By Mike Ranson
“We want the people to have a vote on Fanita Ranch. The developer wants to build 3000 homes in Santee and enough is enough! Will you sign this petition to put Fanita Ranch on the ballot?”
In 2018, that is exactly what one of my neighbors said to me when I answered her knock at the front door. Later that week, another person asked me the same thing outside Food For Less in Santee.
Each time I was asked to sign the petition I asked about the wording of the initiative. I was told that the goal was to give the people a yes or no vote on Fanita Ranch but the wording was much more. The initiative did not even mention Fanita Ranch. None of the volunteers could answer my questions, so I never signed that petition. I found out later that some Santee residents regretted signing the petition so they actually submitted a document to the city clerk that asked to have their signature taken off the petition. The plan was to get the initiative verified and on the ballot in 2018 but the amount of signatures needed were not gathered soon enough to make that happen. There were some differing opinions about why the initiative was not on the November 2018 ballot so I emailed the Santee City Clerk in 2018 to get the facts. The reply was, “With regards to any petition, Elections Code section 9208 requires that signatures must be secured and the petition filed within 180 days from the date of receipt of the ballot title and summary. Beyond this requirement, it is the responsibility of the proponent to determine timing and schedule for the November 2018 ballot.
Now, after two years, that petition will finally make it to the ballot this November as Measure N, the General Plan Protection Initiative.
Measure N is more than it needs to be. It is more than just a simple opportunity for Santee residents to vote yes or no on Fanita Ranch. Measure N will have Santee residents voting on everything from a 10 townhome project to the now approved Fanita Ranch. Any change intensifying use to the General Plan, no matter how small or large would have to go to a vote of the people.
I have read the impartial analysis of Measure N and I hope you will too. “If the change intensifies use” it must be approved by the voters. Worse, “Measure “N” does not define the phrase, intensify use.” Does “intensify use” apply to rezoning a small R1 lot (1-2 homes) to a R2 lot (2-5 homes)? Due to the language of Measure N the impartial analysis of the measure also says, “If approved, Measure “N” may require future judicial interpretation.” That sounds like a nice way of saying lawsuits.
Measure N will weaken business opportunities in Santee. The impartial analysis says that a vote by the people will be required if the proposed amendment will “change any residential designation to commercial or industrial designation on any property, or vice versa…” Again, the impartial analysis says, “if the change intensifies use” it must be approved by the voters. What does that mean? What is the threshold for “intensifies use”? Who will decide? Can a business simply sit and wait until the next election to determine if they can expand and grow their success? Can they afford the option of holding a special election? It also has to be asked, if our city makes it this difficult for businesses to grow and be successful here, why would anyone choose to do business in Santee?
If all of this is not problematic enough, Measure N is written to be retroactive. Measure N is written so that it attempts to apply to and prevail over past General Plan Amendments dating from April 6, 2018 to the date the Measure is approved. This includes the recent approval of Fanita Ranch but it is unfortunately not limited to just Fanita Ranch. There have been other GPAs approved that could be impacted, including the recent approval of a new 50 unit senior care facility in Santee.
A vote on Measure N will happen this November because many residents wanted to put Fanita Ranch on the ballot. Unfortunately, because the proponents did not apply the Keep It Simple and Straightforward principle, Measure N is much more than just a yes or no vote on Fanita Ranch and I believe it could harm the prosperity of our city. I will be voting NO on Measure N. Before you vote, please make time to go to the Elections page on the City of Santee website and read the impartial analysis on Measure N.
Mike Ranson lives in Santee.