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By Matt Levin, CalMatters
classroom 2093743 1280California voters are being asked to approve a controversial measure making it easier for developers to build apartment buildings within a half-mile of public transit.
Most will think they’re only voting on whether the state should borrow more money to fix broken air conditioners in schools. 
On its face this new Proposition 13 —the only statewide ballot measure to appear on the ballot for California’s March 3 presidential primary—asks voters for $15 billion in state bonds to finance the construction and renovation of California K-12 schools and public universities. 
But tucked into the ballot measure’s language is a provision that frees new multi-family developments around subway stops and bus stations from school impact fees. 
Developers say such levies unnecessarily drive up the cost of desperately needed new housing. Education finance experts say they are a pillar of some school district’s budgets and defray the cost of added enrollment from new students. 
Nearly every major education group in the state —teachers unions, school boards, charter schools —supports the bond, arguing that billions in new statewide funding far out weighs the potential loss of developer fee revenue. But even the lawmaker who authored the ballot measure has some heartburn over how that provision will impact certain school districts —so much so that he thinks schools could need more money down the line.  
“What we need to do at a state level is we need to watch what fiscal impact this has on school districts across the state,” said Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, Democrat from Long Beach and author of the bond. “If it’s significantly impactful we may have to backfill the fees that the districts will lose because of this policy.” 
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has endorsed the ballot measure, has long sought to incentivize more homebuilding around public transportation. The goals are twofold: fill the state’s crushing housing shortage, and reduce carbon emissions from long commutes.

But major legislative efforts to accomplish those feats have so far fizzled. Senate Bill 50, a proposal from San Francisco Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener to force cities to allow apartment buildings around transit and eliminate single-family-only neighborhoods, failed to clear the state Senate earlier this year.  
“Keep in mind that transit-oriented housing is what we need for climate reasons, what we need for congestion relief reasons, it’s what we need overall,” said Dan Dunmoyer, president of the California Building Industry Association. The association, a developers’ trade group, has spent more than $1.5 million backing the ballot measure. 
O’Donnell said the developer fee provisions were inserted into the bond measure during prolonged negotiations with the Newsom administration. The governor’s office did not respond to request for comment. 
The fee waivers in this Prop. 13 (not to be confused with the property tax-cutting Prop. 13 voters passed in 1978) don’t come close to the type of radical transformation proposed by Wiener. But they satisfy another complaint from developers over why new construction is so difficult in California: the “impact fees” local governments charge new homebuilding. 
 apartment building 4717689 1280
According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, roughly 90% of school districts have raised around $10 billion from new housing developme
nts since 2002. While the fees make up a relatively small portion of school budgets, they are a key pillar in financing the construction of new schools or facilities. 
Fees can total from the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per unit, which developers argue manifest in higher rents and home prices. Prop. 13 would not only eliminate those fees for apartments near transit, but would reduce by 20% whatever a school district is charging new apartment buildings anywhere.  
Single-family-only developments —like many master-planned suburban communities marketed towards young families with children —would receive no benefit from the ballot measure. 
The rationale for imposing school fees on new developments is intuitive: Developers argue that in an era of declining school enrollment, the idea that new apartment buildings in urban corridors should be charged for impacts on local schools is misguided. Younger, single adults are more likely to live in those apartments than nuclear families with school-age children. 
But ironically, the scale of California’s housing affordability crisis —where a single family home costs nearly $600,000 —has meant families are increasingly opting for an apartment over the McMansion in the ‘burbs. 
In “The Crossings at Montague”, a 468-unit apartment complex north of San Jose, leasing consultant Rosio Tafoya has seen a steady increase in the number of families interested in renting. A two-bedroom, one-bath now goes for $2,880 a month. 
“When I first started it was mainly roommates, and now most of the time we’re getting families,” said Tafoya. 
The big attraction for the tech transplants with a growing family? The schools. 
“We’ve had residents that come and say they want to live here because we want to start kindergarten here,” said Tafoya. is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics. 

March 2020 Vote

March 13, 2020

Democratic Debate: Biden And Sanders Face Off One-On-One – Sunday at 5pm

Only two candidates will be on stage for Sunday's Democratic primary debate: former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The CNN-Univision debate was relocated from Arizona to Washington, D.C., and will not have an in-person audience due to coronavirus concerns. Follow live coverage of the debate, with real-time analysis from NPR reporters. (Photo: Angela Hsieh/NPR) Loading...
March 03, 2020

Super Tuesday

Fourteen states hold contests today, with about a third of all delegates for the Democratic nomination at stake. The field has narrowed, after Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg dropped out. Both endorsed Joe Biden, while Bernie Sanders says he wants to “open the door” to their supporters. Follow the latest news here. We’ll have live results tonight. Loading...
March 02, 2020

Spending on Measure I Exceeds 2 Million Dollars

The March 3rd election is just around the corner, and perhaps the most contested measure on the Sonoma County Ballot is Measure I. The measure would extend the quarter-cent sales tax to fund the SMART train for an additional 30 years. KRCB’s Adia White tells us why the measure has been so controversial. (Image: The SMART train pulls into the Rohnert Park station. Credit: Adia White)
SMART 1. jpg
February 24, 2020

Proposition 13 Seeks $15 Billion for California's Schools

Proposition 13 is the only statewide initiative on the ballot March 3rd. The proposed bond would funnel 9 billion dollars into the state's k-12 schools, and a total of six billion for community colleges, the 23 campuses of the State University system, and the 10 branches of the University of California KRCB’s Steve Mencher spoke with Lisa Vollendorf, the executive vice president of Sonoma State University. He asked about educators’ arguments in favor of Proposition 13 and other big changes in…
1280px SSU Schultz Library 4630 1
February 20, 2020

David Cook Challenges Gorin For First District Seat

City of Sonoma Councilmember David Cook is challenging Susan Gorin for the first district seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. He spoke with KRCB’s Steve Mencher about his previous experience and how his priorities would differ from his opponent’s. Listen to the full-length interview: (Image: City of Sonoma Councilmember David Cook. Credit: City of Sonoma)
David Cook
Feb 20, 2020

Gorin Runs for a Third Term on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

Chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Susan Gorin, is running for a third term on the board. Her opponent for the district one seat is City of Sonoma Councilmember, David Cook. KRCB’s Steve Mencher spoke with Gorin about whether the County has done enough to address homelessness during her time on the board and what she would accomplish if reelected. Listen to the full-length interview below: (Image: Chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Susan Gorin. Credit: Regional…
Feb 18, 2020

Former Mayor Chris Coursey Challenges Zane for District 3 Seat

Former Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey is challenging incumbent Shirlee Zane for her seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. KRCB’s Steve Mencher spoke with Coursey about his priorities and how his approach to homelessness would differ from his opponent’s. Listen to the full interview below: (Image: Former Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey. Credit: Wikimedia.)
Chris Coursey the mayor of Santa Rosa CA
Feb 14, 2020

Shirlee Zane Defends Her Seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

Shirlee Zane is squaring off with former Santa Rosa mayor Chris Coursey in the district 3 Sonoma County Board of Supervisors race. Zane is hoping to win a fourth term as supervisor. She spoke with KRCB’s Steve Mencher about her record and how the board handled the encampment along the Joe Rodota Trail. Listen to the full-length interview below:
Zane Headshot Sept 2019 500
Feb 12, 2020

Lynda Hopkins Makes Her Case for a Second Term as Supervisor

Lynda Hopkins is defending her District 5 seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Hopkins holds a master's degree in land-use policy from Stanford and is running for her second term as supervisor. She joined KRCB’s Steve Mencher at the end of January to talk about her accomplishments and priorities. Listen to the full-length interview below: (Image: Supervisor Lynda Hopkins speaking on a panel about women in leadership at the Paradise Ridge Winery. Credit: Steve Mencher.)
Hopkins 2
Feb 11, 2020

Mike Hilber Challenges Lynda Hopkins for District 5 Seat

Mike Hilber is challenging incumbent Lynda Hopkins for the District 5 seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Hilber has a master's in electrical engineering from Stanford and worked in the defense industry in Southern California. In the early 1990’s he moved back to his childhood home in Roseland to care for his mother. KRCB’s Steve Mencher spoke with him about his priorities and previous experience in Sonoma County politics. Listen to the full-length interview below: (Image: Mike…
Feb 10, 2020

Interview: Reporter Will Houston Lays Out the Pros and Cons of Measure I

Marin and Sonoma County voters will soon decide whether to extend a sales tax supporting the SMART train until 2059. Campaigns on both sides of the issue have each received over a million dollars in support of their positions. Reporter Will Houston from the Marin Independent Journal has been following the issue closely. KRCB’s Adia White spoke with him over the phone to find out why this measure is so controversial. (Image: The SMART train at the downtown Santa Rosa station. Credit: Wikimedia) I
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