Bay Area voters pass Measure AA conservation tax

A regional ballot initiative proposing a parcel tax that would raise $500 million over 20 years to fund Bay conservation and flood protection projects appears to have been narrowly approved by voters in the nine-county Bay Area, according to unofficial election results.

Measure AA, which proposes an annual $12 parcel tax, had received about 69 percent of the vote, above the two-thirds needed to pass, with more than 965,000 votes counted as of early this morning, according to supporters.

The proposal was supported by many local politicians, business and environmental groups, who said the funding was critical to help reduce pollution in the Bay, restore wildlife habitat, protect communities from flooding and increase shoreline access, including the creation of 25 miles of new Bay Trails.

David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, one of the groups backing the measure, said:

“(Tuesday’s) vote is a resounding victory for wildlife and people who want a healthy, beautiful Bay for future generations.”

The measure was overwhelmingly passed in counties like San Francisco, where it got about 77 percent approval, and Marin, where it got about 72.5 percent.

However, it fell short of the two-thirds threshold in other counties, including Sonoma at about 62.5 percent and Napa at about 57 percent, according to unofficial and incomplete results from those counties.

The official ballot argument against the measure was submitted by Jack Weir of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association. Weir wrote that the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority — a government entity formed in 2009 — can amend the measure with a simple majority vote and that the measure does not provide a specific spending plan.

The measure “is like taxpayers writing a blank check” and is “more about filling politicians’ pockets than it is about helping the environment,” Weir wrote.

Supporters said the measure includes an independent citizens’ oversight committee to ensure funds are spent properly and that all funds must stay in the Bay Area to only be used on local habitat restoration and wildlife protection projects.