Extension of Measure J Passes in Napa County

Nearly 20 years ago, the voters of Napa County adopted Measure J, an initiative proposed by the Napa County Farm Bureau to preserve agricultural lands in the unincorporated areas of the County.  Under Measure J, the County could not redesignate agricultural or watershed lands, or subdivide those lands below a specified minimum parcel size, without first obtaining a vote of the people.  Considered radical at the time, the measure sparked intensive litigation that raged for over five years.

Ultimately, the California Supreme Court upheld the validity of Measure J in every respect.  In a sweeping decision, the Court clarified that voters may exercise their right of initiative to amend a local general plan, or land use “constitution.”   Since the Court’s decision, Measure J has served as a model for many other land use initiatives, such as Alameda County’s Measure D and Ventura County’s “SOAR” measure. 

With Measure J set to expire in a decade, the proponents of the initiative determined that it was time to extend the measure—until 2058.   These folks didn’t fool around:  not only did they easily gather the signatures to qualify their “Save Measure J” initiative for the November 2008 ballot, but they also succeeded in obtaining the current Board of Supervisors’ endorsement of the measure.  This endorsement was not surprising inasmuch as the County’s official election report concluded that Measure J had greatly benefited Napa County.

The firm assisted the Napa group by drafting both the original Measure J and its extension, “Measure P.”   Together, these measures will prevent urban and suburban sprawl throughout Napa County, ensuring that valuable farmland is not prematurely converted in this area.  Although Measure J has not interfered with the County’s ability to provide necessary affordable housing, the updated Measure P specifically provides that the initiative will create no obstacles to such housing in the future.

In the November 2008 election, the voters of Napa County passed Measure P by a vote of 62% Yes to 38% No.