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Down In The (Alhambra) Valley - Annexation Battle Gets Real

It's city vs. valley as a long-time conflict nears a resolution one way or the other.

When the Stonehurst and Alhambra Valley Ranch luxury communities were developed in the 1980s, Hal and Marie Olson were leading the charge against what they saw as the city's certain attempt to try and expand its borders and bring the valley into the city. 

This week, the Olsons' worst fears are coming true.

The agency charged with determining local boundaries will consider on Wednesday the city's request to bring a large chunk of the valley from the county's jurisdiction to the city. 

It is a fight that has simmered even before the two housing developments were constructed. City officials have eyed the valley and its upscale homes for many years, and valley residents have for just as long resisted the city's wishes. 

Mayor Rob Schroder told the Contra Costa Times that it's a question of unity, that the valley is really part of the city anyway, since residents use Martinez parks and schools. The same argument was put forth by councilman Mike Menesini, who has privately expressed frustration that the valley is taking advantage of city services without being willing to pay for them. 

To get around certain defeat should valley residents get a chance to vote on the question, the city hired a consulting firm to study how much the city would receive in taxes versus how much it would cost to provide services for the new residents. According to the Martinez News Gazette , when the first study concluded it would cost more in services than it would gain in revenue, the city hired another consulting firm and got the results it was looking for.

At that point, city staff carefully drew boundaries for annexation to increase the chances that fewer than 25 percent of valley residents could vote in an annexation election.They could do that because residents of Stonehurst and Alhambra Valley Ranch, in addition to other homeowners, signed agreements stating that they would agree to be annexed in exhange for the city providing them water service. These so-called deferred annexation agreements are being contested by a number of homeowners, who say they never signed any such agreement, and challenge the city to provide proof of their existence. 

Schroder is a member of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) and will cast a vote on the issue when the group meets on Wednesday.

Do you support the annexation of the Alhambra Valley? Tell us in the comments. 

Patrick J. McNamara July 10, 2012 at 03:06 PM
"These so-called deferred annexation agreements are being contested by a number of homeowners, who say they never signed any such agreement, and challenge the city to provide proof of their existence." Wouldn't these agreements become part of the original deed, and be found by a simple title search? The homeowners might have signed or initialed the title docs along with the rest of those thick stacks of documents signed robotically at close of escrow.
Beth Eiselman July 10, 2012 at 03:22 PM
"Follow the money". Who is going to benefit from this annexation? Let's see? Court Street? Main Street? Berrellesa Palms?? annex Pacheco? Alhambra Valley? hmmm
Bill Wainwright July 10, 2012 at 04:36 PM
The portions of the Valley the City Council proposes to annex are largely inhabited by residents precluded from voting for or against the annexation because they drink Martinez water. (Yes, you read it right.) The sad truth: it’s true. Yes, Virginia, if you drink Martinez water in Alhambra Valley, you lose your vote. Our City leaders want to annex only portions of Alhambra Valley for one simple reason. Locals who express their free speech through campaign contributions want to develop property there. The majority of residents of Alhambra Valley don’t want it because they want the Valley to remain pretty much the same bucolic place to live it is now. So, the City’s gerrymandered annexation area cut them out. The City’s proposal to be voted by Lafco tomorrow is unfair both to those caught within the carefully circumscribed area and to those caught without. Boys and girls, that’s the way free speech is practiced in Martinez, through water spigots and checkbooks. Equity calls for residents of the entire valley to be allowed to express themselves. As we know, the proposed annexation has been made for economic reasons to benefit politically connected property owners whose land will suddenly gain in value thanks to the city’s elastic zoning and permitting practices. Faced with such a blatant grab, the Lafco Board should send the City’s copy back for wholesale revision.
Kathi McLaughlin July 10, 2012 at 05:17 PM
The only positive thing about this annexation for the residents of Alhambra Valley is that they will finally get to vote in Council elections--small consolation since they will already be annexed! All you have to do is look at the map to see how blatantly self-serving this is--it certainly doesn't agree with the Mayor's statement about "unity". If that were the case they would be proposing to annex the entire area--but then they would be giving the power of the vote to all of the residents.
Dick Duncan July 11, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Business as usual in Martinez, divide and conquer. Who cares what the citizens want, "they will forget about it in six months" anyway. Unity in our community - pshaw!

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