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All 3 Orange County ballot items pass

San Clemente's and Irvine's win big. Santa Ana's bond was close.

June 05, 2008|Tony Barboza and Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writers

Backers of all three local measures on Orange County's ballots were basking in victory Wednesday, a day after voters authorized a school facilities bond in Santa Ana, limited the height of homes in a San Clemente neighborhood and asserted control over Irvine's anti-lobbying restrictions.

Though Irvine's and San Clemente's measures passed by giant margins, the Santa Ana school bond issue barely got the necessary two-thirds vote. Measure G, supported by 68% of voters, will provide $200 million for school repairs, renovations and the replacement of portable classrooms with permanent buildings.

Two Santa Ana Unified school board members and the Orange County Labor Federation opposed the measure, saying the money would be mismanaged while substantially raising property taxes.

For officials supporting it, the victory was a sigh of relief after a last-minute, long-shot campaign. The bond issue will also make the cash-hungry school district eligible for $120 million in state funds to ease overcrowding; construction plans must be filed with the state by August.

"Voters have signaled that modern school facilities are better for kids and lead to higher property values," said Santa Ana Unified board Vice President Rob Richardson. Some repairs may start as early as this summer.

Though board member John Palacio, an opponent of the measure, said the board had quietly discussed pursuing even more bond money in the fall election, others said this money would suffice for several years. Richardson said there was "zero chance" of a second bond measure.

In Irvine, Measure H passed with 80% of the vote, taking the power to change sections of the city's ethics code away from the City Council.

The restrictions, which bar city officials from working as lobbyists for county agencies or having a financial interest in city contracts, are already in effect through a 2006 ethics ordinance passed by the council. Now, however, changes to those two limitations will require a citywide vote.

Councilman Larry Agran said the vote made the ethics law "essentially tamper-proof."

But Councilwoman Christina Shea, who supported the measure after initially pushing to put the entire ethics code up to a vote, said it didn't go far enough.

"Why the council majority refused to add the remainder of the ethics ordinance onto the measure was very puzzling to me," she said.

Finally, voters in San Clemente overwhelmingly passed a contentious measure that limits the height of many homes in one seaside neighborhood to one story to protect some residents' ocean views.

Measure I passed with 69% of the vote and seemingly put to rest the bitter, years-long dispute over whether terraced homes in the seaside Shorecliffs neighborhood could grow to two stories. Neighborhood regulations had been deemed unenforceable, so advocates of the height limit called on the city to intervene.

Under the new rules, more than half of the 505 hillside homes will be capped at 16 feet high, with the rest of the community's 1960s-era houses limited to 25 feet; houses subject to the height restrictions can still expand outward.

Supporters "are grateful to the people of San Clemente for following through on what the neighborhood had always wanted," resident Paige Foreman said. Opponents say the city's process of selecting which houses must stay one story was arbitrary and that other neighborhoods probably will ask for similar protections.

Officials "are gifting view protection to a small group of homes," said Rick Collins, head of a group that fought the height limit. The property rights issue "is going to spread to many areas of California."



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