Measure U divided Angwin in a bitter land-use dispute before county voters soundly defeated the initiative at the polls three weeks ago, but analysis of the results shows an electoral divide that stretched far beyond the hilltop college town.
Proponents of the measure hoped voters would support the goal of stopping housing developments from coming to Angwin in the future, but 60 percent of voters rejected it countywide.
Measure U’s defeat was by a closer margin in the less populated Upvalley where it lost with 53 percent ‘no’ votes, according to the precinct results.
In the south county’s population centers — Napa, American Canyon and adjacent unincorporated areas — the margin of defeat was 10 percentage points greater — 63 percent, according to precinct data.
With its larger population, the south county accounted for almost 40,000 of the 50,862 voters who cast ballots for Measure U.
St. Helena was the only jurisdiction in the county to approve the measure, with 53 percent of voters casting yes votes. The measure failed in Angwin by a roughly 60-40 split.
If it had passed, Measure U would have downzoned three parcels of land in Angwin that are owned by Pacific Union College. The parcels each had urban residential designations in the county General Plan, and Measure U would have changed them to designations that prohibit residential development.
Arguing that the measure was an unfair violation of its property rights, PUC contributed $450,000 of its own money to defeating it. Relying on an independent legal analysis commissioned by Napa County, the college asserted that Measure U was legally flawed, and it would cost taxpayers to defend it in court if it passed.
An Angwin-based conservation group, Save Rural Angwin, placed Measure U on the ballots. Although it suffered defeat, it pledged to continue to fight for land conservation in Angwin.
In a statement Tuesday, Save Rural Angwin Chairman Mike Hackett charged that the college misled voters about Measure U’s parcels and its intent to preserve Angwin’s rural character.
Save Rural Angwin raised about $108,000 in its campaign.
“We were not able to sell our story as thoroughly as the college, which budgeted $450,000 for slick mailings, TV ads, and newspaper advertising,” Hackett said. “We did not have the resources to challenge those statements with full-page advertisements and TV advertising.”
Hackett said sponsoring Measure U helped broaden Save Rural Angwin’s base of support.
“More than ever, we are not just an Angwin community organization, but one which is countywide,” Hackett said. “Their vote indicated that they share our concern for ag land and for Angwin and they are out there to support us in our future activities.”