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Op-Ed: Let Encinitas Voters Decide What Sort of Development We Can Live With

A new community group is pushing for a ballot initiative that would let voters have a say when it comes to major development projects that impact quality of life.

Dear Editor, 

For most participants, the process of updating the of the Encinitas General Plan has been frustrating and difficult. These elements must be resolved before the City Council can consider the overall General Plan Update. To engage the public in re-drafting the housing element, the city administered that pitted the five Encinitas communities against each other. We have yet to see the results of that exercise. 

Consequently, the General Plan Update is stalled after two years of work, and there’s still no red-line version of the current general plan. These circumstances should produce local political drama in the run-up to the November election.

Some residents who were concerned with the potential outcome of the dot-mapping exercise have formed a committee called the Encinitas Project. The committee’s goal is simple: a ballot initiative that would let registered voters in Encinitas decide on major density increases in the city. 

At issue are up-zoning decisions meant to increase the density set by the present General Plan. A four of five member majority of the Encinitas City Council is required to approve certain up-zoning in the five communities—New Encinitas, Old Encinitas, Cardiff, Leucadia, Olivenhain—that make up the city.

Because the General Plan Update won’t go before the current Council before November’s election, the next City Council will eventually vote on it, should the present procedure remain in place. However, if the Encinitas Right-to-Vote Initiative reaches the ballot and voters approve it, residents will decide if major density increases should be allowed in the city.

With the Encinitas Right-to-Vote Initiative in place, voters would have the opportunity to decide if proposed changes respect community character, and maintain or improve their quality of life. Poorly planned projects that would increase traffic and the carbon footprint, degrade infrastructure, force density or height changes, or just fit badly with our community character would have little chance of approval. 

The initiative is not no-growth, but it would mean growth most people can abide. The City of Escondido adopted a similar initiative, and that community has since approved two development projects because voters felt they were a good fit.

The Encinitas Right-to-Vote Initiative would take the trickery out of land speculation. Developers would have to work within current zoning. Pushing city council members to up-zone would stop. Similarly, city planners would have to submit proposed up-zoning to a vote of the people. The initiative would subject the General Plan Update to a voters’ referendum.

The Encinitas Right-to-Vote Initiative would govern major housing and land-use amendments. The initiative defines a major amendment as any that: 

• Increases the number of permitted dwelling units on a residential lot

• Increases the number of separate parcels that might be created from an existing parcel 

• Changes zone type for a parcel from Agricultural, Public/Semi-Public, Ecological Resource/Open Space/Parks or Open Space to a different zone type

• Changes zone type for a parcel from a non-mixed-use zone to a mixed-use zone

• Changes a parcel from any residential land use to any non-residential land use

• Increases the allowed maximum height of development or how height is measured

• Increases the maximum allowable commercial or retail square footage for a parcel

• Repeals any planning-policy document

Most Encinitas residents want to maintain our small beach-town atmosphere. We’re concerned about environmental issues, traffic, adequate resources, proper infrastructure and overall quality of life. We love our town and want to continue loving it. As Encinitas approaches built-out status, growth can only go two ways: denser and taller. A look at community history reveals that local control of growth motivated Encinitas to incorporate as a city in 1986. Passing the Encinitas Right-to-Vote Initiative is in keeping with that precedent.

Volunteers are starting to walk neighborhoods to gather the number of signatures needed to get the initiative on a future ballot. Volunteers will also be in front of stores with forms for registered voters to sign. You can also find out more about the initiative by visiting the committee’s website at http://www.EncinitasRightToVote.com.

The Encinitas Project Committee is encouraged by the very positive response it’s received so far. The committee’s website will soon list dates and locations where registered voters can sign the ballot initiative petition. 

Thank You,

Encinitas Project

Editor’s Note: You can also follow the group on Twitter at @EncinitasRTV.

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change4encinitas July 27, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Great initiative! Finally we, the residents of Encinitas, may have a real say on the where, the why, and the how our communities should grow. I don't trust the planning department, the hand-picked planning commission, and the pro-development council majority to make the right decision on our behalf. Most of the current mayor 's campaign contributions come from builders, developers, and real estate brokers. How can we trust him to have an objective point of view when it comes to voting on zoning decisions that can have a profound impact on our communities for our and future generations? I hope Encinitians will wake up and support this worthwhile effort.
Jay Berman July 27, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Encinitas is a proud member of ICLEI http://encinitasundercover.blogspot.com/2012/01/what-is-iclei-and-why-is-encinitas.html We need to demand Encinitas quit ... http://www.citizenreviewonline.org/2010/Nov/Remove%20ICLEI-%20Restore%20the%20Republic.html UN Agenda 21 requires most future housing be ultra high density on transportation corridors, downzoning rural areas making it all but impossible to develop with the eventual goal of moving all population from rural areas and blocking access - all for the sake of the environment, basically, it's anti-human. This is no joke, this will destroy life as we know it unless its stopped. You see it happening all over, from reducing lanes on roads, to taking money out of highway construction and re routing it to public transit - SANDAG greatly reducing the expansion of I-5 to build trollies in San Diego. Jerome Stocks, Encinitas councilman is chairman of SANDAG ... The only way to stop it in CA is initiatives, city by city and educating people as to what is happening .. http://www.google.com/search?q=un+agenda+21&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-Address&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7ADRA_enUS474
Denise Martin July 27, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Thank goodness for this initiative!!!! After spending well over a million of our taxpayer dollars on a proposed general plan update that few citizens want, followed by a scandalous and shameful outreach program and then influential commissions with members who are non-residents and heavily involved in property development and real estate, this initiative is EXACTLY what Encinitas citizens need. We have a voice, and now the city staff can't continue ignoring us. SIGN the initiative! Get it on the ballot and then VOTE for it. We will still grow, but in a way that WE, the citizens and residents of Encinitas, DECIDE.....not city council members who are backed and indebted to developers.
Ralph Wiley July 27, 2012 at 06:09 PM
The effects of overpopulation are killing the only planet we have. Sometime, somewhere, we have to draw a line and then start receding from it. Otherwise, Earth is doomed and our species with it. Why add to the problem by encouraging more growth in Encinitas?
Jay Berman July 27, 2012 at 06:15 PM
That is obsurd Ralph. Have you ever flown over this country ? It's barely populated. What do you recommend, maybe we should ban vaccines and reintroduce small pox or something ? As the population grows, we build for it ... local communities do whats best for them, we should not take orders from world bodies or blindly follow dictates from Sacramento or Washington .. we the people ..
Charmed July 27, 2012 at 06:32 PM
If the leaders can't lead, the people will pay. We have paid enough. Take back control. Where do I sign?
Ralph Wiley July 27, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Yes, I have flown over America. I have also driven through it countless times. I've been to China and India, and have seen the consequences of too many people. I've read Thomas Malthus and Paul R. Ehrlich on overpopulation, and James Hansen on climate change. The solution to the nearly overwhelming problems we face is not 10 billion people driving Priuses. A big part of the solution is reducing population through attrition and lower birth rates.
Lynn Marr July 28, 2012 at 06:40 AM
Yes, thank goodness for the "Right to Vote on Upzoning" Initiative, and for the dedicated community members who drew it up, are circulating it and signing it. If this qualifies for the ballot, surely it will pass! This coming together of the people, to take back our power of decision making from lobbyists and career politicians is so heartwarming. Yes, I served on the North Coast Corporation to Incorporate Encinitas IN ORDER TO SLOW GROWTH being pushed primarily by development interests in the name of profit for a few at the expense of many! We foresee this initiative, when it passes, can make a huge difference in the way elections are financed. Developers, often "non-locals" will no longer be able to "call the shots" at City Hall. From my perspective, before the General Plan Update can continue, we should reconsider the population figures that are being used to determine the total number of "affordable units" that Encinitas must add to its housing element. I question the numbers from SANDAG. The fact that Jerome Stocks, our outgoing mayor, has been Director of SANDAG and NCTD, gives me and others more reason not to trust the incorrect data and conclusions being "forced down our throats," until we literally are gagging in frustration and disbelief!
Lynn Marr July 28, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Oh, I meant to say I served on the North Coast Coalition to Incorporate Encinitas, with Bob Bonde and Marjorie Gaines, Encinitas' first mayor! We had such high hopes. I had helped to input data for our pre-incorporation financial report (on an old Kaypro computer that Bob Bonde brought over), which we modeled after Solana Beach, incorporated one year before: Encinitas incorporated in 1986, Solana Beach, 1985. Solana Beach somehow stayed more true to its initial vision, managed to keep more of its small town characteristics. Encinitas, with the best of intentions on the part of those who helped found it, became more and more caught up in and influenced by developers and development interests, people making a profit at the expense of our laid back, beach town character. What a struggle it's been trying to stand up to the "powers that be." My hope and dream is that this initiative is going to help us take back our town. Some people have given up, worn down by the dirty politics and the arrogance of corrupt power. So many have moved away. But I continue to hold my head up high, to envision positive change, and to know "where there's a will, there's a way!"
Jay Berman July 29, 2012 at 12:42 AM
We will need more housing and infrastructure as our population grows ... I just think development should occur as needed and that it is done by the free markets, not government. Making a profit is as American as apple pie. If someone wants to develop an apartment bulding, condo complex or houses, they have the land and the resources it should go to the planning commission / city council for approval. I have a problem with genral plans and central planning, Encinitas participation in ICELI / UN Agenda 21 aka "Sustainable Development" .. .. this outside influence needs to end, Encinitas out of ICELI ... 101 needs to be left alone, Leucadia is funky, leave it that way, allow new development to replace old, run down buildings like the new winery under construction at Leucadia Blvd on 101 ... Cardiff is built out, leave it alone ... and no super high densite urban development, that would be way out of character for anywhere in this city but it is required by ICELI ..
Denise Martin July 29, 2012 at 01:04 AM
If the city has to grow, then let the people decide who, what, when, where, why, and how. Take the fun out of land speculation. Sign the initiative and once on the ballot, vote for it. If the citizens are in control, then there will be no "behind the doors" pay-offs, and dealing. Any future growth approved by the people will be open to all interested developers and I bet we will start getting better thought out and constructed plans. This is what we deserve. How could you not support this?
Cyrus Kamada July 29, 2012 at 01:31 AM
As an FYI, in dollars, roughly two-thirds of Jerome Stocks' campaign contributions in 2008 were from the following sources: developers, realtors, builders, land use and engineering firms, financial firms, attorneys, auto dealers, or PACs. In addition, in dollars, roughly two-thirds came from out of town. Over two-thirds of the ERAC committee, charged with evaluating the housing density requirements put forward as part of the general plan update, and approved by the council majority led by Stocks, are tied to developer and real estate interests. It would be naive to think that these interests do not exert substantial influence over land-use decisions made by Stocks and the council majority. That's why this initiative is imperative, and that's why we need to replace Stocks, Muir, and the current council majority with council members who understand that any future development needs to "pencil out" for the communities they serve, as well as the developers who build them.
Jay Berman July 29, 2012 at 01:39 AM
I don't see how the regular population is going to understand these things enough to vote on them. We may find ballots litered with all sorts of initiatives regarding land use each election. Any changes should go in front of the planning commission and then city council, we vote for them to make decisions for us, if we don't like their decisions, we vote them out. That said, citizens still need some protection from cronyism and flat out corruption. I don't look at developers or speculators as evil .. all decisions regarding zoning changes should be given a very public airing along with justifications either for or against. If you make it impossible or prohibitively expensive to develop anything you find the community just decaying, that's no good either, it is already a huge risk in Encinitas if you want to build a restaurant or any sort of building as detailed architectual drawings must be done costing many thousands of dollars with no guarantee the project would be approved .. I am no fan of Stocks, I have never met him but I am so against SANDAG and the way it is being run as it (Stocks is the chairman) is ramming "sustainable development" Agenda 21 down our throats. Agfenda 21 will destroy the character (and has started) of Encinitas as well as all communities that are implementing ICELI programs.
Jay Berman July 29, 2012 at 01:39 AM
We should vote against any ultra urban type development such as very high density housing, we should vote against making our city into a traffic nightmare ... by cutting lanes and putting roundabouts where they don't belong like on 101 .. We should vote out people who spend money on asinine development like a 6000 SqF firehouse for Cardiff or a $5m pedestrian tunnel when an at grade tunnel would be fine ... it stinks ...
Eric F Schaller July 29, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Supporting it is one thing, but going against state law is quite another. Many statements are indicating that all that is necessary is to make it known that the majority of Encinitas' citizens are in favor of slow growth and low densities, and somehow that will magically happen. I wish it was that simple, but there are state laws in place that overrule that desire and they can't simply be ignored. To this point City Council hasn't indicated a willingness to challenge those laws, but, without takling sides, it's difficult to criticize Council for following them.
Jay Berman July 29, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Here it is ... the laws .... http://www.infowars.com/california-declares-war-on-family-homes-to-save-the-planet/ cities need to say no, counties need to rebel against this ... This is going to destroy life as we know it in California http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_Communities_and_Climate_Protection_Act_of_2008 It will destroy (and already is) industries and businesses, so many are leaving the state .. such a shame to see our beautiful state being taken over .. people too damned stupid to see what is happening to them ...
change4encinitas July 29, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Well said Cyrus!
Denise Martin July 29, 2012 at 02:22 AM
The initiative is not a "no growth" initiative. It just allows the residents to weigh-in on zoning changes. All we have ever had is a self-certified housing element, and we haven't been in compliance for the last two housing cycles. The same with many other cities. This seems to be the standard more than not. The residents of Encinitas should be in control of their city's destiny. It is crazy to leave control in the hands of a few council members who, as Cyrus Kamada says, are given large sums of money and support for their campaigns from developers. If the city had our best interests at heart, then they would challenge the laws and the incorrect population growth numbers that are being shoved down our throats.
Jay Berman July 29, 2012 at 02:22 AM
The state law SB375 wants 30 housing units per acre ... we will have to tell the state to screw off or look for high rises on El Camino Real
Denise Martin July 29, 2012 at 02:29 AM
And guess what? The ERAC committee (comprised of several hand-chosen developers) and facilitated by Peder Norby is now talking about 30+ units per acre. This is code for 45 or more units per acre.
Jay Berman July 29, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Right out of ICELI playbook ... soon, the state will make it impossible to build single family houses. Everything they are doing is based on AB32 and SB375 - they impliment UN Agenda 21 through every city and county in the state as well as organizations like SANDAG .. kill highway programs, jam up traffic corridors with "smart growth" projects and build ultra high density on transit corridors .. all of which will destroy our quality of life for nothing ...

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