Sunday, June 30, 2013

Support your local theater

La Paloma Theatre is an irreplaceable treasure: a link to Encinitas' past and a downtown venue for independent movies and the occasional concert or other special event.

But the economics of the place must be brutal. It can't remain open forever if locals don't give it more support.

This week, fortunately, you have the opportunity to support your local theater while enjoying a very good but little-seen Hollywood film. Mud gets an almost unheard of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the critics are right. It wasn't formulaic enough to get much play in major cineplexes, but we are lucky to have it here. And don't be surprised if it gets wider release after the Oscars.

Mud is playing at La Paloma through July 4.

Keep Leucadia Trendy

Union-Trib: Leucadia evolves from funky to chic:
“Leucadia is getting very trendy,” said Criss Crozier, managing partner of Swell Property. “That whole funkiness is changing.” Many of the people who have lived here for more than 40 years are selling the older homes, which buyers are then renovating or razing to build new larger homes on the property. Crozier describes the current real estate market as “more than red hot — it’s white hot.”

Leucadia falls within the Encinitas 92024 ZIP code where the median price in 2012 for a single-family home was $755,000 – a 7.2 percent increase over the previous year. The median price for condos was $333,750. Prices in Leucadia fall into the higher end. At the low end of home sales, Crozier noted that a two-bedroom house recently sold for $799,000. “Everything else is likely to be over $1 million,” he said. At the high end, a five-bedroom oceanfront home along Neptune Avenue is currently listed for $5.5 million.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Is the Supreme Court's Koontz decision good or bad for Encinitas?

A commenter on Encinitas Undercover brought up the Supreme Court's recent Koontz decision, wherein the Court rejected a city's making a development permit contingent on the property owner forfeiting the majority of his property to the city.

The New York Times freaked out about this ruling, proclaiming it doom for "sustainable growth."  The libertarian Cato Institute mocked the NYT hysteria.  We suggest readers read both arguments and come to their own conclusions.

Casual readers of Encinitas Undercover may have read this site's coverage of Proposition A as anti-property rights.  This interpretation could not be further from the truth.  We fully support the property owner's right to develop his property to the fullest extent allowed within existing neighborhood zoning.  What we don't support is a developer bribing or otherwise persuading the city council to change the zoning for the developer's financial gain.  Proposition A should, subject to court challenge, put an end to that sort of corruption.

And now back to Koontz and its impact on Encinitas.  It would seem to this farm boy that Koontz prevents a lot of "Smart Growth" government extortion in exchange for upzoning, but Proposition A has already prohibited the same thing.... so Koontz can be seen as a rejection of the Smart Growth central planners, but Encinitas already rejected them.  Koontz is therefore largely irrelevant to Encinitas as long as Proposition A stands.

That's our opinion... what's yours?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

We're #1!

And it ain't even close!

... in DUIs, that is:

1% of our Friday night 101 drivers are drunk.  Some of our drunk drivers cause fatalities.  So do some of our drunk pedestrians.

Isn't it fun to be "vibrant?"

Council actions last night

... as told by commenters and observers.  Please correct us if any of these are wrong.

- hired three new full-time firefighters and battalion chief paperwork guy.
- try to come back in July and get a 4/5 vote to close downtown bars at midnight.
- no action on red-light cameras.

10 News: Encinitas is becoming the new PB
Encinitas residents say their downtown is turning into a Pacific Beach-like atmosphere with partying and drinking spiraling out of control. On Wednesday night, they asked the Encinitas City Council to do something to fix it.

"It's dirty, it smells, people are foul-mouthed," one Encinitas resident told the council.
"Public urination, noise levels from people screaming and yelling in the parking areas. Drug use, activity, sales," said another.

Residents say public drunkenness has also become a major problem in the downtown area, leading to wild behavior that they want to see stopped.

"These people are now using my planter boxes as their bathrooms," said a resident. "It's not very nice when I go outside and say, 'Can you please not do that,' then they offer to fight me."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fire Station Number 5

How does a brand new, multi-million-dollar, cinderblock fire station already have pest infestation?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Did conservatives actually vote for Proposition A in Encinitas?

... asks Brian Brady at the San Diego County Republican blog Rostra.

Yoga trial resumes Monday

Yoga: the gateway drug to Hinduism.

Read the whole thing. It's really kinda funny.

City employee awards

Encinitas Guerrilla:
City Seeks Nominations for Most Over-the-top Employee Award

It’s widely known that many city of Encinitas employees are over the top. To determine which employee crowns the list, the City conducts a biennial competition that starts with soliciting nominations from residents.

To qualify as a nominee, the City employee must be grossly overpaid, far too powerful, callously underhanded and unresponsive to citizens’ input. Those qualifications narrow the choices but focus the public’s mind.

To avoid internal favoritism, the City asks that nominations be submitted to W.C. Varones at In due time, the City Council will choose the award winner.
We are honored to be mentioned by the witty and mysterious Guerrilla, though we suspect he may be poking a bit of fun at our rabble-rousing friends.

Citizens interested in nominating employees may wish to start by browsing the very large $100,000+ Club.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Don't stay at an Encinitas hotel if you value your privacy

Encinitas to turn over hotel guest records to police without a warrant.

Tony Kranz was the only council member who even expressed any concerns over privacy, and even he went along with yet another unanimous city council groupthink vote.

In other news, SANDAG is recording your license plate movements everywhere you go.

And we still haven't had a good public discussion of the Big Brother cam at Leucadia and 101.

Your children won't even find any of this unusual or troubling in any way.

P.S. May I recommend to both tourists and homeowners Air BnB?  It's a great way to save money, make money, and meet interesting people... all while sticking it to The Man.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Is it over?

UPDATE: Game over, man!  52% Yes, 48% No.  And an EU commenter had it somehow before it was up on the Registrar web site.

San Diego Registrar of Voters:

Congratulations to the Yes on A folks for what looks like a victory.

The remaining 1800 mail/provisional ballots would have to break about 60/40 to the No side to change the results (in addition to all being ruled valid). This is essentially statistically impossible unless there is some underlying difference in the population of provisional/late mail voters vs. the populations of both earlier absentee voters and voters overall (such as if a large number of the provisional voters are hired No on A campaigners from Lemon Grove, for example).

We'd say that, barring extraordinary irregularities, you can put a fork in this one.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sign-gate Part Deux: No on A

Remember when Jerome Stocks and Mark Muir were caught illegally putting up campaign signs early?

Well, the developers behind No on A are trying to top them.  Encinitas municipal code prohibits using the public roads and sidewalks for campaign signs.  City code enforcement personnel have the job of removing illegally placed signs.

Which is why, just as Stocks and Muir did their Midnight Cowboy stunt on a weekend evening so code enforcement couldn't take down their signs, the No on A people waited until late in the day yesterday, the day before election day, to put dozens of signs all over Vulcan, Santa Fe, Encinitas Boulevard, and Leucadia Boulevard.

Encinitas Undercover contacted Council Member Tony Kranz late in the afternoon yesterday, and he was able to get some of the signs removed before code enforcement went home at 5 pm.

Code enforcement supposedly begins work at 7 am, but signs were still illegally placed all over Vulcan, including right in front of City Hall, around 8:30 am today. So the No on A cheaters succeeded with their plan to get illegal advertising in front of both evening and morning commuters right before the election.

If the developers and city council are on the right side with No on A, why do they have to lie and cheat to win?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Major Issue


I wrote about a document read by a wide majority of voters in Encinitas. It contained statements that seemed indefensible. It was signed by each member of the city council. They make the decision to sign the statement individually. 

Many of the statements were questionable or indicated ambiguity that was facilitated by the city. On several counts they could have worked to reduce confusion over the ambiguity. They instead let it roll.

On the other side, the door for this was left open by the drafters of Prop A.

I’ve worked on several ballot statements. The people I’ve worked with have expressed extreme concern for one thing above all. It was not winning. Accuracy was their primary concern.

The scariest thing about Prop A was that it demonstrated that we do not have a council that will actively avoid group think, the quest for accuracy is not supreme, and as a group they will plant their flag on top of superficial fixes.  


It was reported to me that on Wednesday, Andrew Audet asked the city council how they could state that 5 stories would NEVER be built in Encinitas. They put their signature on that and it got sent to every voter in Encinitas. That, along with a lot of other statements, were of questionable veracity or completeness.

Apparently the Mayor  did not want to explain the factual basis for that statement to Mr. Audet at the council meeting. Statements of fact in response to oral communications to council have occurred many times over the last few years. I don’t recall hearing the Mayor opposing that activity. It is not against the law. I emailed the Mayor on Friday asking her when would be a good time for Mr. Audet’s question to be answered. No response.

Looks like she is willing to win by foul play, instead of fixing her statements.

It is scary that the new council majority went along for this ride. Tony did not address the question about 5 stories either, other than stating:

“We wrote our arguments as a group, in open council sessions, doing our best to honestly describe what we thought were important points to make”

Each council member individually signed off. One single council member could have likely shot down the inaccuracies or seen that they never developed by simply asking that they have an approach that ensured that they didn't include inaccurate statements being sent to the voters. One council member has a huge influence. One single hold out makes it so that the rest can’t claim that she was just going along with the group. 

On the statement that made a lot of people think the 4/5th exemption had not been used, Tony pulls out a quote from one of the options from a STAFF report to explain away the circular reasoning. I’ve not looked at the staff report. I don’t see how it can be relevant.

Tony writes, “if you couldn't get 4 out of 5 votes from the city council, it was major.” The law doesn’t say that. The law talks about significant public benefit.

Here is the exception. I think this is what the council actually approved (this is from my records, and I'll double check a little later when I have more time... the city website is a major deterrent when you have a life):

It does not say anything about "major". Tony doesn’t explain where in the law “major” matters. Can anyone explain that to me?

Instead, what it says is that the council gets to decide what is a significant public benefit. THEY GET TO DECIDE.  It is plain; there is no reason to try to figure out what that means, its obvious.

If the council had adopted the option that Tony described, it would still be circular. No upzoning, even 2,000 additional units (maybe with a big city park as a public benefit) would not be “major” according to Tony’s explanation. This defies common sense and is thus misleading (if it were true).

The council also told the voters they supported Prop A and implied they would give the voters the right to vote on upzoning.  Tony wrote, “the current council unanimously voted to remove, making direct democracy the final step in ALL future major land-use decisions.”

As I warned multiple council members before they did it, what the council did might be only temporary EVEN if ratified by the voters. I pressed them to add a statement stating that no new exceptions could be added or simply affirming the right to vote. What they did is a phony version of Prop A, because it only takes a 3/5th majority to add a new exception allowing the voters to by bypassed. The Mayor is refusing to state that she subscribes to the CENTRAL and KEY feature of Prop A where a future council can not a new exception back in. Why did they leave that out? Why won't the Mayor say if she would support that addition?

Along with allowing the city to use the PWY as collateral  for the park bonds, failing to follow through with  getting a minimally adequate pension analysis,  and the council’s approach to the "Spirit of Prop A", I’m scared that we aren’t going to see much substance out of this council. That’s what scares me.

Tony Kranz responds on ballot argument honesty question

This is solely the opinion of Council Member Tony Kranz, not speaking for anyone else on the council:
My friend K.C. threw up a post on this weblog the other day that did what any blogger wants their writing to do: generate comments (173 so far, a record on his blog says W.C.). The title of the post was Scariest Prop A Thinking and went on, in many words, to express his opinion about what the council wrote in the arguments against Proposition A, and comments I had made on this blog. He ascribes motives to the council that I disagree with and feel pretty sure the rest of the council does as well.

So what was it that scared him so? One thing he wrote had to do with this comment I made in reply to a direct question from an anonymous commenter about the council's argument against Prop A:

Prop A defines any upzoning as a major change, but the definition before was essentially this: if you couldn't get 4 out of 5 votes from the city council, it was major.

This doesn't seem that scary to me. I would call it the representative democracy definition of whether up-zoning was "major" or not, since it was left to our elected representatives to consider the political impact of approving a land-use plan, as well as the community impact. In fact, this was true whether there was up-zoning on a project or not.

And it turns out that the thinking in the early 1990's was similar to what I wrote on the blog. Way back around the time former County Supervisor, Mayor and Council Member Pam Slater-Price voted to add the 4/5ths exception to our General Plan by amendment, the same logic was used in the City Council Staff Report for the meeting of 9/25/91. Here's an excerpt:

Based on testimony at the [Planning] commission hearing, the following options can also be considered:

e) Instead of specifically-defined exemptions, give the Planning Commission and Council disoretionary authority to determlne when items are exempt from voter-approval. All items would be subject to voter approval except when the commission and council determine an item is exempt. This option removes the difficulty of trying to specifically define "minor" changes; it also creates undefined discretion. Variation: define at least some of the circumstances or criteria under which Commission and Council would have discretion to exempt.

As mentioned, the council back then ultimately added the 4/5ths exception, which—in another display of representative democracy—the current council unanimously voted to remove, making direct democracy the final step in ALL future major land-use decisions.

However, Prop A isn't only about the right to vote. It also includes provisions that would cause existing specific plans to be amended and, in my opinion, that is not a good way to govern. These "secondary" amendments could easily have been avoided, as they were in the initiative that passed in Escondido, by specifying that the provisions of the initiative would only apply to future land-use planning documents.

Kevin also calls aspects of the city council arguments against Prop A scary. His opinion is that we used "weasel" words, and suggested that we should have written our arguments using language that fit the context of Prop A. Needless to say, I disagree. We wrote our arguments as a group, in open council sessions, doing our best to honestly describe what we thought were important points to make. But as E.B. White said, "The best writing is rewriting." In our case though, any rewriting would have required another meeting to re-agendize the subject, deliberate and hold another vote. The calendar didn't allow for that.

Now the calendar shows we're a day away from the special election which will decide Prop A. California's tradition of direct democracy will have made its mark on our community. Regardless of the outcome, we'll have a lot of work to do in order to move our city forward.
WCV comment: We thank Tony for continuing the dialogue with the public, and we wish other council members were as open to publicly discussing the initiative as Tony has been. However, we don't think this explanation changes the fact that, by any objective measure, the council lied to the public in its unanimous ballot argument against Prop A. The council stated,
THERE NEVER WERE, AND WILL NOT BE, APPROVED PLANS FOR 5-STORY BUILDINGS IN ENCINITAS. Major land use changes HAVE ALWAYS happened with a vote of the people and the Council is committed to codifying this practice.
In fact, large sections of the downtown 101 area were increased  from two stories to three stories without a public vote. To argue that these changes were not "major" strains credulity. Apparently, no council until now, including the council that allowed the changes, has tried to make the claim that those changes weren't "major." In fact, as the Staff Report quote above shows, the earlier council specifically chose not to define "major" or "minor" but to give themselves the 4/5 vote exemption regardless of how "major" a change.

The current council's ballot argument looks like they were more interested in making a strong argument to persuade uninformed voters than in telling the truth.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Giant sinkhole opens up beneath D Street

Be not afraid; the city is hiring a new communications specialist to reassure you that the infrastructure is just fine.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Because nothing inspires confidence like "Trust me; I'm a realtor"

Really? Like we trusted Suzanne the realtor when she told young couples to buy more house than they could afford in 2006?

For a more serious point-by-point rebuttal of Doug Harwood's argument, take it away Fred:
Just got a NO on A flyer with an important message from the desk of Realtor Doug Harwood. Now I remember him. He's the guy who mentored the developers of the 3 story structures that were built right next to me. I kept wondering why he was always showing up at Planning Commission meetings when those were on the table. Now I know.

On the flyer he sounds worried.

1. He's worried Prop A will "drain city finances to pay for special elections". But he should know the city doesn't pay for those special elections. Only developers wanting to rezone for 3 to 5 story projects will.

2. He's worried that Prop A will destroy property values for people "wanting to remodel their home". What he must not know is that that only applies to someone wanting to add a 3rd to 5th story on their home as part of their money making "remodel".

3. Doug also is worried that "Desirability of living in Encinitas would decrease." Really? Last I heard he lived in Rancho Santa Fe. Maybe they'd like him to help them start their 5 story future? We're talkin' lots of available agriculture acreage there that could be well developed.

Those things said, that's one beautiful 2 story estate remodel on his flyer. What everyone should realize is that home is nothing the passage of Prop A will inhibit here in Encinitas. Unless that chimney is over 30' tall of course
A second, confidential Encinitas Undercover source confirms Doug Harwood as a Rancho Santa Fe resident (where, conveniently, they have "The Covenant" which prevents high-density development) and that Harwood has meddled in Encinitas politics for many years, working to get pro-developer politicians elected to city council.  Why is zoning protection OK for Doug Harwood's neighborhood but not for ours?

No thanks, Doug! Upzone Rancho Santa Fe instead!

Council accepting public comments on Gus Vina, Glenn Sabine performance

From Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer's newsletter:
City Manager/City Attorney Performance Evaluation: The Council adopted the proposed evaluation process that Council member Gaspar and I developed in our subcommittee. This means that next month the Council and senior staff will have the opportunity to complete a detailed evaluation form for the City Manager and the City Attorney to provide their input.Members of the public are welcome to submit their comments as well, though for legal reasons, the City will not formally solicit public input (we are caught between the employees' rights to privacy with respect to personnel records and the Public Records Act which makes any public comments openly available to anyone who asks.)  The Council will review a compilation of all the feedback and share our assessment with the two individuals under our direct responsibility.
As a resource for those who would like to submit comments to the council, here are Glenn Sabine's greatest hits:

1) Wasted thousands of dollars on expensive outside attorneys for Teresa Barth's ridiculous harassment claim.

2) Wasted almost $100,000 in frivolous fight against public access to public records. See also (1) (2) (3)

3) So clueless about the First Amendment that he allowed the council to try to censor political speech.

4) We need secrecy in government so bloggers can't criticize us.

Frankly, Sabine's performance is so appalling that it is an embarrassment that this council didn't fire him as its first action.

Gus Vina has had less time on the job, but arguably has already been more destructive to Encinitas than Sabine. Vina is the one person most responsible for the current climate of divisiveness and distrust between the public and the city council, having led the council into the Prop A fiasco with his hiring of notorious developer attorneys Rutan and Tucker to write a slanted analysis. Vina also has an atrocious record on financial management, and just persuaded the council to hire a $130,000 spin doctor to explain away his failures. And he proposed and got a $20,000 citizen satisfaction survey that was a transparent election year ploy to protect the incumbents (which he also failed at).

Encinitans who would like to submit their comments on Sabine and Vina's performance can contact their council members here:

Teresa Barth, Mayor:

Lisa Shaffer, Deputy Mayor:

Kristin Gaspar:

Tony Kranz:

Mark Muir:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Leucadians still second-class citizens

Not only does Leucadia get three-story high-density development while Cardiff is limited to two stories, but Leucadia also gets the shaft when it comes to children's safety.

From the inbox:
From: "Ryan, Christine"
Sent: Thursday, June 13, 2013 8:27 AM
Subject: RE: Encinitas City Council Meeting - TONIGHT !!!! School Safety!!!

Hi all,

Well, last night’s meeting did not go as hoped. With very little thoughtful discussion, the council declined our request for them to appropriate the same amount of money ($100,000) to PEC for a traffic calming project that they voted to appropriate for Cardiff Elementary. With the exception of Tony Kranz, they seemed mostly bothered that we were there, especially Deputy Mayor Shaffer, who suggested that we work with the traffic commissioner instead and that if we can get a parent (if we have one) who is an architect to draw up diagrams maybe that would help. They gave no basis for their decision and in my opinion their decision suggests that they care more about the safety of the children of Cardiff than the children of PEC (The “Leucadians” as we were called).

While I am hugely disappointed in their attitude and decision, I will not let that deter me and I hope that you won’t either. The fight is not over. If you have not signed the on-line petition, please, please sign it now. We plan to engage the greater PEC community, and will be out at the Farmer’s Market on Sundays for more signatures . If you would like to help with this effort, please let me know. If you want to know other ways to help, please contact me.

We are going to need the entire PEC community behind us on this. We will need to attend meetings, send emails and make our voices heard. It will be hard work, but it will be worth it, and our children deserve nothing less.


To sign the on-line petition, please go to

To contact a city council member:

Teresa Barth, Mayor:

Lisa Shaffer, Deputy Mayor:

Kristen Gaspar:

Tony Kranz:

Mark Muir:
We can't afford a one-time $100,000 for children's safety but we can afford an annual $130,000 plus pension for a new spin doctor for Gus Vina? Get a rope.

Animal Farm

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
                                                                    -George Orwell

Monday, June 10, 2013

Scariest Prop A Thinking

The council has communicated to the public the general idea that upzoning hasn't happened in the past without a public vote. The intention is clearly to make the public  believe there is no risk of future changes to our city without a public vote by the people. What happened our city's relative short history doesn't change the fact that the system allows for upzones to happen without a vote of the people. Further, then why be opposed to putting upzoning to a vote of the people  in a way that ensures that right can not be retracted or overridden by a future council by just 3 votes?

The Right to Vote people say that upzoning has happened without a vote of the people.  Many people don't trust the council now.

There is a real risk and the council and their handlers know the public wants the right to vote on the future of their city. That's why the No on Prop A campaign's tag line is "its not what it seems" or something like that. They have to make people believe that Prop A won't give the people the last word on upzoning. This is probably because a vast majority of the public wants the last word on upzoning. The council also knows this, that is why the council came up with an alternative plan. Unfortunately, their alternative plan does not protect the public from future exemptions, but it sure sounded good until you look at what it is missing in Barth's version. Their version is the one that is not what it seems.  After emails from me, Lisa has committed to closing that gaping loophole. After many emails from Tony has also capitulated to the need for closing the gap. That is only two council members and not a majority of the council.

 In the ballot statements, SIGNED by the entire council, they write:

THERE NEVER WERE, AND WILL NOT BE, APPROVED PLANS FOR 5-STORY BUILDINGS IN ENCINITAS. Major land use changes HAVE ALWAYS happened with a vote of the people and the Council is committed to codifying this practice.

 SANDAG has plans for mid rise buildings along El Camino Real. Those plans were construed in consultation with  Encinitas City Staff. Discussions of higher buildings in Encinitas during the general plan update process is what got many of the R2V people motivated to pass Prop A.

The big whopper is the the claim that there "will not be" approved plans for 5 story buildings. No council can command a future councils to do or not do something beyond their tenure, much less forever. None of council majority should have signed that argument and walked away feeling clean. You don't even have to know any history to know that something smelled bad about that statement. They went way too far with that one.

The RTV people have been pointing out that the downtown specific plans added many hundreds of new units to the downtown area and raised height limits from two stories to three stories without a vote of the people. This conflicts with the spirit of the council's statements (unless the council was trying to sneak around this by playing with their words carefully so that they purposefully give an incomplete impression to the less informed public. "Major" is the weasel word used in this case.)

The council has been called out on this. In an EU comment Tony Kranz seems to make a circular argument that none of this stuff was needed to make sure that major changes and clarifies his unfortunate definition of major land use change.

From Council Member Tony Kranz:

Prop A defines any upzoning as a major change, but the definition before was essentially this: if you couldn't get 4 out of 5 votes from the city council, it was major. I actually prefer having a more certain definition of what's major, as well as requiring a vote on any upzoning. That's why I voted to remove the 4/5ths exception.

In Tony's view "major" was whatever the council decided it was? Major land use change had nothing to do with the land use change being proposed and instead it was based on how many council members would vote for it? That's how they defined major land use change when they wrote the argument?  Is this what the council said during deliberations (I don't think so)? Tony's statement looks much more like an after the fact attempt to find a way to justify the statement.

What do Lisa and Teresa have to say about this? Is it worse that they haven't defended these statements (to my knowledge).

Tony also points out that Prop A does defines major, as upzoning, period. He doesn't address the fact that his statement was made in the context of Prop A. Shouldn't they have been using the same definitions Prop A when making arguments about Prop A? Wouldn't it be misleading to have different definitions being used without telling the public this?

I know that at least one council member thought upzoning had not happened AT ALL without a vote. This person did not purposefully lie or weasel. The action was enabled by a deficiency of effort to check staff and willingness to go along with a much stronger argument against Prop A that sounded good.

I have almost no time to write or review any of this, but the circular logic takes no time to figure out. It was so obvious and strong I got a couple emails about it.  Do your own fact checking, questioning of council, and post responses to  comments section (I'm hoping that WC can follow up if I can't get to it).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Urban problems

101 just south of La Costa:

(photos of vandalism removed so as not to encourage our legally-challenged friends)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Reason: Why New Urbanism doesn't work

Reason Magazine has a timely article on exactly the kind of high-density development that urban elitists are trying to force on Encinitas.
New Urbanists such as Kunstler push for the recreation of the old city model – people living in high rises and apartment buildings, relying on mass transit to get around and shopping at local stores filled with goods produced in the surrounding area. While they make some good aesthetic points, they are elitists who believe we should all live in ways that they prefer.

It’s easy to chuckle at them, as they seize on every crisis (housing bubbles, rising gas prices, etc.) to warn about the coming doom, much like those doomsday preachers who are sure that the latest event is a signal that the world is coming to an end.

But while most of us think only about short-term real estate issues, these ideologues have been changing the laws and building codes to mandate their long-term vision. Given the enormity of suburbia, it’s hard to see the impact of this wide-ranging policy change. But pay attention to debates over new construction, and look at the requirements for higher densities, small or nonexistent yards, construction around transit and other common building mandates. They are designed to make the common form of suburbia obsolete.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

City e-mail shows staff viewed Prop A as no problem with Coastal Commission

Well, this is kinda inconvenient for a council that told us the Coastal Commission would rain down hellfire upon Proposition A.

E-mail here.

And judging from the header, it looks like the whistle-blower was in the Coastal Commission office, not the city office. Which would kinda lend credence to former Coastal Commission Chair Sara Wan's opinion that the council was full of BS.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

ADDENDUM: They had a whole conference call with the CCC on May 15th, and then followed up with the e-mail two weeks later. It is clear that city staff were trying pretty hard to get the CCC to tell them Prop A had a CCC problem. And given that we never heard about this discussion from the city, it's clear they did not get the answer they were looking for.

Who killed Rossini Creek?

UPDATE: City response here. They claim there's no blockage, but they show a significant trickle flowing into the Hall Park. Where's the water coming out the other end?

UPDATE: A city source sends this photo taken June 7 of the outflow from the Hall Park area.

Our city source adds:
Good flow in the creek for how dry it's been. Nice visit with people that have lived with the creek for decades and say they don't know what the fuss is about, other than a festering wound from a controversial park.

Fortify your comments with source links

In Monday night's comments, someone got into an argument with an alleged drunk and/or illiterate teenage offspring of a current or former politician.

"Anonymous" asserted several facts, which the daoitooacofp dismissed with name-calling and "you lack the most important word of all PROOF."

One of the great things about the internet is how easy it is to look up facts and get PROOF. It will buttress your argument tremendously to include links to source material such as city records, council video, and newspaper interviews quoting public officials. In a pinch, you can even link to past blog posts.

An elegant and highly under-utilized way to include links in blog comments is explained here:

It's really quick and easy once you get the hang of it. Feel free to practice in the comments on this post.

Not that this will help convince the daoitooacofp.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Taxpayer funds buying political support for No on A?

From the inbox:
ENCINITAS CITY COUNCIL ---- Using Power on City Business Associations?

Money talks?

While the City Council is determined to defeat Prop A, the Right to Vote Initiative, should they ask that the city business associations take a position on Prop A?

Encinitas has four city business associations and three of them currently receive taxpayer funded support in the total amount of $70,000 from the City Council. The Chamber of Commerce hasn’t received city support money for the last 3 or 4 years. At one time the Chamber had received up to $90,000 a year. According to the Chamber representative, the Chamber has a debt that should be paid off by October.

At the March 27, 2013 Council meeting the associations, which are the Downtown Encinitas Merchants Association (DEMA), Leucadia101, Cardiff 101, and the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce presented a report on their accomplishments. It was agenda item #4.

It was at the end of the presentation that Councilman Mark Muir, the retired fire chief, asked a question of the representatives that was completely unrelated to the agenda item.

Approximately 1:31:47 into the video of the meeting, Councilman Muir asks the representatives – Have you taken a position on a vote on the initiative coming up is the first question and second if you haven’t are you going to?

Each association representative goes to the microphone and answers Councilman Muir’s question that it will be discussed at the board meeting.

The Downtown Encinitas Merchants Association (DEMA) receives $20,000. Cardiff101 receives $20,000. Leucadia101 receives $30,000. On the May 22 Council meeting was a funding request for the Council to give $20,000 to the Chamber of Commerce. This vote was delayed.

With the exception of the Cardiff101 association, the other three boards, DEMA, Leucadia101, and the Chamber of Commerce voted to support the City Council’s No on A position.
The city's incestuous relationship with the associations does raise eyebrows and creates the opportunity for, and the appearance of, corruption. City funds should not go to private business groups in the first place.

And Councilman Muir's crass, stupid questioning of the associations about their positions on Prop A during the discussion of their receiving city funds adds a lot of weight to the appearance of corruption.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Heights Under Encinitas Prop A

Here is Ehler's explanation of the height issue:

HEIGHT EXPLANATION                                                                                                                         
(italics are quoted directly from Proposition or code)

Proposition A’s wording says “6.1 Maximum Heightno building or structure shall exceed (emphasis added) a maximum height of two stories or 30 feet.”  It does not delete or reset the definitions of the other lower height limits whether for residential, accessory structures or steep slop lots.  It only supersedes sections of code it is in conflict with.  The initiative wording does not conflict with those other sections defining lower height limits for residential units, accessory units or residences in >10% sloped lots.  It therefore does not supersede them.  

The current General Plan height policy is POLICY 7.10.  It reads “Both residential and non-residential development shall be limited to a maximum height of two stories and 30 feet.”  The wording of the existing General Plan and Proposition A intentionally have very similar wording limiting height to a maximum height of two stories and/or 30 feet. 

The claim by our opponents that the initiative’s wording is ambiguous yet the General Plan’s similar wording is not ambiguous or conflicting does not make sense.  We believe the wording is clear that “no building or structure shall exceed a maximum height of two stories or 30 feet.”  How much clearer could it be?  

Opponents claim Proposition A’s definition conflicts with the lower height definitions in the residential, accessory and >10% sloped lot code sections and therefore supersedes them.  Each of the height definitions from these sections is quoted below.  Decide for yourself if they are in conflict.  We believe it is clear and doesn’t conflict with either the General Plan or Proposition A definitions. 

Residential height is defined in section 30.16.010B6.  It reads “B.  ALL RESIDENTIAL ZONES … The standard height limit shall be the lesser of two stories or the following height … 26 ft  … 22 ft … ”    This wording is not in conflict with the existing GP height policy and it does not exceed the initiative’s maximum height.  It therefore is not in conflict and is not superseded by the initiative.

Accessory unit height is defined in section 30.16.010E3.   “Said accessory unit structure shall be limited to one story and 12 feet in height.” Again this does not conflict with the initiative wording and therefore stands.

Residential units on greater than 10% slope lots are defined in section 30.16.010B6a(1).  It reads “On lots in R-3 to R-25 zones with greater than ten (10) percent slope, the building height on the uphill side of the lot shall not exceed twelve (12) feet above the crown of the right of way.”  This too does not conflict with the initiative’s wording.  Since it does not conflict, it stands and the lower limit stays in force.

The current General Plan and zoning code treats each of these height limits separately and distinctly.  By state law, the Municipal Code (which includes the zoning and height code) cannot be in conflict and must be consistent with the General Plan (our City’s “constitution.”)  Therefore today, the General Plan and zoning code height definitions are not in conflict.  Today no one is saying the General Plan limit should be applied everywhere.  The initiative wording does not change this treatment and leaves each unique lower height definition unchanged.  

The initiative only puts a maximum height above which no building or structure can exceed.  To exceed 30 feet / two stories would require a further vote of the people to modify both the initiative’s maximum and other zoning provisions defining other currently applicable height limits.

KMC notes: I had delayed  many times calling together the Encinitas Project (Wagner and I organized the first meeting). We delayed because I was deeply uncomfortable with the very mixed signals that Barth was giving regarding being involved in any grassroots policy development. In the end, she successfully avoided meaningful participation. When Wagner and I finally called the Encinitas Project together  we proposed a method for drafting initiatives.  That process included public meetings and consultations with staff and council. The successors of the Encinitas Project did not adopt that route. It opened the door for the city council to do what they have done, which was predicted. I recommend an open drafting processing next time.

It was also dumb to include a provision in Prop A that directly impacts the specific plan areas by FUNCTIONALLY lowering some sites' max height, because it allows for the issue to be muddied. More on that later.

The council allowed for ambiguity on height to expand during their review of Prop A. They say heights "could" be raised in residential zones. Some  council members say a judge has to decide. That is incomplete. First, the city has to decide how the statute will be constructed, distinctly before any judge could weight in. Why didn't they decide that before the election so that the public would know how it will be interpreted by the city? They should have. It was not fair play to not have done so. A judge couldn't be involved until AFTER the city implements Prop A. Importantly,  if it did go to court after passing and if it was ambiguous then how is the court going to decide what the voters wanted?

I had to get a crash course in statutory construction when I was on the SANDAG transnet oversight board, with the help of a couple local attorneys. Based on what I learned then, a  judge is certainly going to look at what is in the sample ballot & voter information pamphlet, if she is going to decide what prop a means.

By having to work though the TransNet ordinance I learned how important it is for the goals of each section to be specified in the ordinance itself. The drafters of the RtV initiative did not do that enough.  Their response on this particular situation is that the plain language is obvious to anyone familiar with planning law. Well, the voters are voting on this, not planners.

The council also holds a big share of responsibility for any ambiguity if the plain language is not enough. How is that? If the council had wanted to work on clarifying the interpretation they could have, by stating how they would execute Prop A upon its passage. They could have worked on that more but it probably did not occur to them (a majority) because they were not in favor of the spirit of prop A anyways and staff had procured a report that kicked up dust rather than being illuminating on this subject. Instead, they helped crack the door open on the ambiguity. I believe that was done as part of the effort to defeat Prop A, and its genesis was not impartial.

It was a good cover for the Mayor. It helped the Mayor avoid having to tell the public that she really doesn't support giving the people the right to vote on upzoning, protected with voter approval and locking out new exceptions (I'lll be publishing her direct statement in the next day or so).

The right to vote people teed this up and the council swung at it. It is a sideshow compared to the meat of the important public policy judgements that the Mayor had tried to hide from. Should the council have the last vote on upzoning or should the voters?

Saturday, June 1, 2013