Local Ballot Measures

SMW drafts and defends citizen initiative measures and referenda and defends cities and counties in litigation challenging adopted initiatives affecting land use issues, such as management of future growth and preservation of agricultural and open space lands. The firm drafted the state’s first initiative measures banning fracking and was a pioneer helping community groups and local governments establish urban growth boundaries. As part of this practice, the firm regularly assists clients in pre-election matters to successfully qualify initiatives and referenda for the ballot and in litigation over ballot arguments. The firm also drafts local tax measures to help finance a range of important governmental purposes. Examples of SMW’s work on local ballot measures include:

photo courtesy of Roger Hooper
Napa County Vineyard
  • Napa County Measure J: The firm drafted a citizen initiative to protect farmland and successfully defended the measure in a landmark decision in the California Supreme Court that upheld the rights of local voters to amend the General Plan, DeVita v. County of Napa, 9 Cal.4th 763 (1995).
  • Fracking Ban Initiatives: The firm drafted two initiatives banning the use of land for fracking, cyclic steam injection and other high-intensity petroleum operations on behalf of community groups dedicated to protecting health, groundwater quality, and precious water supplies in the counties of Santa Barbara and San Benito. The San Benito County initiative, Measure J, was approved by the voters in November, 2014.
  • San Clemente Ballot Measure Litigation: The firm defended referendum proponents against a politically motivated lawsuit alleging that their ballot arguments were false and misleading. After obtaining an order upholding the vast majority of the challenged arguments, our clients won their campaign.
  • Santa Clara County Open Space Authority: The firm advised the Open Space Authority on open space financing options and later prepared a parcel tax measure that was approved by more than two-thirds of the voters at the November 2014 election.