Morgan Hill’s voters will get to decide in the Nov. 8 election if any future attempt to reduce the number of lanes of Monterey Road through the city’s downtown should be determined by a popular citywide vote.

But it’s possible the city council will implement a lane reduction project before the November balloting, which would allow the city to keep Monterey Road in such a configuration regardless of the election results.

At the April 6 meeting, the council unanimously voted to adopt the ballot measure titled, “The Citizens’ Initiative Amending The General Plan To Require Voter Approval of Any Future Monterey Road Lane Reduction.” If the measure wins a majority vote on Nov. 8, it would trigger another ballot measure in the future if the city proposes reducing the number of lanes on Monterey Road from Main to Dunne avenues.

The ballot initiative was the result of a petition circulated last year by Morgan Hill residents Sally Casas and Armando Benavides. The proponents gathered well over the 2,796 signatures necessary to require the council to either adopt the measure as an ordinance or put it to the voters.

“I’m very happy where we’re at with this initiative,” Benavides told the council April 6. “Our mantra has always been to let the voters decide.”

The ballot measure has been several months in the making, winding its way through the state election code’s citizens’ initiative process amid numerous public city council discussions. City officials and downtown business advocates for several years have promoted a lane reduction of Monterey Road through the downtown as a way to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, and create a more visitor-friendly vibe that would bring more sales and revenues to local businesses.

In January, the council voted 3-2 to implement a Traffic Mitigation Plan that—depending on the results—could pave the way for another council vote to reduce Monterey Road from four to two lanes this summer. Councilmembers Rene Spring and Yvonne Martinez Beltran voted against the motion, and have expressed their opposition to a downtown lane reduction.

City Attorney Don Larkin has said the upcoming ballot measure would not be retroactive, meaning the Monterey Road layout could stay in a two-lane format permanently if the city adopts such a plan before Nov. 8.

After Councilmember John McKay on April 6 made a motion to place the measure on the ballot, Spring asked for an amendment prohibiting the city from implementing a Monterey Road lane reduction before Nov. 8. McKay declined to add the amendment, and Spring made a substitute motion that failed.

The council then unanimously voted in favor of the motion to put the question directly to the voters. The city’s cost to place the measure on the Nov. 8 general election ballot is about $61,500.

In March, the council requested a fiscal impact analysis on the Monterey Road citizens’ initiative, which the state law allows the body to do before adopting it.

Morgan Hill Economic Development Director Matt Mahood presented the results of that analysis to the council April 6. Impacts include “potential future liability costs associated with increasing traffic and vehicle congestion in the downtown core that continues to erode pedestrian and bicyclist safety.”

Another potential impact of preserving Monterey Road in its current four-lane format through downtown is on the city’s efforts to attract and retain businesses in the neighborhood, Mahood said.

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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