Here is the latest status on the pending Redlands growth initiatives. There is the Original Citizen’s Growth Initiative and now the revised Alternate Initiative, a consolidated effort between the City, the University and political activist Bill Cunningham. Neither Initiative has been assigned official designations for the ballot at this time. Following is a brief summary of the principle differences between the two Initiatives.
The intent of the Original Initiative was to limit the height of buildings in the Downtown and University Transit Villages to a maximum of three stories. This would preserve the historical character of the downtown area and the vintage neighborhood around the University. It would also minimize the impact of the congestion that would result from a higher density development.
The third Transit Village at ESRI could be built to a higher limit of four stories or 52’, west of Center/Texas Street, the higher dimension recognizing the nature of the surrounding area, predominately commercial/industrial.
ALTERNATIVE INITIATIVE (U of R)
The City’s Alternative Initiative would accommodate the Developer’s plan for a four-story residential/commercial development in the Downtown Village plus a five-story parking garage, plus an entertainment/dining feature on the deck above the top floor (effectively making the building six stories high).
In the Alternate Initiative the University Transit Village could also be four stories high, except that within a quarter mile of the University train station buildings could be erected to a height of 68’, or approximately five stories plus additional roof features.
*For reference the new Stuart Street/Starbucks parking garage is 55’ tall, and is described by the Developer as a “three-story structure,” although there are actually four levels of parking plus an elevator shaft, which accounts for the greater height.
The Alternative Initiative also has a peculiar addition that would change the zoning for properties in San Timoteo Canyon, presumably to “preserve open space,” although this has nothing to do with Transit Villages.
Measure G was on the ballot in March 2020, as a developer’s initiative that would have allowed almost unlimited building heights and residential densities. It lost by a 2-to-1 margin, i.e. 64% of voters opposed the Measure. The campaign for Measure G was heavily funded by real estate speculators and outside entities, while the Committee Against Measure G was an all-volunteer group of local citizens, funded by small individual donations to a budget that was no more than a tenth of what the developers were spending to promote their Initiative.
The organizer of the movement against Measure G was former Redlands Mayor Bill Cunningham. Bill told us that although Measure G was voted down, there were still loopholes in the existing building codes and guidelines that could give a Developer much of what was in Measure G, and the only way to prevent that was with a new ballot initiative that would clearly define and limit building heights and residential densities in the Transit Villages. This was the beginning of the Redlanders for Responsible Growth Management and what we now call the “Original” Initiative, which was made possible by collecting nearly 8,000 signatures to qualify for a place on the November 2022 ballot.
After months of hard work, the signed petitions were presented to the City Council in August 2021. At that point, the Council could have simply adopted the Initiative as-is, or they could have called for a Special Election, which would have been very costly. In the end, the Council decided to move the Initiative to the November 2022 ballot, which is where we are now.
BILL GOES TO THE UNIVERSITY
In the meantime, Mr. Cunningham, against all logic and common sense, and in spite of all the effort that went into getting his Original Measure on the ballot, decided that the University of Redlands should have a different initiative, more favorable to the Developer. So, on his own and while using his Original Initiative as a template, he presented the University with what is now known as the Alternative Initiative. But there was a catch.
Bill added a provision to the Alternative Initiative that would change zoning in San Timoteo Canyon to a configuration that would favor the ranch land he owned there (which has absolutely nothing to do with Transit Villages). He told the University that if they would sponsor his Alternative Initiative, it could be done without gathering ANY signatures.
However, to avoid having two somewhat similar initiatives on the ballot at the same time, if the University would endorse his “canyonlands perk,” he would withdraw his Original Initiative (without regard to the 7,710 voters who had already supported it). This could almost guarantee passage of his Alternative Initiative (and the changes Cunningham wanted for his property in San Timoteo Canyon).
Cunningham has until August 12th to decide what he wants to do with his Original Initiative. As the sole author of that Initiative, he could still withdraw it, and there is already speculation that that is exactly what he’ll do. Bye-bye 7,710 voters. Is all of this complicated? Certainly. Is it fair and ethical? Probably not.
In any case, the Alternative Initiative is already approved by the City Council for inclusion on the November ballot. It remains to be seen if both initiatives will appear side-by-side or if the Alternative Initiative is the only one that makes it to the BALLOT. But either way, the choice and the vote are still in your hands. Remember that no matter whether there are two initiatives on the ballot or only one, you have the right to vote “NO” on the alternative.
We hope you’ll recognize that the Alternative Initiative is really all about what the Developer wants, to maximize Return On Investment. It’s about the M-O-N-E-Y, not about providing the University with a trendy village on the vacant lot to the south of their campus.