Money Can’t Buy You Love; Or, in Santa Paula, Development

Not all the news from this election in California is good. Much-loathed anti-environmentalist Congressman Richard Pombo easily defeated GOP legend Pete McCloskey, and now looks to be on a glide path to re-election.

But the news from little Santa Paula is incredible. For the third time in recent years, the not-rich voters in this old-fashioned little town of roughly 25,000, said to be the Citrus Capital of the world, have rejected a massive development project backed by powerful interests intent on turning the town into another Thousand Oaks or, worse, Orange County.

Predictably, the losing developers and the City Council (which only put the measure on the ballot after a court battle) are now prophesizing that Santa Paula will face doom, taxes, and pot holes, in about that order.

Here’s why they’re bitter. For the 47% of the vote that Centex won, they spent $1.5 on the election, and, they say, nearly $13 million altogether in three years of planning. (Yet still didn’t bother to come up with a better way to handle traffic from thousands of homes than to dump it on to city streets, which is probably why the project lost.) In opposition, a local group called We CARE, led by a realtor named John Wisda, spent $8,600 on signs, and won 53% of the vote.

So, to be precise, We CARE spent 4.2 dollars for every one of its "no" votes. Centex spent $7092 dollars for every one of its "yes" votes.

As Bill Fulton, a city councilman and urban planner in Ventura, told the Ventura County Star:

"This just reinforces how difficult it is to get a housing project past the voters [in Ventura County]. All the stars have to align for it to happen."

Way to go, Santa Paula.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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