3 Oceans Real Estate, A Boutique Real Estate Brokerage Serving the San Francisco Bay Area header image 2

When Realtors lobby, who wins?

Kevin Boer, Broker Owner, 3 Oceans Real Estate, Inc. ()

October 26th, 2006 · 7 Comments

The National Association of Realtors and its state and local affiliates are masters of the rile-up-the-troops-and-get-out-the-vote routine.  Two years ago I trekked up to Sacramento for the California Association of Realtor’s annual Legislative Day and had my eyes opened to the world of lobbying, politics, and how legislative decisions are made.  2000 Realtors from around the state descended on the capital and met with their local state representatives, “educating” them about upcoming real-estate related legislative issues and “how they should vote.”  Our local NAR affiliate, the Silicon Valley Assocation of Realtors, is equally effective on local issues — with a day’s notice, it can mobilize several dozen, perhaps even a few hundred, local Realtors to show up at a city council meeting to voice their opposition to some new measure.
Don’t get me wrong — every trade association in the country lobbies, and the Realtor lobby just happens to be better funded, organized, and influential than most.  NAR’s express purpose is, and should be, to protect the interests of its members as it perceives them.

I’m often troubled, however, by issues on which the interests of “citizen Kevin Boer” and “Realtor Kevin Boer” might conflict.  If there’s a ballot initiative in which I as a Realtor benefit, but I as a citizen don’t, which way do I vote?  Personally, the answer is clear:  when it comes to elections, I’m a citizen first, and a Realtor second.

Measure A is an upcoming county-level Land Use ballot initiative (see Smartvoter for more information).  SILVAR wants us to vote “No” on this issue (see here and here).  I don’t know enough about this particular measure yet to figure out which way I’m going to vote, but I’m willing to bet that most Realtors who do go to the polls on November 7 will toe the party line.

Not all of them, though.  Ray Schuster, a fellow Alain Pinel-er, sent out a refreshing, independent-minded email this morning.  Ray takes issue with SILVAR’s recommendation on Measure A, and does so in a very level-headed way.  Hats to Ray for taking a stand and letting us know that not all Realtors necessarily vote per the dictates from above!


As a member of SILVAR, I rely on the association for information and recommendations related to political and legislative issues. So it is appropriate that SILVAR provide voting advice on Santa Clara County Measure A.

However, It is not appropriate that this advice be based on incomplete and misleading information. I disagree with SILVAR’s “no on A” recommendation. I will vote “Yes,” and urge other SILVAR Realtors to consider doing the same—or at least looking beyond the SILVAR arguments to make an informed decision.

SILVAR recommends a visit to the No on Measure A website. Fair enough. For balance, you should also check out www.openspace2006.org., the pro-Measure A website. Here are just a few facts that you’ll find there:

Measure A was not written “behind closed doors,” without public input, as the SILVAR email alleges. Measure A was written carefully with input from community leaders and organizations throughout Santa Clara County, including farmers and ranchers. Endorsers include 41 organizations, 44 community leaders, and 106 state, federal and local elected or formerly elected officials. See for yourself at http://www.openspace2006.org/endorsements.htm.

The Santa Clara County Land Conservation Initiative (Measure A) will preserve our region as a desirable place to live and work. It amends the County General Plan to help protect hillsides, ranchlands, watersheds and agricultural lands by reducing the number of developable parcels permitted in rural areas. Nothing more.

The Measure will not harm family farms. All existing legal parcels and uses remain valid. The Initiative WOULD reduce the number of new developable parcels by limiting them to 160-acre minimums, actually encouraging farming development. Importantly, the Initiative leaves many thousands of acres under County authority available for housing in and nearer to existing built-up areas and public services.

In summary, and without making a book out of this, Measure A will protect Santa Clara County’s remaining valuable natural resources from being paved over and lost forever.

I think these goals coincide with the goals of Realtors in Santa Clara County.

Ray Schuster

Tags: , , , , ,
Possibly related posts

Tags: Ballot Initiatives · California Association of Realtors · Measure A · National Association of Realtors · Real estate · Silicon Valley Association of Realtors

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kevin Boer, Alain Pinel Realtors // Oct 26, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    Though I do much of my business in Santa Clara county, I actually live just across the border in San Mateo county, so I can’t actually vote on Measure A, regardless of what my final opinion is on it! I didn’t even think about that when I was writing this post.

  • 2 Daniel Rothamel // Oct 26, 2006 at 6:55 pm

    Great post. This type of thing happens all of time, all over the country. Our local association even endorses candidates. I am with you on this one– citizen FIRST, Realtor SECOND.

  • 3 Part 2: When Realtors lobby, who wins? at Three Oceans Real Estate — Insights from a Wired Bay Area Realtor // Oct 27, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    [...] My previous article on Realtor lobbying efforts on Santa Clara county’s Measure A sparked some email comments which, by permission, I thought I’d post here. [...]

  • 4 Jim // Oct 27, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    I struggle with this nearly every day, and certainly once a month at our Government Affairs Committee meeting. Sometimes the difference between what is good for us and our industry differs from what is good for us personally, but that is the nature of politics, I guess.

    Everybody should do their own due diligence and take the recommendations of their Association as what it is - a recommendation/request for mobilization.

    If nothing else, give to RPAC :). Said with my RPAC-chair hat on.

    Think also about this - Hilary Clinton, one of the most polarizing political characters out there is very real estate friendly, and I’ve heard that NAR might support her were she to actually run.

    Basically, when choosing which side to support or not, we have to choose which will benefit the industry the most - whether that is supporting private property rights, fighting eminent domain, or choosing to endorse a particular candidate. Locally in the Charlottesville area, we choose whom to support based on strict principles; we also do not make decisions based on “party-lines” - our membership is nearly 50-50% split between the major parties, and coincidentally our endorsement have gone the same way.

    If we don’t participate, critical decisions will be made in our absence. But ultimately, the Association does not have a vote - its member-citizens do.

  • 5 the Property Monger » Real Estate Blog week in review // Oct 28, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    [...] Three Oceans Real Estate ponders When Realtors Lobby, Who Wins [...]

  • 6 Facts on A // Nov 6, 2006 at 1:20 pm

    As American statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Some of you may have received emails paid for by promoters of Measure A that continue to distort the truth about this anti-growth initiative which will downzone and devalue 400,000 acres in unincorporated Santa Clara County, over half the land in the entire county. As we head into Election Day, I wanted to set the record straight:

    FACT: Our local associations, C.A.R. and NAR carefully studied Measure A before opposing the initiative.

    Promoters’ Claim #1 and #2: Realtor boards took positions opposing the initiative without taking the time to study it, and “Los Angeles realtors” want to develop the valley and are using farmers as tools in order to turn the county into another Los Angeles.

    The truth is…..

    In February, when promoters first let the public read the initiative, our local associations requested and received a land use analysis from one of the Nation’s preeminent law firms, courtesy of NAR, and paid for a comprehensive legal analysis of the measure by one of Santa Clara County’s best land use lawyers. Association leaders also met with the author of the initiative.

    Our Realtor associations are committed to defending property rights, promoting homeownership, protecting homeowners, and representing your professional interests. We are not developers. The current county general plan already restricts development in ranchlands, agricultural lands, and hillsides. No one is advocating weakening existing safeguards.

    FACT: Measure A threatens property rights.

    Promoters’ Claim #3: Measure A does not affect any existing parcels or uses.

    The truth is…

    If enacted, changes to the new restrictions will be extremely difficult — a change as small as providing for construction of a granny-flat on a single-family residence would require an expensive countywide election. By increasing the minimum parcel size from 40 to 160 acres in ranchlands, a parent who owns 300 acres of land could not divide it into smaller parcels to pass on to her children, and it precludes a farm family from building a second home for an adult son or daughter to stay on the land and be involved in the family business.

    In addition, our legal analysis concluded that it would impose many other draconian restrictions on land in unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County, in addition to increasing minimum parcel sizes. It would mandate clustering of residential units and dedication of permanent open space easements on remaining property, prohibit construction of granny flats on single-family homes, limit homeowners’ ability to remove vegetation in order to create defensible space around homes to protect them from wildfires, and restrict construction of processing, storage and other non-residential structures.

    During a meeting with Realtors in Palo Alto, the author of the initiative conceded that property owners will not be compensated for the devaluation or loss of use of their property by the initiative.

    FACT: Measure A hurts family farmers.

    Promoters’ Claim #4: Measure A does not change the zoning for Agricultural Lands. Areas zoned “Medium-Scale Agriculture” are not covered by Measure A, and areas zoned “Large-Scale Agriculture” remain at 40-acre minimum parcels. Measure A supports working farms.

    The truth is…

    Every major agricultural organization in the county and the overwhelming majority of active farmers and ranchers oppose Measure A because it devalues their greatest asset, their land; and by doing so it threatens their ability to survive. Further, Measure A imposes arbitrary and impractical restrictions on processing and other facilities necessary for successful agricultural operations. Only one known vintner supports the initiative and they lease their land. For them, this is rent control.

    In one email to real estate professionals, PLAN pointed to over 100,000 acres in unincorporated county land still ripe for development. Unfortunately, most of this land is currently being used for agriculture on the valley floor, including the Gilroy garlic fields. Measure A does not protect these lands, indeed, they are promoting their development. Ironic, isn’t it?

    FACT: Measure A will harm police and fire services by reducing property taxes.

    Promoters’ Claim #5: Measure A will save taxpayers’ money. Providing infrastructure and services to remote rural areas costs more than is recouped in property taxes. This claim is confirmed by community service studies from across the nation.

    The truth is…

    Measure A proponents lobbied to block an impartial economic analysis of the initiative when it was proposed to the Board of Supervisors because they know the measure will inevitably limit the property taxes and impact fees needed to pay for Sheriff and fire services. This is why Sheriff Laurie Smith and the Silicon Valley Taxpayers’ Association oppose Measure A. Measure A promoters also continue to ignore the warning from County Counsel that passage of both Measure A and Prop 90 could expose county taxpayers to hundreds of millions of dollars in claims.

    FACT: Measure A was written behind closed doors and has unintended consequences.

    Promoters’ Claim #6: Measure A proponents consulted hundreds of organizations and individuals while drafting the initiative. Similar initiatives have been highly successful in San Mateo and Alameda counties.

    The truth is…

    Measure A promoters may have consulted with hundreds of like-minded individuals and organizations, but they did not consult with the county’s farmers and ranchers. They have no idea what impact their initiative will have on agriculture in this county. And they have a bizarre definition of “highly successful.” The San Mateo County initiative that promoters cite actually dealt with offshore oil drilling and onshore pipelines as priority one. The measure did not impose minimum parcel sizes. Even with that, implementation of the measure took two years and it was challenged in court for a decade. The negative affects of the Alameda Measure are even more dramatic. A recent study concluded that the value of affected property has declined 8%. After the measure was passed, net agricultural production in Alameda County flatlined from 1999 to 2004. During that same period, net agricultural production in the state rose by 20%, and in Santa Clara County it rose by 40%. No wonder the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau, the Santa Clara County Cattlemen’s Association, and the Wine Growers of Santa Clara Valley oppose Measure A.

    Please Vote NO on Measure A. For more information, visit: http://www.VoteNOonMeasureA.com: http://www.votenoonmeasurea.com/

  • 7 Down to the wire on Measure A at Three Oceans Real Estate // Dec 19, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    [...] My previous posts on Measure A, a Santa Clara county land use ballot initiative, attracted quite a bit of attention from: [...]

Leave a Comment