CAPP Initiatives Threaten American-Style Democracy

Published in the “Alameda County Bar Association Bulletin” Volume 30, Number 10, December 1999.
By Steve McNichols

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This article discusses anti-growth initiatives that require housing developments to be subject to popular election after they have been approved under the traditional government entitlement process.

November 2, voters in Pleasanton, Livermore and San Ramon rejected ballot measures that would have put land use decisions in the hands of the voters rather than their elected officials. These nationally watched initiatives, had they passed, would have threatened our representative form of government by changing land use decisions from a representative governmental function to a direct democratic vote.

The battle to preserve representative government is by no means over. Future CAPP initiatives have been proposed in Danville, Dublin, Clayton and the unincorporated areas of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. However, the defeat of the initiatives on this year’s ballots has given our elected representatives an opportunity to act to restore the public’s faith in representative democracy. Hopefully, they will take advantage of this situation.

CAPP Initiatives

These anti-growth initiatives were formulated by a grassroots organization that called itself the Citizens Alliance for Public Planning (CAPP). The CAPP initiatives require that housing developments that contain more than a minimum number of units, involve conversion of open space to development or result in increases in residential density must be approved by a direct, popular election after they have gone through the traditional entitlement process and have been approved by local government. The CAPP initiatives are written to act as automatic referendums on development that falls within their scope.

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