Sunnyvale Measure M

The Sunnyvale Public Lands Act

FAQs – General Questions

FAQs – General Questions

Visit the Main FAQ and Projects and Common Misconceptions FAQ pages

Q: What is the purpose of the Sunnyvale Public Lands for Public Use Act?

A: This measure will allow the voters of the City of Sunnyvale to have a direct say about the disposition of certain types of City property.

Currently, the City Council has the authority to sell, lease or even trade, swap or transfer city land with no more than a majority Council vote. The residents of Sunnyvale have no direct control over these critical and long lived decisions.

The Sunnyvale Public Lands Act will require a majority vote of Sunnyvale Voters BEFORE the City Council can approve the sale, lease, swap or transfer of certain types of city land which has been used as either 1) a public park, or 2) a community service amenity, which includes facilities and land whose primary purpose is to provide the public a place of city government administration, recreation, education, exercise, or enjoyment.

The measure does NOT interfere with management of city services. It does NOT affect City Services. It does NOT affect City-owned commercial properties, fire stations, storage yards, water supply and flood control related lands, roadways, utilities and other infrastructure areas.

Examples of Sunnyvale Public Lands Lost and at Risk:

  • In 2009 the Sunnyvale City Council authorized sale of land that was originally purchased to expand Murphy Park, which were subsequently sold in 2012 following City Council approval.
  • In 2012 the City Council gave direction to city staff to explore a public/private partnership which included possibly selling or long-term leasing up to 14 acres of the Civic Center campus land to a developer.
  • In 2013 City Council sold land at Raynor Park to fund a capital project, which instead could have been used to expand the park.
  • In 2015 a 2-acre corner of Civic Center land was considered for sale or lease to help finance the Civic Center Modernization project.
  • In 2016 City Council ignores Planning Commission, Citizens and rare opportunity to correct an earlier mistake and approves final sale of land at Raynor Park, including giving away 5,000 square feet of public parkland, to a private business, with priority use of the field area of a public park.

The Public Lands for Public Use Act would have required very carefully considered community discussion and a public vote before approving the sale of the land designated for Murphy Park; the land that could have been used to expand Raynor Park; and would require a public vote to approve a transaction if the Council were to seek approval to sell, lease, trade, swap or otherwise transfer the land that is currently part of the Civic Center.

For more information about this measure, please refer to our Home , Motivation and About pages. See Examples of Public Lands at Risk for an eye opening array of risks to public lands, not just in Sunnyvale, but all around us.

Q: Why is the scope of Measure M broader than just parks and why are lease renewals included?

A: Sunnyvale’s Measure M by necessity has to include community service amenity lands because of what the City government has already tried to do when it attempted to embark on sale or long-term lease of portions of Civic Center land. That really woke up the public in Sunnyvale. This is what drove the expansion in language beyond parks to include community service amenities.  The people of Sunnyvale need to have something to protect our public use lands. Sunnyvale is not for sale.

This is the same reason why the Measure M legal team included lease renewals.  Repeat lease renewals, for example a 2 year, 5 year, 10 year recurring lease renewals could be used in an attempt to circumvent Measure M protections which prohibit non-public sale, lease, swap or transfer of public park and community service amenity lands without voter approval. Including lease renewals avoids attempts to create a long-term lease by using short-term lease renewals instead of voter approval.

Q: What are the main properties protected by the Sunnyvale Public Lands Act?

A: The main properties that the Sunnyvale Public Lands Act (SPLA) protects include the Civic Center, Community Center, two golf courses, all public parks – including the Orchard Heritage Park and Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum – and other community service amenities as clearly defined in section 2.07.030 (d) (1) “Community service amenity” and 2.07.030 (d) (2) “Public park” of the Text of the Initiative.

The Public Lands for Public Use Act amends municipal code to require voter approval before the sale, lease, swap or transfer between the City and another party of public parks or community service amenities, which includes facilities and land whose primary purpose is to provide the public a place of city government administration, recreation, education, exercise, or enjoyment.

See Examples of Public Lands at Risk for what’s at stake not just in Sunnyvale, but all around us.

Protected properties range from traditional public parks and their onsite community rooms, playing fields, picnic areas etc., to our libraries, swimming pools, performing arts venues, gardens, city hall, city government administration buildings as well as our Tennis Center, Senior Center, two golf courses, Museum(s) and the Orchard Heritage Park; i.e. facilities and land which provide the public a place of city government administration, recreation, education, exercise or enjoyment. Most of these properties and facilities are owned by the city. This is the essence of the properties of interest afforded protection by the SPLA initiative and its simple voter oversight of far-reaching council decisions.

Additionally, the municipal code enhancements of the SPLA initiative will ensure that when the city builds more parks, branch libraries and other community service amenities, like the dedicated youth soccer fields in Santa Clara, that those cannot be undone without carefully considered community discussion and approval of the voters of Sunnyvale.

Limited Scope: It is important to note that the SPLA initiative has specific limited scope. It only applies when an outside transaction involving a sale, lease, swap or transfer of the lands of Sunnyvale City Parks and Community Service Amenities is proposed. Otherwise SPLA is not triggered and does not involve separate voter approval.

The act does NOT cover City fire stations, storage yards, water supply and flood control related lands, roadways, commercial properties, utilities or any other infrastructure areas. It would NOT have covered, for example, the acquisition of Onizuka Air Force Station land or the National Guard Armory site. It would NOT have affected the Fire Station 5 land swap. These facilities and lands are NOT Community Service Amenities. The measure will NOT cover any land swaps etc for these type properties in the future. It does NOT affect City services. It does NOT affect private property or development.

Q: Isn’t this going to require costly elections for the city or slow down decisions?

A: No, voter approval will very rarely be needed because the initiative only applies to a proposed sale, lease, swap or transfer between the City and another party involving a public park or community service amenity, which includes facilities and land whose primary purpose is to provide the public a place of city government administration, recreation, education, exercise, or enjoyment. The measure does NOT apply to non-community service amenities, commercial properties, utilities or infrastructure. It does NOT apply to park and community building reservations, those are rentals and use permits. When necessary, costs are minimized by voters reviewing a covered project at our regular General Elections every two years, which minimizes the cost per ballot item.

The Exceptional Value of Our Public Lands: It’s important to also remember that our public lands are extremely valuable; replacement costs are extraordinaryMeasure M is the common sense solution to the extraordinary pressure our community faces to reallocate and re-purpose our Sunnyvale public parks and community amenity lands for non-public uses.

Sunnyvale’s very valuable public lands are what Measure M is protecting!
How much is protecting our public lands worth?

Election Timing: Sunnyvale’s General Elections are held November of even years. Consolidated General Elections benefit Sunnyvale by joining with other local, county and state elections to lower overall costs in a consolidated election. Additionally the City of Sunnyvale already budgets for election costs in our annual budget so there should be no added unplanned costs to the City.

Consolidation: A rarely needed ballot question can be further consolidated by taking several forms, including:

  • One vote for a number of covered parcels
  • One vote to handle short term and small-value leases at covered city properties
    (for example one vote that they be handled by a Property Management Company)
  • Grouping similar covered parcels together under one ballot question.

Decision Timing: Regarding project timing, rarely covered projects involving city-owned properties are multi-year projects, typically 4-5 years or more from conception to approval or start of execution. With the 2 year cycle of Sunnyvale General Elections a rare covered project would likely come up for voter approval in much less than the full two years. Council planning and any rare covered project would quickly align themselves to the new process to shorten the cycle even further. Therefore there would be little, if any, effect on city decision making, negotiation, deal making and project timing for a properly vetted community discussion and voter approval.  There would be virtually no reason to try to rush to obtain voter approval sooner than the next General Election.

Limited Scope: Also a reminder that the initiative only applies when a proposed transaction involving a public park or community service amenity contemplates a sale, lease-type transaction, swap or transfer of the public property between the City and another party. Non-community service amenities, commercial properties, utilities and infrastructure are NOT covered. As well, privately owned property and development does NOT fall under the Sunnyvale ballot initiative either.

Q: Would the initiative apply to changing City land to City land public property use?

A: No, the Sunnyvale Public Lands Act does not effect changing public land uses within City properties and lands.

For example, assume the City wanted to build a new library on an existing park site, and then re-purpose the existing library to a Teen Center or city administration offices. i.e. changing uses City land to City land within public use city properties. Another example would be relocating a public use feature or service from one City location to another City location. The Act does not require voters to weigh in on these types of scenarios because all land and uses stay within Sunnyvale’s public lands properties.

The Sunnyvale Public Lands for Public Use Act initiative is of specific limited scope, it only covers the sale, lease, swap or transfer of the lands of Sunnyvale City Parks and Community Service Amenities in transactions with outside parties. Repurposing and changing public land uses within the City properties and lands does not trigger the Act and does not need separate voter approval.

Q: Why is the initiative limited to only Parks and Community Service Amenities?

A: This is done to retain the ability for the City Council and City Manager to manage and modify city utilities, commercial properties, infrastructure and other non-community service amenities without having to wait for a public vote. This allows the City to manage these non-public park and non-community service amenity properties and to easily react to unforeseen emergencies and service issues that affect the city.

City owned parcels such as the Water Treatment plant, Corporation Yard, Well Pump Heads and Storage Tanks, freeway exchanges, etc. are already off limits to the general public. The transfer of ownership of these parcels have very little impact.

Please see the amended Municipal Code – Redline in the Initiative section for more clarity of the amendments made to existing municipal code.

This initiative is designed to protect the city’s parcels that contribute to the greater community of Sunnyvale: such as parks, libraries, gardens, pools, etc. – our public parks and community amenities as defined below from the Text of the Initiative:

2.07.030. 
(d) For purposes of subsection (c), the following terms shall have the
meanings set forth below. 

(1) “Community service amenity” means libraries, swimming pools, community centers, 
performing arts venues, gardens, golf courses, zoos, city hall, city administration 
buildings, and other similar facilities and the land on which the facilities stand, 
whose primary purpose is to provide the public a place of city government 
administration, recreation, education, exercise, or enjoyment.

(2) “Public park” means land set apart for the recreation of the public, to promote 
its health and enjoyment, to maintain open space in the city and also includes 
city-owned public land which may be shared by agreement with adjacent public schools 
to augment the public school’s outdoors recreation area.

Q: Can you expand on what a Community Service Amenity is?

A: Yes, please see additional information below.

Community Service Amenities
The Sunnyvale Public Lands Act does not affect property other than city parks or community service amenities, which includes facilities and land whose primary purpose is to provide the public a place of city government administration, recreation, education, exercise, or enjoyment.

Key aspects of a “community service amenity” under Measure M are:

  • Must be “whose primary purpose is to provide the public a place of city government administration, recreation, education, exercise, or enjoyment.
  • It must be the “…primary purpose” of the facility and land.
  • That “…city government administration…” only covers executive and officer functions (i.e. facilities for City Council, City Manager and City Attorney).
  • The facilities and land must be specifically set apart for those purposes, not just temporarily or casually used once in a while.

For example, the Sunnyvale Office Center is a commercial property, which is NOT subject to Measure M. Therefore no voter approval elections would result under Measure M.

Even though a few city employees may be temporarily occupying some space at the Sunnyvale Office Center until the Civic Center is modernized, that does NOT make it a community service amenity property.

Q: Does this prevent the city from being able to manage or change city services, such as moving a utility?

A: No, it will not. This initiative is specifically written to avoid hindering the city from being able to act upon sales and other transactions of the City’s commercial properties, utilities and other infrastructure. The measure only applies to City parks and community service amenities, as defined below from the Text of the Initiative:

 2.07.030. 
(d) For purposes of subsection (c), the following terms shall have the
meanings set forth below. 

(1) “Community service amenity” means libraries, swimming pools, community centers, 
performing arts venues, gardens, golf courses, zoos, city hall, city administration 
buildings, and other similar facilities and the land on which the facilities stand, 
whose primary purpose is to provide the public a place of city government 
administration, recreation, education, exercise, or enjoyment.

(2) “Public park” means land set apart for the recreation of the public, to promote 
its health and enjoyment, to maintain open space in the city and also includes 
city-owned public land which may be shared by agreement with adjacent public schools 
to augment the public school’s outdoors recreation area.

Q: Would this Ballot Initiative affect the City’s ability to enter into new Joint Use Agreements with a Public School?

A: No, Measure M will not affect in any way the City of Sunnyvale’s ability to enter into new Joint Use Agreements with Public Schools. A Joint Use agreement is NOT a sale, lease, swap, or transfer of public land, therefore would not be subject to a vote.

Q: Who has final say on covered Public Park and Community Amenity properties? What about commercial properties and utilities? What about natural disasters and other emergencies?

A: Final Say – Voter approval is required before the city can complete a council proposed deal for the sale, lease, swap or trade of covered public park or community service amenity lands and properties. The City Council and City Manager retain decisions over City-owned commercial properties, utilities and infrastructure.

A: Commercial Properties and Utilities – The initiative is specifically written to not take away, and to retain and avoid hindering in any way, the ability of the City Council and City Manager to modify and act upon sales or other types of transactions involving city-owned commercial properties, utilities and other infrastructure.

A: Emergencies – Temporary “emergency” uses in response to, for example, an earthquake, flood, other natural disasters, major fire, severe weather etc., would NOT trigger the Act and would not need separate voter approval.

The Sunnyvale Public Lands for Public Use Act ballot initiative will give voters a direct say by requiring voter approval for any sale, lease-type, land swap or transfer of city-owned or leased land and real property used by the city as a public park or community service amenity, which includes facilities and land whose primary purpose is to provide the public a place of city government administration, recreation, education, exercise, or enjoyment.

This is why signing the initiative Petition and voting for it when it appears on the ballot helps protect all of the city’s assets that are in the public’s interest.

Q: Aren’t these concerns the reasons we elect City Council members?

A: As many Sunnyvale Residents know, our community is experiencing increased pressure to reallocate and re-purpose our Sunnyvale public lands. We as Residents are feeling it. Our City Council is feeling this extraordinary pressure, it’s becoming more and more difficult for the council alone to hold back this onslaught. Our Residents and City Council need a new tool, something to help ourselves and our elected representatives stem the pressures to change the character of our community without good community discussion and direct voter approval.

We all need a new tool to protect our public lands and to make sure Sunnyvale public lands are not used to facilitate private development, or to provide capital funding through any sale, lease, trade, land-swap or other transfer of our community service amenities or public parks without very carefully considered community discussion and voter approval. Our City Council needs the tool, we Residents need the tool, all in Sunnyvale need the tool.

Q: I signed the petition, who gets to see my signature?

A: Only the City Clerk, County ROV and Proponents will see signatures. The Sunnyvale City Clerk reviewed all the petitions and counted the number of signatures turned in to come up with the Prima Facie signature count. This is the only time that the signatures on the petitions are looked at by City employees. After the Prima Facie review, The City Clerk keeps the signed petitions securely in her possession until delivering them directly to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters (ROV) the following day. No copies are made by the City or the Registrar of Voters.

There are many ways the County ROV inspects a voter block to accept or disqualify that a properly registered voter of the City of Sunnyvale has entered their information and signature in the petition voter block. Although this is an uncertain period, we know from extensive meetings, communications and phone calls with the City Clerk and ROV office that every attempt will be made to qualify entries by voters of the City of Sunnyvale and to accept their signatures as valid.

Petitions are highly confidential to City Clerk, Deputy City Clerk and County ROV only (and temporary assistants during review). No copies are made by the City or the Registrar of Voters. Only Proponents (Members of the SPLA team) have a right to view the petitions. The petitions themselves are not subject to the Public Records Act and cannot be disclosed to the City Manager, City Staff, City Council or the Public. The Petitions will come back to the City Clerk whether declared sufficient or insufficient by the County ROV. Petitions returned to the City Clerk are confidentially and securely sealed and stored under lock by the City Clerk per California Elections Code 17200 and California Government Code 6253.5 until eight months after the certification of the results of the election for which the petition qualified or, if the measure, for any reason, is not submitted to the voters, eight months after the final examination of the petition by the elections official. Thereafter, per Elections Code 17200, the petitions are destroyed as soon as practicable unless it is in evidence in some action or proceeding or under government order to be preserved for a pending or ongoing investigation into election irregularities.

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