Smart Brentwood open-space ballot measure deserves support

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In the past three decades, the population of Brentwood increased about nine-fold, from a city of 7,500 people in 1990 to 67,000 today.

As the city kept permitting more housing construction, it was falling short of its general-plan targets for neighborhood and community parks to serve its residents. Meanwhile, plans have been floated to turn golf courses into developments, which would further erode the city’s open space.

Seeing this, a group of residents proposed a simple measure: Protect open space by requiring city voters’ approval for future development of land currently designated in the general plan as parks, open spaces or recreational facilities open to the public.

The City Council voted unanimously to place the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot. Measure Q would protect 175 parcels totaling 1,048 acres and remain in effect for 40 years. It’s a smart, simple idea that would help shield the city from the disproportionate influence developers held for so many years. Voters should back Measure Q.

The measure would protect 362 acres designated as parks in the city’s general plan, 77 acres designated at permanent open space, and 609 acres that covers three golf courses — Deer Ridge (now closed), Shadow Lakes and the Brentwood Golf Club.

Under Measure Q, the City Council could permit only development on the protected land without voter approval if necessary to comply with state or federal law or if the land is government owned and to be used for a public purpose. In the latter case, the council would, in turn, have to protect an equal or greater amount of open space elsewhere.

Measure Q is similar to a citizens’ initiative Martinez voters passed in 2018. But there’s a big political difference: In Martinez, the initiative backers had to collect signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot, and then the City Council tried unsuccessfully to undermine it by placing a sham, competing measure on the same ballot.

In sharp contrast, the Brentwood City Council members this year embraced the idea and placed it directly on the ballot, saving the residents from having to go through the signature-gathering process. It’s a sign of the monumental political shift over the past two election cycles that has transformed the City Council.

For years, past members of the Brentwood City Council seemed to live by the mantra, as one council candidate put it, “If we build it, they will come.” The city kept permitting more housing construction with the hope that enough major employers would follow to hire those new residents. It hasn’t happened, and it probably never will.

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