measure Q will kill that investment and wipe out the businesses that have weathered this recent downturn.

Lie #5: Only out-of-towners oppose Q, most of the moneys spent against Q is from Los Angeles. Over 400 residents and businesses have shared their names in opposition to Q, including three council members and four planning commissioners. Our PAC is shared with the California Association of REALTORS®, which is located in Los Angeles, but our Saratoga members have given more money into the REALTOR® Action Fund in this election cycle than has been expended towards the campaign.

What is the moral of this story?
First, voters should not be making complicated land use decisions through the ballot. Voters chose their leaders to listen to their concerns, entrusting them to make the most educated and fair decisions to benefit of the entire community. Land use campaigns always fall victim to emotional and erroneous information. If poorly weighed, these campaigns can handcuff a city’s control over its own jurisdiction.

Second, our association has a duty to conduct our advocacy efforts at the same high ethical levels as our members in their business. We have resisted the temptation to run a tit for tat campaign by not resorting to cheap tricks and questionable behavior; instead, we have focused on educating voters on the facts of the measure. The good news is issue campaigns are usually won or lost on the merits of the arguments used. The more time spent slinging mud at your opposition, instead of the issue, does not typically bear good results.

Tomorrow, voters will go to the polls to decide on several elected offices and ballot measures across the state. To find if you are registered to vote or if your ballot has been received or your polling place location, please visit www.sccvote.org for Santa Clara County voters, or www.shapethefuture.org for San Mateo County voters.

Below you will find SILVAR PAC (Political Action Commitee) and California Association of REALTORS® endorsements, which are based on the best interests of homeowners, business and property rights. Most of the positions are supported by financial contributions and actively supported in part by members’ contributions to the REALTOR® Action Fund.

Measure Q, Saratoga, Two-story Limit for Commercial and Office Properties, Vote NO. If passed, Measure Q will prevent buildings in the commercial and office zoning district to exceed two stories for the next 30 years, and the only way buildings would be able to exceed two stories in the downtown core and other job centers in Saratoga is if this measure goes back to a citywide vote for approval. If approved in November, Measure Q will be devastating for Saratoga’s ability to revitalize the downtown (the Village) and bring new businesses into the city. It will also move future development away from the very place residents want it, which is downtown.

Measure E, Foothill De Anza Community College District, Vote YES. Measure E seeks a $69 per year parcel tax for six years. The revenue from this tax will supplement educational programs at both Foothill and De Anza community colleges, to counteract cuts made by the state. Both community colleges serve as vital assets to the economy, as backbones for the educational strength of northern Santa Clara County. Measure E will ensure Foothill and De Anza remain among the top community colleges in the nation.

Proposition 19, Vote NO. This is the only state proposition on which the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) has taken a position. If approved by voters, this proposition will legalize and tax marijuana. C.A.R. opposes Prop. 19 because it will give constitutional protections to individuals who smoke, possess and cultivate marijuana in their home, regardless of ownership, with vague and unenforceable exclusions. Specifically, if tenants wish to smoke marijuana in a rental unit, they are required to ask for permission, but there is no language in Prop. 19 to protect the landlord’s ability to refuse, nor does it say that the tenant must be granted permission. C.A.R. believes Prop. 19 is too vague regarding the tenant-landlord relationship, which will lead to many disputes and loss of control of the property owner over writing and enforcing the terms of a lease agreement.

Below is a list of candidates seeking local elected office, whom we feel believe strongly in the value of homeownership and will keep the interests of homeowners and private property rights in mind:
• Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, District 1: Mike Wasserman
• Santa Clara Valley Water District, Seat 7: Lou Becker
• Atherton Town Council: Bill Widmer and Cary Wiest
• East Palo Alto City Council: Ruben Abrica and David Woods
• Los Altos Town Council: Val Carpenter and Curtis Cole
• Los Altos Hills Town Council: John Radford, Joan Sherlock and Gary Waldeck
• Los Gatos Town Council: Steven Leonardis, Diane McNutt and Joe Pirzynski
• Menlo Park City Council: Chuck Bernstein, Rich Cline and Peter Ohtaki
• Monte Sereno City Council: Don Perry and Toni Yamamoto
• Mountain View City Council: Margaret Abe-Koga and Jac Siegel
• Saratoga City Council: Chuck Page

Remember, Election Day is tomorrow, November 2!

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