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Supporters of Measure F — an effort to preserve the 297-acre Alhambra Highlands area of Martinez — have garnered enough signatures to get the measure in front of the city’s voters on the June primary ballot.
“It’s the largest, last, most prominent, most beautiful, open space in Martinez,” said Jamie Fox, the principal officer of the Save Alhambra Hills Open Space group behind the effort.
The City Council approved a developer’s plan to build homes on 109 hillside lots on 72 acres of the site more than a decade ago.
A movement to preserve the area picked up steam amid construction delays. Texas-based developer Richfield Investment Group agreed to delay developing the property, located about a mile south of John Muir’s historic home and state Highway 4 and north of the Briones wilderness.
Fox said he found evidence Muir owned a parcel at the site’s northern end during the 1890s.
“It’s the most beautiful, tallest ridgeline,” Fox said. “Which one do you think he would choose?”
A series of agreements between the city and Richfield ensued, and third parties such as the John Muir Land Trust and the East Bay Regional Park District became involved. If the city acquires the site, either entity would likely be candidates to manage the property.
The city offered Richfield $9.25 million for the land in August 2019, the amount at which it had it appraised the previous year, subject to a tax measure submitted to voters. In May 2021, Richfield countered with an offer of $19.25 million and said that amount is non-negotiable.
So preservation supporters went to work, getting more than 11,000 signatures from Martinez residents on a petition to get the measure before voters June 7.
According to the city’s website, the ballot measure will say: “Shall the measure of the City of Martinez to levy a dedicated special tax to prevent development and acquire, create and maintain 297 acres of permanent public parkland and wildlife habitat known as the Alhambra Highlands, at a maximum rate of $79 annually for single-family parcels and at specified maximum rates for other parcel types, for 30 years, providing approximately $1.2 million annually, with exemptions for low-income persons, be adopted?”
A two-thirds majority of “yes” votes would be required for passage. City council members have said they support preserving the land and unanimously voted to survey residents.
Fox said there is no organized opposition to the measure, but the limited city survey of about 300 residents showed 56 percent of respondents favoring the measure, with at least 10 percent undecided.
“We have nine weeks of work ahead of us,” Fox said.
More information on the June 7 primary election is available on the Contra Costa County Elections Division website.