Sunday, April 30, 2017

Delays on city's $3.7 million lifeguard tower will affect Moonlight Beach all prime summer season

Unexpectedly!
Throughout much of the busy summer season, people will find unexpected construction activity and fewer places to park at Encinitas' Moonlight Beach.

Construction of a $3.7 million lifeguard tower, which was initially proposed to conclude before Memorial Day, now looks unlikely to be done until the end of July, city associate civil engineer Stephanie Kellar said this week.

Many days of rain between October and March and each "post-rain cleanup" day afterward put the project about a month behind schedule, she said. And, that has only been one of the causes of project delays.

The city also faced unexpected trouble with the demolition of the old lifeguard tower because asbestos and lead were discovered in the building, she said. Then, there was a seawall issue — the city expected to find one hidden underground seawall that needed to be removed and instead found two.
But at least we'll have a $3.7 million lifeguard tower eventually!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Rosebay homeowners win lawsuit over 2nd-story addition

Last year we brought you the story of a young family planning to build a very modest 2nd-story addition to their home in the Rosebay neighborhood.  Wealthy homeowners in the gated community on the hill above Rosebay filed suit to stop the addition even though 1) the property is zoned for two stories, 2) Encinitas doesn't have a view ordinance, and 3) even if there was a view ordinance, the small and distant addition could not reasonably be seen as blocking the plaintiff's view.



Today we have some happy news from the remodelers!

- In part because of the lawsuit, which required us to dip into our savings and emergency fund, we spent ~4 months changing banks, refinancing, and negotiating for a larger construction loan. Luckily, and because of our good credit history, this worked. We just kept our fingers crossed that we wouldn't get sick or lose our jobs. Fighting this has cost us tens of thousands of dollars. Although this is likely less than the Hedman's on West Bluff have paid their lawyer over the past 1.5 years, they clearly can afford to throw good money after bad whereas for my husband and I, it was a major decision to fight. We decided to fight because we love where we live, and we have a right to do this by the letter of the law.

- We started construction April 1, which was before we knew the outcome of the case. We didn't have a choice because otherwise we would lose our General Contractor (as he would have move onto other projects). We had waited as long as we could. We were confident they would lose but it has still been a nerve-wracking month. It was a good month though as our son turned 1 year old! It's crazy that it has been a year since the Hedman's sued the city and served us papers.

- We found out the judge ruled in our favor this past Thursday. I broke down in tears of joy at my office (pics attached :) It was a weird feeling after awhile though - it's more like relief. Yes, we won but really we just prevailed and survived. This should have never happened in the first place. Unfortunately we can't recoup our lawyers' fees due to the Anti-SLAPP law, which normally serves to protect people like us from having to pay developers' lawyers' fees were we to lose a case (i.e., the roles are normally reversed). We knew this going in but it still bothers me.

- There is a slim chance they will appeal this ruling, which would drag this out at least another year, and cost us more money. However, hopefully they aren't that delusional as the judge ruled strongly against every argument they tried to put forth (e.g., there is no public view obstruction). In fact, if you go walk the trail, it is difficult to make out our new roof line from among the trees (pics attached). If they are crazy enough to appeal, we are going to do a fundraising effort so that our neighborhood can come together and fight on behalf of all of our interests, which is defending our neighborhood's right to improve our homes, and the value of our properties. Not a day goes by where I don't remind myself that a small minority live in 3,500 square foot homes (like the Hedman's) while the majority live in homes much smaller like us. I've worked incredibly hard my entire adult life to get to where I am today, and I'll be damned if someone is going to try to use their money to bully me. We did everything according to the City's rules and regulations; we didn't ask for a variance; and we aren't flipping the property. This is our home.

- A silver lining in all of this is that we have met a lot of new neighbors, and most people have been unequivocal in their support for us, and our project. Obviously not everyone is stoked on the project but most people are, and it feels good to have that support after everything the Hedman's have put us through. We have also been fortunate that we are living next door during the remodel. Our neighbors are retired, and are fixing up another home while renting to us. It's crazy lucky that this happened but at the same time it speaks to the homeowners in this community, and how much we all support each other.

- We want to thank the community for rallying behind us, and for bearing with us through the dust and noise of the final framing etc. that should be done soon!

Ed Deane out at Public Works

Coast News:
Encinitas, which has lost a number of top planning and public works officials over the past 18 months, is set to lose another one.

Ed Deane, the city’s deputy public works director, confirmed that he will be resigning effective May 5.

“I am going to be taking some time before my next step,” Deane said. “Looking to see what is available.”

[...]

Deane started his term with the city in March 2011, shortly before the hiring of former City Manager Gus Vina, who resigned in 2015 to take the city manager position in Brentwood.
We don't recall Deane being among the more controversial staff members, as some of the other recently departed clearly were.

The Coast News goes on to discuss the high levels of staff turnover since City Manager Gus Vina's departure. For the city's budget, that's a very good thing, as new hires receive a less outrageous pension package than legacy employees.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Yes on east-side Rail Trail?

From the Yes on (east-side) Rail Trail folks:
IT'S BACK: RAIL TRAIL ALIGNMENT ISSUE TO BE HEARD BY COASTAL COMMISSION IN MAY

The plan for an east-side alignment of the Cardiff Rail Trail was left for dead after the Encinitas City Council bowed to the demands of a well organized opposition campaign in March of 2016, voting to endorse a west-side alignment along Route 101 and stranding Cardiff residents who wanted to walk, run, and bike along San Elijo Avenue.

The east-side alignment is now back from the grave. The rail trail alignment issue will go before the California Coastal Commission in early May. Correspondence between Commission staff and SANDAG during the latter part of 2016 indicates that Commission staff are opposed to the west-side alignment.

If the Coastal Commission votes against the west-side alignment, then the original plan for running the trail along the east side of the tracks may be resurrected.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Is commercial marijuana production the answer to Encinitas' pension crisis?

Councilman Joe Mosca's old friend the Sierra Madre Tattler:
More and more cash strapped cities in California are beginning to look to marijuana as a potential revenue resource. Many of these fine localities might say it is for other reasons (in Encinitas the purpose given is to "save local agriculture"), but if it wasn't for the tax potential of commercial ganja would they really be interested? I doubt it. It's always about the money.

Former Sierra Madre Mayor Joe Mosca, who abruptly vacated a City Council seat halfway through his second term here a few years back, recently resumed his political career in the City of Encinitas. Now an appointed member of the City Council there, today he sits on a subcommittee tasked with bringing marijuana into their revenue mix. Faced with a massive $154 million in (euphemism alert) "unfunded market pension debt" (link), obviously no stone (or stoner) is being left unturned.
We'd caution both growers and revenue-hungry politicians that the projections based on current marijuana prices are likely to be wildly overstated, as commercial and home growers rapidly increase supply now that it's legal.

Friday, April 21, 2017

While Encinitas fiddles, other cities get serious about facing pension crisis

LA Times:
The statewide pension issue was a hot topic Monday at the Huntington Beach City Council meeting.

The council voted unanimously to have the city’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee consider proposed state pension reform legislation and bring the item to the council’s next meeting.

[...]

Councilman Billy O’Connell, who made the proposal, said CalPERS has increased pension costs, which has jeopardized the city’s ability to provide services to its residents.

“CalPERS has failed in [its] fiduciary responsibility, and this failure poses great risk to cities, our hard-working employees and the taxpayers who will ultimately foot the bill for CalPERS’ failures,” O’Connell read from a statement.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Council moves to crack down on problem bars

Del Mar Times:
After years of wrangling, piecemeal measures and mounting uproar from neighbors along the Coast Highway 101 corridor, the Encinitas City Council on Wednesday, April 19, signed onto a package of sweeping reforms to the way restaurants and bars manage their on-site alcohol service.

The wide-ranging package of reforms includes: Alcohol service to stop 10 p.m. along the coastal corridor, with later cutoffs if bars prove their good behavior; establish a noise ordinance downtown and update the standards elsewhere; stiffer fines for code violations; and measures to curb party buses and the long lines of patrons waiting to get into bars.

But for the coalition of residents who have railed against the changing tone of the coastal corridor, the most important aspect is the “deemed approved ordinance,” which will allow the city to enforce nuisance codes according to uniform standards across the city.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

4/19/17 City Council meeting open thread

Please use the comments to record your observations.

Assembly bill would enforce compliance with Public Records Act

Naked Capitalism:
[...] the PRA is an important law intended to provide for transparency and accountability. Our limited experience shows that California government bodies routinely thwart the statute.

We learned yesterday from the general counsel of the California Newspaper Publishers Association that State Assemblyman Rob Bonta is sponsoring a bill, AB 1479, set to be heard next Tuesday, April 25 in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It is designed to bar obstructions and unreasonable delays to responding to PRA requests.

[...]

I know this is last minute, but if you are in California and can send in a short note, it would be extremely helpful. Please stress that the citizens a right to have access to public records and that you are distressed to see how regularly government agencies waste taxpayer dollars and thwart transparency by denying, delaying, and/or making incomplete responses to Public Records Act requests.
The City of Encinitas has its own history of public records obstructionism, most notably repeatedly fighting in court to deny the public access to a public road conditions report.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Appeals court rules that cities can reform pensions

It just takes leadership.

Union-Tribune:
A state appeals court on Tuesday vindicated San Diego’s five-year-old aggressive pension cutbacks, potentially saving the city millions it could have been forced to spend creating retroactive pensions for more than 3,000 workers hired since 2012 [and hundreds of millions going forward, obviously].

California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal unanimously overturned a 2015 state labor board ruling that said the cutbacks were illegal because of then-Mayor Jerry Sanders’ involvement in the successful citizens’ initiative that made the changes.

The initiative, Proposition B on the June 2012 ballot, replaced guaranteed pensions with 401(k)-style retirement plans for all newly-hired city employees except police officers.
Encinitas' pensions are somewhere between $40 million and $154 million underfunded depending on how rose-colored your glasses are.

The average career Encinitas city government worker retires young and receives $98,000 per year for life.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Local seawall case going to California Supreme Court

Coast News:
The state Supreme Court will hear arguments in May on an Encinitas seawall case that could have far reaching implications on the state Coastal Commission’s authority regulating the beach barriers.

The state’s high court is scheduled to hear arguments at 9 a.m. in San Francisco on May 4 in Lynch v. California Coastal Commission, nearly seven years after a pair of Encinitas residents contested the state agency’s decision over their request for a seawall permit.

The court’s decision could determine if the state Coastal Commission has the authority to impose time limits on privately erected seawalls along the state’s coastline.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Recreational marijuana subcommittee to meet Wednesday

Del Mar Times:
The Encinitas city council's subcommittee on Prop 64 will meet publicly for the first time April 12 to discuss adult use of marijuana in the city.

Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz and Council member Joe Mosca, who were appointed to the subcommittee in February, will lead the discussion beginning at 4 p.m. at the Council Chambers, 505 South Vulcan Avenue.

Residents will be given time to address public comments. Each speaker will be limited to three minutes, according to the meeting's agenda.



Much more at Voice of San Diego. It's about farming in Encinitas; retail shops have been ruled out.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Planning Commission resurrects alcohol proposal

Three years after the City Council rejected a "deemed approved ordinance" that would give the city more power to crack down on problem bars, and three years after the death of Rachel Anne Morrison who was killed by a driver who was severely overserved in Encinitas, and weeks after police checkpoints showed a continuing high rate of drunk driving, the Planning Commission is trying again.
The Encinitas Planning Commission — which two months ago rejected a proposed moratorium on new alcohol permits downtown — voted Thursday to ask the City Council to approve a new ordinance that would require bars and restaurants to meet tougher standards if they want to keep serving booze.

The so-called "deemed approved" ordinance is similar to what's in place in Ventura, another coastal town with similar alcohol-related complaints. The ordinance would create a new permit system for existing bars and restaurants requiring them to meet certain standards regarding noise and other public nuisance problems in exchange for an operating permit.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Motorcyclist killed on I-5

Southbound, south of Encinitas Boulevard. Avoid the area and be safe out there.

UPDATE: Lane-splitting and hit-and-run:
The rider was splitting lanes when the motorcycle crashed into a Toyota that was changing lanes, from the No.1 to the No. 2 lane, about 5 p.m. south of Encinitas Boulevard, the CHP said.

The impact caused the rider and bike to slide under a big rig traveling in the No. 3 lane. The trailer’s left, rear tires ran over the motorcycle and rider, the CHP said.

[...]

The Toyota driver did not stop after the crash, the CHP said.


UPDATE: Victim identified as 24-year-old Christopher Isaacs of San Diego.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Renowned investor takes issue with rosy pension outlook endorsed by Blakespear

Widely respected investment manager Rob Arnott explains the math behind likely pension returns:
40% Bonds. Yield is 2% for the US aggregate bond market.
60% Stocks. Our base case is 5.4% for US stocks, but we think valuations are too high, so we trim this to 3.3% for the coming decade.  Here’s our logic:

The yield is 2%.
Earnings growth over the past century has been 4.5%, of which 3.1% was inflation (real growth of 1.4% … far less than most people realize).

Inflation expectations are about 2%, so perhaps we should trim this forecast by 1.1%.

This gives us a base-case of 5.4%.

Valuation multiples are stretched, with the stock market priced at 25 times the 10-year average earnings, against a historical norm of 16.8x. If we’re back to historical norms in 10 years, that costs us another 4.2%.  Since valuation multiples could (a) return to historical norms, or (b) remain at today’s lofty multiples, let’s split the difference, and trim our return expectations another 2.1%.

This gives us a likely outcome of 3.3% from stocks.

If our logic is sound, we earn 0.8% from our bonds (40% allocation x 2% return) and 2% to 3.2% from our stocks (60% x 3.3%, or 60% x 5.4%). Add up the return from stocks and the return from bonds, and we get 2.8% to 4% from our balanced portfolio.
If Arnott is right, Encinitas' unfunded pension liabilities are a lot closer to the Stanford analysis of $154 million than the CalPERS/Blakespear estimate of $40 million.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Brust restructures Planning and Public Works Departments

Union-Trib:
Both the city's planning and public works departments will be reorganized in the coming months to create a "one-stop" faster-processing spot for development applications.

The restructuring proposal, which received initial approval from the City Council Wednesday night, was put forward by City Manager Karen Brust. It calls for transferring the city's engineering division and storm water functions out of the city's Public Works Department and into what's now called the city's Planning & Building Department.

That department would be renamed the city's Development Services Department, a move that puts Encinitas in company with about a third of San Diego cities, Brust said. It should also help speed permit-processing times because all development-related services will be handled in one department, she said.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lone Jack road failure to cost $450,000

Coast News:
It will cost Encinitas nearly $450,000 to fix extensive pavement failure along Lone Jack Road that caused a dump trunk to sink into the street earlier this month.

The City Council unanimously approved payments to two firms — $18,800 to Geopacifica for inspection work related to the Lone Jack repairs, and $370,000 to TC Construction for the construction of the emergency repairs, plus a $58,500 contingency — at the March 29 council meeting.