Vote could still swing in either direction
That’s the difference between whether or not a proposed two-story boutique hotel will have a chance of being built on the site of what is now a downtown Carpinteria parking lot.
Semi-official election results show that those opposing Measure T, the ballot measure aimed at stopping the project from ever being built downtown, are leading those supporting the measure by the slimmest of margins: 1,398 votes, or 50.14% vs. 1,390 votes, or 49.86%.
County election officials say 2,903 out of the city’s 8,137 registered voters, or 35.68 percent, voted on the matter.
It’s possible those numbers could change when the county posts an election results update on Tuesday.
The Vote No side is not necessarily pro-hotel, but wants to make sure land-use decisions are made by elected officials respecting the city’s General Plan, as opposed to citizens resorting to ballot initiatives.
The Vote Yes side, however, is mistrustful of city leaders, who they say have ignored the wishes of the majority of residents, refusing even to put the issue before them in a non-binding advisory vote.
Vote No spokesman Jason Rodriguez declined to declare victory Wednesday.
“We don’t know yet what’s out there,” he told the News-Press. “The numbers appear to be in our favor, but I’m not going to come out and run a victory lap, that’s for sure.
He called it “crazy” to have the issue decided by an eight-vote margin, and expressed disappointment that only one third of the city’s registered voters took the time to vote, versus the two thirds “who did not care enough” to cast ballots.
“When you consider how passionate people can be, you’ve got to admire (those who voted) regardless of what side you’re on.”
Vote Yes spokeswoman Ann Sly told the News-Press Wednesday she was “disappointed” that her side fell eight votes short of winning. “It is certainly a heart-breaker,” she said.
But she noted that some provisional and mail-in ballots remain to be counted.
“I don’t know if it would make a difference,” she said. “We just have to wait and see.”
The Vote Yes side has raised many issues in support of their campaign, but recently have settled on just one: stopping the proposed Surfliner Inn from being built downtown. Their yard signs and campaign ads fairly scream as much: Yes = No Hotel.
But Mr. Rodriguez said their efforts are misleading.
In an interview with the News-Press before the election, he called Measure T confusing and misleading.
“The opposition has done a terrific job of including many elements in the conversation that are not legally a part of the measure, for example, suggesting that this measure is about a hotel, when in fact the word ‘hotel’ is not in the measure,” he said. “If I were to add a wishlist of items to something being voted on, and if the voter who I was telling that wishlist to wasn’t educated enough to do their own homework on if the measure actually included the wishlist of things I was telling them, I could absolutely get people to vote on empty promises and misleading statements. That’s been the opposition’s playbook.
“It doesn’t take much to get people to see that the opposition has been deceitful and misleading,” he added. “I show an undecided voter the measure (with “hotel” nowhere in the text) and then I show the voter the way the opposition has been promoting the measure on yard signs (“no hotel” are pretty much the only words they use). The educated voter who knows better very quickly connects the dots.”
But Ms. Sly said Wednesday that her side has been very clear from the beginning that Measure T was about changing the zoning for the specific parking lot at issue to open space/recreation “to prevent private development on public land, including the hotel.
“We’ve been very upfront about that,” she said. “It does not affect other lots in the city. We do not want to change the General Plan or change Carpinteria. We’re trying to keep Carpinteria the way it is, and maintain the charm and small town character of this incredible beach town. A hotel is not in keeping with that.”
She said that despite their claims of just wanting to provide voters with information and not sway their vote, the Vote No forces did try to influence voters, going so far as to bully them.
“We are proud of ourselves for running a positive campaign,” she said. “We tried to inform people. We have no ulterior motive except to change zoning and not have development on that land.”