While the election is two weeks from tomorrow, as of right now, I believe that Measure L is likely to pass. It should be noted that there are no polls that I am aware of at this time and therefore all of the conclusions are an informed speculation. So if you do not like conjecture and speculation – consider this your trigger warning.
My prediction at this time is a fairly comfortable margin of victory for Measure L. With two weeks left and a still dynamic election environment, that is subject to change.
Bear in mind, predicting an election is tricky business. The national prognosticators armed with a whole battery of polling across the nation got the result of the 2016 presidential election wrong. Indeed, while I have been doing this for a long time and most of the time have gotten the predictions correct, that is not universally true.
For instance, I thought Nishi 1 would pass narrowly and it didn’t. We were surprised by the volume of the Bernie vote in the 2016 election and the effect that it had on the outcome was actually the opposite of what we might have expected. It is one reason why I believe that the decision not to have on-site affordable housing was fatal to Nishi 1 – it caused an otherwise supportive student vote to turn against the project.
In addition, we did not expect Brett Lee to finish a commanding first in the council race in 2016 and were also surprised to see Gloria Partida finish first in 2018 – although our prediction was that it would be Dan Carson and one of the women, we were expecting Mr. Carson to finish first rather than second.
With those preliminaries and disclaimers out of the way, here is the thinking behind the Measure L decision.
First, while I have been leaning toward this prediction for some time, the first time it really solidified was during last Sunday’s forum. Forums are important because they tend to bring people interested in the issue out to see it. Things I look for at forums: how many people show up, who are they, and what way are they leaning.
The first thing to note is that the room was not jam packed. At the council forum for instance, the room at Davis Community Church was completely filled. This time there were less than 100 people there, perhaps closer to 60. That suggests that this isn’t an issue that is strongly resonating with the public. In my view, that plays to the advantage of the Yes side. The more people that come, the more engaged the public is, and the more it plays to the No side, which tends to be more angry and energized than the Yes side.
Second, the room was not a room full of “usual suspects.” I know people don’t like that term as it can be dismissive, but here it plays a crucial role as it distinguishes the people who are normally engaged and attentive from the people who do not normally show up to these events. This was a room with more people than usual who would not be considered normally engaged and attending public events.
The third point is who those people are and, from my observation, they were seniors who were likely supportive of the project rather than progressives who were likely to oppose the project.
Put it all together and that was a good sign for the Yes side as it indicated that the people active and engaged are their core supporters rather than the No side’s core supporters.
Beyond the forum, other indicators seem pointing toward a Yes victory as well. In late September, the No side or someone potentially affiliated with them filed a lawsuit against the project, alleging disparate impacts and racial discrimination.
The question for us: From a political perspective, was that a successful strategy that served to disrupt the momentum of the Yes side and change the dynamics of the election?
Answer: It does not appear so.
What I am assessing is whether the argument has gained traction. The immediate response to the lawsuit was interest, but it wasn’t overwhelming interest. There were comments, but they were the usual commenters. Our inquiry to councilmembers and the developer did not show that there was a sudden rush of emails to them. There was not a rush of letters to the editor.
In short, if the goal was to make this accusation go viral, there is no indication of it.
The first council meeting was supposed to feature Mark Merin and some of the No supporters. However, Mr. Merin did not show and the supporters, members of the No on L team, were small in number and actually outnumbered by people who spontaneously came to complain about Pacifico. That was telling.
Some suggested that the day after the lawsuit was announced was too soon. Okay, so we had a second meeting last week. Three people came to talk about Measure L, all members of the No campaign – Rik Keller, Alan Pryor and Nancy Price.
The Vanguard is not getting letters or emails from people in the community. We have not heard from members of the public concerned about the race issue. We do have some evidence that the letter written by Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida reassured some people on the issue but, overall, the issue has not seemed to resonate with the public.
Finally on the broader issue – we are seeing some interest in the election among our core commenters, but we are not seeing evidence of issue expansion. In the 2009 Measure P/Wildhorse Ranch election, we saw huge engagement and a number of new commenters who were activated. In 2016, we saw some of that with Nishi.
What we are seeing this time is much more along the lines of Nishi 2018 – there just isn’t a lot of engagement or issue expansion. We are not seeing people get active to oppose the project, beyond those already involved.
While we believe there is a core 35-40 percent no vote in this community, we are not seeing any indication of the opposition moving much beyond that. In short, my prediction is a fairly comfortable margin of victory for Measure L.
There is one big wild card here – the general election audience. In 2005, they ran a special election and saw a 60-40 defeat for Covell Village/Measure X. In 2009, they ran a special election and saw a 75-25 defeat for Wildhorse Ranch/Measure P. In 2016, they ran it during the normal council election and the result was narrow defeat of Nishi/Measure A. And this year, they ran it during the normal council election and the result was a solid victory for Nishi/Measure E.
They have not run a Measure R election during a November general election. We’ll see what a broader electorate means for a senior housing project. My guess is that occasional voters are more likely to support a senior housing project, but we’ll see.
Put it all together and I predict a victory for Measure L. Stay tuned.
—David M. Greenwald reporting