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Local voters weigh in on dam demolition, soda tax, other measures

Voters throughout California weighed in Tuesday on more than 370 local measures, most of them aimed at raising money for hard-pressed cities and counties.

In addition to bread-and-butter measures that included more than 100 school bonds, voters grappled with a number of environmental and political questions.

In San Francisco, residents were leaning against developing an $8-million blueprint to demolish a dam and drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which provides water for 2.6 million area residents. Environmental groups said they wanted to restore the wilderness valley that is buried under 300 feet of water.

LIVE RESULTS: California election | National election

In Santa Cruz, city residents seemed likely to approve  a measure requiring a public vote on a $115-million desalination project. The city has set a 2014 election but an anti-desalination group wanted to keep a future council from reneging.

Voters in Arcata, Chico, Richmond, San Francisco and Mendocino County were confronted with resolutions against “corporate personhood” — the idea that corporations have basic human rights. The measures were headed for approval in all five localities. The issue gained traction after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 Citizens United case, which allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums on candidates’ campaigns.

Marijuana has long been a staple on the California ballot. In Arcata, residents were on the road toward approving a proposed 45% tax on residential electric bills that are six times over a baseline level set by the state. Nearly 7% of the town’s homes have bills that high, indicating they could be electricity-guzzling “grow houses.”

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

Never illegal, soda has become a bete noir in the war on childhood obesity. In Richmond, residents appeared reluctant to impose a penny-per-ounce surcharge on sugary drinks. Beverage companies spent more than $2 million in opposing the measure.

In Berkeley, residents have been split over a proposed ban against sitting on the sidewalk in commercial areas from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Hotly debated, the ban appeared to be winning.  

Thirty-five communities proposed extending or increasing their sales taxes. In tiny Maricopa, an oil town whose dismal finances prompted a grand jury to recommend unincorporating, voters were poised to reject a one-cent sales tax.

In Newport Beach and Murietta, residents seemed ready to adopt  bans on red-light cameras. Last year, Los Angeles decided such cameras cost too much and didn't save lives.

Some of Tuesday’s local measures were distinctly local.

In Guadalupe, residents appeared to favor keeping the name Guadalupe. The Santa Barbara County town has been struggling and some thought business would be better as “Guadalupe Beach," even though Guadalupe is a few miles from the surf.

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--Steve Chawkins

 
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