Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Vibrant Christmas!

Fairytale of New York has long been one of our favorite Christmas songs.

But in recent years, it has become particularly appropriate for Encinitas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

BREAKING: SWAT raid in Olivenhain

Happening now, on Rancho Encinitas Drive off Lone Jack.

Loud bangs heard, white plume (tear gas?) seen rising from house.

6:50 AM: "Ghetto bird still circling."

7:40 AM: All over now. Still no coverage on local news sites.

The commotion appears to be at or near 1507 Rancho Encinitas, which has multiple online business listings including "Aae Retreat" drug rehab and senior care assisted living.

UPDATE: NBC 7 has the story with video:
Multiple agencies are executing a search warrant at what one officer called a "drug house" in an affluent Encinitas neighborhood near the coast.

The officers arrived shortly before 9 a.m. [wrong, obviously] on Rancho Encinitas Drive where residents had deployed a non-lethal chemical agent after hearing the officers outside the house. Several people were handcuffed and escorted out of the house later.

Nick Backouris, with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, said officials had received multiple complaints about the 4,000 sq. ft. home over the past several years and the home has been a headache for the community. He had said at a brief press conference earlier that they had a warrant for some drug and some gang activity.
And this:
Homeowner Anastasia, one of the arrested, was charged with furnishing a home under the use of narcotics.
There's actually a law against that? They caught her bringing in a La-Z-Boy and throw rug while high?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Rudloff and Vina gave away city's right to clean 10-year extension of Little League fields lease at Ecke YMCA

Former Mayor Jerome Stocks writing in the San Diego Reader:
The Ecke family donated the land to the YMCA for the benefit of Encinitas youth back in the 1980s, and in 1989 the then-nascent city of Encinitas entered into a 25-year lease with the YMCA.

The YMCA didn’t have the money to build the facilities, and the city didn’t have the money to buy the land, so a deal was struck. The city agreed to build three or four baseball fields which could also accommodate at least two soccer fields, plus a snack shack, and equipment storage areas.

In return for constructing and maintaining those amenities, the city would have the right to program those fields to suit public demand including Encinitas Little League, Encinitas Soccer League, and what became up to seven other user groups.

The lease payments for the five acres of prime real estate less than a mile from the beach was a whopping $25 for 25 years. Yep, a buck a year for 25 years. Do the math, the 25 years was up in 2014.

But the lease also had a ten-year option that the city could exercise at its discretion at the end of the original 25-year lease. But for some reason that no one will fess up to, they threw that away.
That last part, if true, is a stunner. The fiasco was bad enough when the city council rubber-stamped the 30-day termination clause without discussion. But that was assuming that the Y had bargaining leverage and wouldn't have agreed to an extension without such a clause. If the city actually had the option to renew the lease cleanly for 10 years and didn't, something extremely nefarious appears to be afoot. That would mean the city's negotiators actively worked with the YMCA to steal an asset from Encinitas and its kids right under the noses of an oblivious city council.

Do you think those folks up north who are about to hire Gus Vina know about this whole episode?

The Ecke YMCA is a respected community organization. Perhaps the public blowback they've gotten will persuade them to do the right thing and amend the agreement to take out the termination clause.

UPDATE: It's true! The city had an absolute option for a 10-year clean renewal, which Parks Director Lisa Rudloff and City Manager Gus Vina amended away with the council's apparently unwitting approval.

Both Encinitas Undercover and the Union-Tribune's Logan Jenkins had completely missed this bombshell. Jenkins wrote, "The conventional wisdom appears to be that the YMCA held the trump card. No sudden-death clause, no extension. The city had to agree to Draconian terms." Which is now clearly not the case.

If this city council truly believes in "transparency" and "open government," there will be a full, public investigation into who was involved in adding the termination clause added and why, and how City Manager Vina and Mayor Barth agreed that this should go on the consent calendar and avoid public discussion.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12/17/14 City Council meeting open thread

The current city council has continued prior councils' practice of not providing written summary minutes of council discussion, but only "action minutes" which state the outcomes. Encinitas Undercover will provide a forum for observers to record what occurs at each council meeting.

Please use the comments to record your observations.

Item of interest tonight:

- How much of a slap in the face of the council is it that Gus Vina refused to even give them the contractually required 90-day notice?  How do the council members feel now about spending the past two years on Vina's "visioning" exercises and unanimously rating Vina's job performance as "excellent?" 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Geminid meteor shower tonight

In the nighttime hours of Dec. 13, the streaking glow of falling stars will ignite across darkened skies, giving stargazers a glimpse of one of the most active meteor showers of the year: the Geminid Meteor Shower.

It is set to peak on Saturday night into the predawn hours of Sunday morning, and is considered to be one of the most consistently active meteor showers

Phantom of the Kook

Brentwood, CA seeking city manager

Brentwood, California:
Brentwood is a city in Contra Costa County, California, United States. It is located in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. The population is 51,481 as of 2010, an increase of 121 percent from 23,302 at the 2000 census.

Brentwood began as a farming community in the late 19th century, and still is known throughout the Bay Area for its agricultural products, primarily its cherries, corn and peaches. Due to urban sprawl many of the old farms and orchards have been replaced by suburban developments since 1990. Brentwood is increasingly residential, with the rate of population growth in the triple digits during the 1990s and 69% from 2000 through 2005.
City manager Paul Eldridge resigned in June to take a $270,000 job managing Union City's sanitation district. The interim manager is Steven Salomon. Brentwood is currently undergoing its Housing Element update.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12/10/2014 City Council meeting open thread

The current city council has continued prior councils' practice of not providing written summary minutes of council discussion, but only "action minutes" which state the outcomes. Encinitas Undercover will provide a forum for observers to record what occurs at each council meeting.

Please use the comments to record your observations.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Vina out!

Seaside Courier:
Encinitas City Manager Gus Vina has resigned, Seaside Courier learned late Monday. Reliable sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Vina informed City Council earlier Monday of his plans to resign.

Vina has been accused of messing up a number of Council requests. Most recently, some Council members, including Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer, said they felt blindsided by his report in September that tax-free bonds could not be used to finance the city’s $10-million purchase of the abandoned Pacific View Elementary School site—driving up the total cost of the deal to more than $20 million over 30 years.
From "Excellent" to out in a year and a half? What changed?

We thought only 28 obstructionists thought Vina was doing a bad job. Does the council owe them an apology?

Hat tip to Jim the Realtor!

Happy 16th Birthday Corie Kook

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Al Rodbell reviews Tony Kranz's Housing Element meeting

At Focus on Encinitas:

This is a report on Tony Kranz' meeting last night on this issue at the libray. Tony was honest, beginning by saying he didn't have all the answers. Unfortunately, as his goal was to provide information, his lack of a fundamental understanding of the key issue, whether the "affordable" housing that is the promise of the entire project is real or a fraud, was something he admitted not knowing.

Several members of the audience stated that the planning director Jeff Murphy had said that the chance of these higher density apartments going to the poor* is zero. With any research at all Tony would have discovered this article The Multi-Family Myth, that explains that however the state has defined terms, and then dictated new zoning, they will not increase availability of housing for low income people at all in wealthy cities such as Encinitas.

Tony got caught up by the word "affordable," and said the premise of this law could be true depending on what it means. The word happens to be euphemism for poor, those with little income - yet the actual word is ambiguous by intent. In a free market, which these high density residences will be, everything that is purchased is by definition affordable -that is to those who purchase it such as every multimillion home in Rancho Santa Fe. The term has evolved, along with other euphemisms, under the guise of being kind to those who are destitute without any appreciation how such imprecision of language leads not only an elected city official, but the voters, to be universally confused about a major redefinition of their city. Worse, it allows those developers who are among the wealthy to get richer under the cruel illusion that they are helping the poor. And our friend Tony seems oblivious to this!

Complete Communities is the new Smart Growth

In June, we wrote, "Complete Neighborhoods is the new Smart Growth," as central planners struggled to come up with a catchy marketing phrase for the highly unpopular high-density development they want to force on neighborhoods.

Now the Union-Tribune is on the case.
Some local urban planners and developers, always on the hunt for a new catchphrase, say they have largely failed to tell the public what’s ahead as San Diego enters an increasingly urbanized future.

“It was instructive to me about how we are perhaps not communicating with the average person,” said Joe LaCava, one of the panelists at an Urban Land Institute breakfast Nov. 18, recalling the feeling after one explosive neighborhood meeting earlier this year.

The group toyed with the latest buzzword, “complete communities,” as a new way to communicate what they’re up to. The phrase is meant to entice the public to accept growth by offering a higher quality of life that’s free of congestion, full of housing they can afford and close to shopping, recreation and workplaces.

Previous slogans have apparently fallen flat: smart growth, city of villages, transit-oriented development.
Maybe it's the product, not the marketing?  If we wanted to live in the big city, we would have moved to the big city.

Dueling density meetings open thread

Tony Kranz's meeting on the Housing Element Update and the Olivenhain Town Council meeting were both held last night. Olivenhain had a presentation from Jeff Murphy on the HEU, and residents did not seem receptive.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Encinitas attorney Carl Dimeff sole beneficiary of wealthy elderly client's change of trust

U-T Watchdog:
Four prominent nonprofit charities — UNICEF, the NPR Foundation, Doctors Without Borders and the San Diego Research Foundation — are suing to invalidate a trust [Siv] Ljungwe created in 2008, which left all her money to Encinitas lawyer Carl Dimeff.

The charities contend that Ljungwe was mentally ill when she signed off on the trust, suffering from delusions and infatuated with Dimeff, whom she had met four years earlier by stopping in at his storefront law office.

They say that Ljungwe long wanted her fortune to be distributed to the four charities — each getting an equal 25 percent. Those were the terms under a trust that was set up in 2004 and that the disputed trust of 2008 wiped out.

At the core of the challenge from the charities is a claim that Dimeff cultivated an improper relationship with Ljungwe, capitalizing on her fixations on him and her mental illness to redirect the fortune to him.

Dimeff declined to comment.
Dimeff's office is listed in the old Bank of Dalager building on 101.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Logan Jenkins: "Council members appear to have been snoozing as they rubber-stamped" Ecke YMCA baseball fields contract

A raspberry — the Say It Ain’t So award — to both the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA and the city of Encinitas for quietly poisoning the future of the coastal community’s ancestral baseball fields.

The YMCA and the city appear to be playing mutual moneyball. Now it’s time for youth baseball boosters to play hardball.

In negotiating what was assumed to be a pro forma 10-year extension of a 25-year lease agreement on fields used by Encinitas Little League for more than a half-century, the city bent over, selling out the League and, to compound the damage, not sending up a red flag to say they’d done so. (City Council members appear to have been snoozing as they rubber-stamped the contract.)
One gets the distinct impression that Jenkins is beginning to perceive City Manager Gus Vina as Encinitas council watchers long have: that he manipulates the befuddled council by limiting and distorting (or in this case, glossing over) the information they receive.

Vina has, yet again, quite publicly embarrassed the council and poorly served the public.  Will the council show any backbone in his performance review next month?

UPDATE: It's much worse! The city had the option to renew for 10 years without a termination clause and gave it away without public discussion!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Kranz offers open dialogue on Housing Element Update

Residents have expressed concern about many aspects of the city's public outreach on the Housing Element Update: staff's pre-determined upzoning sites, the invite-only Upzoning for Fun and Profit party, the poorly-attended city workshops, the extremely dubious Peak Democracy survey site.

Council Member Tony Kranz has heard those concerns and is hosting a public forum to discuss the Housing Element Update.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Does GOP = BIA?

One of the big tests of the current city council will be its response to the Building Industry Association lawsuit over the city's implementation of state density bonus laws.

Earlier this year, the council belatedly responded to public pressure over staff's interpretation of density bonus laws, which residents felt had been overly and unnecessarily generous to developers. The council unanimously supported residents' positions on most of the issues.

The developer lobbying group BIA responded with a lawsuit.
The Building Industry Association of San Diego County is suing the city of Encinitas over recently approved changes to city development regulations, and the battle is expected to move into the courtroom in early 2015.

“We feel (city officials) are in violation of state law — all we’re asking is they adhere to state law,” Michael McSweeney, the association’s senior public policy adviser, said Tuesday as he discussed the lawsuit.
Community character advocates believe that the city is now implementing density bonus in accordance with state law and in the same manner other cities do.  If so, the lawsuit is on very flimsy legal ground and is intended to bully the city council into a settlement.  But then the city doesn't exactly have top-notch legal advice.

The BIA's Michael McSweeney is also on the Executive Committee of the county Republican Party that endorsed and supported Mayor Kristin Gaspar... which gives us a nice little laboratory experiment in a controlled environment. Will Gaspar reverse her earlier position on density bonus? Will she vote any differently on a possible settlement with BIA than her non-GOP colleagues?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Team Austin Bice Kook

Austin Bice was a San Diego State student from Carlsbad who died while on exchange in Madrid in 2011.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Public surprised to learn contract extension puts Ecke YMCA ball fields at risk

Encinitas resident and former coach Joe Corder said he recently learned that a clause in the city’s new contract with the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA means the Y could yank the Little League’s use of the fields with only 30 days’ notice.

City Manager Gus Vina confirmed the clause was added, but said it doesn’t mean the youth team will lose access to the fields anytime soon. The YMCA has only just started on what’s expected to be a 2½-year master planning process for the area, Vina said.

The organization has launched the planning process to explore ways to “expand and renovate” the YMCA, which is next to the playing fields area on Saxony Road, Ecke YMCA Executive Director Susan Hight said in a Nov. 7 letter to the city.

While the work is still in the early design phase, the letter said the agency anticipates the renovation/expansion project could ultimately “impact one or more of the ballfields.”

At Wednesday’s council meeting, Corder said, “This means goodbye to the Ecke fields.”
It's the YMCA's property; they can do with it what they want. But this seems like a matter of enough importance that the city should have brought it to the public's attention.

UPDATE: It's much worse! The city had the option to renew for 10 years without a termination clause and gave it away without public discussion!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sore loser in SDUHSD election Barbara Groth goes off on bitter rant against successors

Read all about it at Del Mar Times.

Groth grew up in Cardiff, but married a doctor and now lives in Rancho Santa Fe.

Stay classy, Encinitas. Honey Boo-Boo on the Pacific.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

11/19/14 City Council meeting open thread

The current city council has continued prior councils' practice of not providing written summary minutes of council discussion, but only "action minutes" which state the outcomes. Encinitas Undercover will provide a forum for observers to record what occurs at each council meeting.

Please use the comments to record your observations.

Beer Pong Kook

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Where are the plans for parking in the council's new high-density utopia?

From the Inbox:
Hi WC,

A friend saw this article in the SD Reader about high-density development and the lack of adequate associated parking.

As we know from existing and proposed high-density projects here in Encinitas, the City likes to keep the developer safe from any responsibility for increased traffic impacts from the overly dense construction. This tendency will surely continue if the Housing Element Update goes through, only this time to the tune of 1,300 densely-built units. Note that in all the cutesy, folksy, "visioning" artist's renderings of the upzoning the City wants to shove down our throats, cars are oddly absent from the images....

This comment from the Reader article struck me:

"...these residential developments are all less than ten years old; it should have been safe for the new residents to assume that the issue of adequate parking was addressed before construction was allowed to proceed (bold emphasis mine)."
Wouldn't a well-managed city be addressing traffic and parking infrastructure before approving high-density upzoning?  Why is the Housing Element being addressed as a standalone rather than integrated with traffic circulation and parking?

Monday, November 17, 2014

World Diabetes Day Kook

Friday was World Diabetes Day.

You can make a tax-deductible contribution in honor of the Cardiff Kook here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Housing Element Update meetings open thread

By request:
WC it might be time for new thread on the housing element update that is taking place in our five distinct communities. After seeing the one at the Enc. library, it is not so strange to see the exact 95 parcels that mikey somehow? had access to for his meeting recently that gaspar attended.

If there is a difference between what is now being proposed by Planning and what we were presented with the norby run ERAC debacle of a couple of years, I would love to hear about it.
Who has been? Anything new from the city or the same old same old? There are three more meetings this week in case you think your opinion will matter.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Leucadia's Buffalo Fork house just went pending at $1.225 million, or $694 per square foot.

Game on!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

11/12/14 City Council meeting open thread

The current city council has continued prior councils' practice of not providing written summary minutes of council discussion, but only "action minutes" which state the outcomes. Encinitas Undercover will provide a forum for observers to record what occurs at each council meeting.

Items of interest on the agenda:

- Closed session performance review of His Excellence Gus Vina and city attorney Glenn Sabine.  Closed session by choice, not a requirement.  Would the fawning praise be too cringeworthy for public consumption?

- Street standards

Please use the comments to record your observations.

Douchy Encinitas guy seen driving pregnant girlfriend and child in Mercedes Benz to beg in Chula Vista


ABC7 News:
A pregnant woman and her young son seen begging for money in a San Diego shopping center parking lot were caught driving off in a Mercedes-Benz.

Melissa Smith told sister station KGTV she saw the panhandler and her son at Eastlake Village Center every weekend for two months. The woman's boyfriend would join them on the weekend, she said.

"I felt bad. There's a pregnant lady with a little boy who is down on her luck," Smith said.

The woman would hold a cardboard sign that said "please help," and plenty of people did.

"Lots of people gave them money. Probably five people in five minutes gave them money," Smith said.


That license plate number led to an Encinitas apartment complex called Encinitas Heights Apartments. Residents said rent is $2,500 a month.

The resident of the Encinitas home responded to KGTV's requests for comment, but said she had just moved in. The couple living there before had recently picked up and left.

Nice hat.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Is there an anti-New Encinitas bias on the council?

A new blog from New Encinitas, "Encinitas Report," feels short-changed by the council's expensive purchase of Pacific View for an arts center when the city already has a long-vacant place for an arts center on El Camino Real:
Lisa Shaffer, during her original campaign for city council, stated:
"The City has rights to a parcel in the Encinitas Ranch Town Center for a theater and other community uses, as defined in the Encinitas Ranch Specific Plan. Council expressed interest in looking for ways to put that space (now vacant and weed-filled) to use as soon as possible, and to explore concepts such as an open-air theater shell and a farmer’s market. I agree with the observation by Mayor Barth that New Encinitas deserves more public spaces and that this vacant lot should be used for the community."
Apparently, during her two years in office since then, Lisa has forgotten that "New Encinitas deserves more public spaces" and decided instead to mortgage the city's future on an asbestos laden elementary school in an effort to beholden herself to the nearby wealthy homeowners who do not want the parcel developed. On top of that, those residents get more city [debt financed] investment into an arts center that they can walk to, all at the expense of the other 61,000 Encinitas residents. GLAD TO CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE!
Well, the three council members who voted for the Pacific View purchase are all from coastal Encinitas: Leucadia, Old Encinitas, and Cardiff.  The two who voted no are both from New Encinitas. Coincidence?  You make the call.

Incoming council member Catherine Blakespear is also from Cardiff and will preserve the coastal majority, so don't expect that El Camino arts center any time soon.

But we kid.  Of course everyone in the (coastal, ocean view) City Hall loves New Encinitas.  You know what kind of revenues Home Depot and Wal-Mart bring in?

Moonshot Mike loses election, wins soda tax; Peak Democracy wants (and gets) Al Rodbell's opinion

Moonshot Mike Cohen, the eccentric Berkeley politician who sold his Peak Democracy blog service to Encinitas, appears to have lost his bid for a Berkeley council seat.  Some small consolation may be that the soda tax he endorsed has passed.  Yes, having long been known as a focal point of free speech and civil liberties, Berkeley is now concerned with telling people what (not) to drink.

Meanwhile, Mike's blog service has run into some trouble in Encinitas, mainly in that is has been exposed as a complete joke and rife with potential for fraud and abuse.  But a little thing like that would never stop our city leaders from charging full speed ahead.

Take it away, Al Rodbell.  Way away.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Who are all these people moving to Encinitas?

We've asked before where, with declining birthrates and net domestic migration out of California, is all this population growth that SANDAG is using to force high-density development on Encinitas?  While foreign immigration could explain part of the conundrum, Encinitas doesn't have the wealthy Chinese buyers that Carmel Valley's excellent schools bring, and our high cost of living doesn't attract large numbers of poor, illegal immigrants.

So who are all these people moving to Encinitas?  A new resource using IRS data gives some great insight.  How Money Walks tracks the relocation of taxpayers. It is weighted by Adjusted Gross Income, so counts professionals and the upper middle class much more than the working poor or the retired. Here's the map of taxpayers moving by state.  Red is taxpayers leaving a state, and green is taxpayers moving into a state, with the magnitude represented by the hue.

Here's the California trend, and where California taxpayers are moving from and to:

California taxpayers are leaving for Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Oregon, and Washington, which overwhelms the immigrants from the Northeast and Midwest.  So the question remains, where is all this population growth?  But when we look at county-level data, we begin to understand.

San Diego County is actually a net importer of taxpayers, due to people moving here from Los Angeles and Orange County. With Encinitas being one of the more desirable and expensive places to live in San Diego County, it's safe to say the pattern holds here, too. So the next time you feel like complaining about crowds and traffic, just know that bringing high-density development to Encinitas is helping the wealthy of Los Angeles and Orange County escape the even worse crowds and traffic there.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Election post-mortem

This was written September 1, but embargoed until November 5.

Well, that wasn't much of a surprise.

- Prop F (medical marijuana dispensaries) went down to a landslide defeat.  While everybody wants the sick to have access to the medicine they need, nobody wants dispensaries and the perceived associated unsavory characters in our own neighborhood.  How about next time, Encinitas gets to vote on whether to put dispensaries in San Marcos?

- Gaspar won in a landslide, demonstrating the lasting damage that the Barth / Shaffer / Kranz gang have done to the Cardiff/Leucadia green coalition with their disastrous War on Prop A (and Desert Rose, and their failure to follow through on campaign promises about open government and fiscal responsibility).  Kranz struggled to even match his vote count from his losing 2010 council campaign.

- Blakespear won the council seat, having raised far more money and run a more professional campaign than Graboi.  The county GOP should be embarrassed that they couldn't find a more serious candidate than Bryan Ziegler to capitalize on the schism between the Barthists and the "community character" grassroots.

- Rep. Issa cruised comfortably to victory despite predictions from the left that he would be vulnerable.

UPDATE 11/5: So the only real surprise relative to that September 1 look was the lower turnout which made Kranz's vote total incomparable to the 2010 elections. Yes, he got fewer votes than in 2010, but Gaspar also got fewer votes this time than Kranz 2010. A better way to look at it would be by percentage, adjusted for the number of seats/votes per ballot. Kranz pulled 23% in 2010, which adjusted for the 2-seat / 2-vote election, is equivalent to 46%. His 32% this year is less than the seat-adjusted totals not only for his 2010 and 2012 results, but also for Jerome Stocks' and Dan Dalager's losing results.

The last-minute thwacking of Bryan Ziegler for Alan Lerchbacker was a complete waste of time, energy, and money.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

Barnyard robocall

Here's the robocall against Catherine Blakespear that everyone is talking about.

They don't say who produced it, but our guess is Lerchbacker supporters. Doesn't seem like a Graboi kind of move.

Leucadia Blog endorses Kranz, Blakespear, Prop F

On Tuesday November 4th 2014 I'm voting:

Tony Kranz for Mayor
Catherine Blakespear for city council

I've found both Kranz and Blakespear to be calm, intelligent, professional and reasonable people and Leucadia would do well to support them.

Also, I'm voting Yes on F

Sunday, November 2, 2014

How will our City Council slow, and adapt to, rising sea levels?

Council Member Lisa Shaffer's latest newsletter on council priorities for the coming term:
We still do not have an adequate focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation, especially with regard to sea level rise.
Mitigation is obviously preferable to adaptation. If the council can put in place city policies that will slow or stop global warming, adapting to its effects becomes less necessary. The city's approach to global warming up to this time has been to encourage "Smart Growth," putting high-density development near public transportation in the hopes that people will give up cars and ride buses and trains. This approach appears to be a failure so far, as Smart Growth projects like Pacific Station and the Moonlight Lofts appear to be populated not by Coaster-riding commuters but by wealthy out-of-towners who use them as vacation party pads (and obviously burn lots of fossil fuels coming and going from Orange County, Los Angeles, Arizona, and beyond).

But even if we built high-density units near public transportation at prices that working families could afford, what evidence is there that the new residents would give up cars and rely on public transportation? Is there any realistic chance that buses and trains will so efficiently and conveniently get these people everywhere they want to go that they will forgo cars? It seems to us that if the City Council is serious about climate change, and not just using it as an excuse to approve big development, it would work toward policies disallowing parking spaces and car ownership at any new high-density projects.

But if our City Council doesn't have the power or will to slow or stop global warming, how will we adapt to rising sea levels? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that mean sea levels are rising at 2 millimeters per year. If these trends continue, by the time our grandchildren are living in Temecula in 2064 and paying $50 to park at Moonlight Beach, the average sea level will be 2 inches higher. That's about the amount that the tide will rise over 15 minutes of incoming tide today. What will we need to do to adapt?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Encinitas edges out Yucca Valley for 44th place on list of best So Cal cities for young families

... according to NerdWallet.

The poor rating is largely due to high housing costs and only OK schools. rates Encinitas schools an 8, which is above average, but below what should be expected for a community of highly educated professionals and very high property values. Carlsbad crushes us at #19 thanks largely to a better school ranking.

While automated internet rankings like Nerdwallet's should obviously be taken with a huge grain of salt, it's undeniably true that the cost of living here puts Encinitas way out of reach for many middle-class young families.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

... from the Pumpkin King Kook!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A little background on where our City Manager learned the ropes

Stockton, California:
Beginning in the 1990s, the city and employee unions negotiated such high salaries and benefits that pay packages were more than 25% above what other cities were offering, said Kathy Miller, a Stockton city councilwoman.

Police and firefighters could retire at 50, while other city employees could retire at 55. All employees received free medical care in retirement with plans that didn’t require co-pays.

There were bonuses “for almost everything imaginable,” Miller had explained in a video she created in 2012 to explain why the city had been forced to seek bankruptcy protection. “If you drove the front of a fire truck, if you drove the back of a fire truck, if you got a degree or certificate, even if it was for something that had nothing to with your job.

“Stockton employees made pension spiking into an art form, using overtime and add pays in their final working years to secure much larger pensions for the rest of their lives.”
[Gus] Vina began working with the city of Sacramento as budget manager in July 1999, coming from the city of Stockton, where he had worked for a decade.
With a resume like that, it's no wonder our City Council was "giddy" to hire him!

Stockton, of course, isn't a highly desirable Southern California beach town, and so didn't have the option of getting out of its pension and debt problems via massive development. So we've got that going for us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Could Lerch actually win?

He's finally running a serious campaign, and with the conservative off-year electorate and the Democratic schism, could Alan Lerchbacker actually win the council seat?  What seemed impossible a month ago is now entering the realm of remote, but real, possibility.

Lerchbacker is lining up endorsements and running a serious advertising campaign.  If he'd started six months earlier and gotten involved in local issues, he'd likely be the favorite right now.

UPDATE: Brian Brady has some good vote breakdown analysis over at SDRostra.

Tony Kranz gets the job done for Encinitas

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Swap Meet!

Since many art center functions are specifically prohibited by Pacific View's zoning, our diligent council subcommittee has come up with another idea that will surely enhance the cultural and artistic life of Encinitas and add vibrancy to downtown: a swap meet!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Leichtag - Jewish Federation connection

Several commenters have made an issue of Tony Kranz having accepted a free $5000 trip to Israel from the Jewish Federation of San Diego, then having voted to allow the Leichtag Foundation to use its agriculturally-zoned land for non-agricultural general office use. The rule change likely saved Leichtag tens of thousands of dollars per year in commercial office space rental.

Without some connection between Leichtag and the Jewish Federation, this would be a non-story. One Jewish non-profit doesn't necessarily have anything to do with another.

However, it appears that Leichtag and the JF are quite interconnected. The Jewish Federation operates out of the offices of the Jewish Community Foundation San Diego at 4950 Murphy Canyon Road.  Essentially, the JF is the networking umbrella organization, while the JCF is the charitable fund.

The Leichtag Foundation is one of the primary funds listed as a part of the JCF.

The JCF has two staff members listed as working with Leichtag, one of whom is an executive there.

Obviously, laws regarding the improper financial influence of public officials are meaningless if gifts can be given to politicians from nominally separate, but clearly related, organizations, before a politician votes to give substantial financial benefits to a group.

We'd say Kranz should have disclosed and recused at the time of the Leichtag vote.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Shaffer flip-flops on Encinitas' financial health

In February of this year, we praised Council Member Lisa Shaffer for being the first city insider to admit that the city was in bad financial condition. Shaffer wrote at the time:
One issue I feel strongly about is pavement management - we have chronically underfunded road maintenance, and unfortunately, the draft CIP budget did not offer any improvements. We have been spending about $1.3 million/year and it would take about $2.8 million/year to maintain a constant quality level and prevent continued decline (which only leads to more expensive repairs later).
But now that it is election season and Kristin Gaspar has raised the same issue, Shaffer has done a complete 180. Shaffer's latest newsletter:
Despite the reality that there is more money than previously expected, Kristin Gaspar still claimed that we cannot afford Pacific View because we are underfunding "core services." It's just not true. We put more money into road maintenance than ever, fully funded our reserves, and have a healthy capital improvement fund.
"We put more money into road maintenance than ever." More money being the $2.8 million that you said in February was necessary to prevent continued decline? Or quite a bit less than that? We recall the final budget figure being $2.0 million, or less than half the necessary increase. Please correct us if we are wrong.

What's worse is the multi-year backlog of street safety improvements. As Al Rodbell pointed out in his recent resignation from the Traffic and Public Safety Commission, the city has many street safety improvement projects waiting to be done simply because of a lack of funds. Will children have to be killed before this city council makes it a priority to spend the necessary funds for neighborhood traffic calming and improvements at dangerous intersections?

And if Encinitas is in such fine financial shape, why did Shaffer and her friends try to hire propagandist Catherine Lew of Lew Edwards to push a sales tax increase?

Encinitas Beacon has more:
At this week's council meeting resident Mark Wisniewski dramatically highlighted Encinitas inability to maintain basic services. During a 3 minute address, he showed the pride of the communities he visited this summer, by showing photographs of well-tended public parks and gardens, he described as "community and civic pride" with "grounds cultivated and very few weeds".

With seriousness he showed a photo of Cottonwood Creek Park and the Veteran Memorial that he described as "barren soil and weeds" He showed a picture of the Memorial plaque that reads "the unfinished walls of the memorial represent the unfinished lives of those who perished in the line of duty" and his last photo showed a tattered and neglected flag flying over the memorial. He then donated a new flag to the city, so Encinitas might possess civic pride.

In her weekly newsletter council member Shaffer chose not to thank Mr. Wisniewski for his gift but to instead promote her endorsed candidates for office and to claim city finances are in good shape. While she is entitled to her opinions, the facts about the city's finances paint a different story.

Encinitas is $47 million behind in road repairs, and at this week's council meeting yet another resident asked the council when the city would fix his road. The city is $6 million behind in building maintenance and Mr. Wisniewski might find it of interest to know that money that might have been used to maintain the memorial was taken by Ms. Shaffer and Mr. Kranz to plug finance holes. Then there is the $7 million the council took from funded projects like rail crossings and open-space aquisitions with no plan to pay it back.
Funny what election season does to politicians' perspectives.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Former Councilman Dennis Holz endorses Cameron and Graboi

From the Inbox:
I saw that one or more newspapers listing contributions to the local candidates mentioned my name as a contributor to Tony Kranz for Mayor. The implication would be that I am supporting him. I am not. The contribution was made early on (to support anyone but Kristin Gaspar), before I knew Sheila Cameron was running.

I support Sheila Cameron for Mayor and Julie Graboi for Councilperson. I do so because they are the two who have clearly and publically stated their positions on the issues, and I know they will follow through.

I am concerned about the upcoming density increase in the proposed housing plan and the ongoing drunken public safety and nuisance activities in old Encinitas.

Based on the current Council’s opposition to Prop A (requiring a public vote on density increases) I cannot assume any will go to the wall to prevent overbuilding and thus traffic gridlock in our City (this includes Kranz).

While 2 councilmembers supported a downtown ordinance to govern the alcohol outlets’ participation in the destruction of downtown community character, Tony Kranz has failed to follow through on positions he took before his election. For those who support him for his work on Pacific View (I agree), he will still be on the council to head up the follow through whether he is mayor or not.

I acknowledge that Blakespear is an articulate person with a winning personality running on a feel good issue (urban agriculture). Unfortunately she has not taken a clear position on the hard issues: saying she will review staff information and make a decision at that time, to me is a slippery way to avoid commitment and public scrutiny. Of course, Lerchbacker and Gaspar’s pro-business guise is simply a cover for over-development and traffic gridlock.

Cameron and Graboi are clear about where they stand. They support the citizens and our quality of life, not based on general platitudes but by specific commitment to “yes or no statements” on the issues. Sheila has called for the removal of the City Attorney and Manager who are the hangover from the build or bust days of Stocks/Bond/Gaspar. The current City Administrative Power Structure does not support the ideology of the citizens or even the current council. Sheila’s position is critical to the change needed.

The City, with new creative intelligent administrative and legal leadership from within and the right council elected, can thread its way through the state imposed mandates to come up with a unique and appropriate response for our city, rather than simply caving in to the status quo.

I will vote for Cameron and Graboi.

Dennis Holz

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Republicans jump to early vote lead in Encinitas

Though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 35% to 32%, early voting in Encinitas shows that local Republicans are doing more early voting than Democrats.

1,039 Republicans have already voted, compared to 897 Democrats. 14.2% of Republicans who received absentee ballots have voted, compared to 11.5% of Democrats.

Are there any races close enough in Encinitas that turnout even matters? Could council candidate Alan Lerchbacker benefit from this? Have the Republican Party and the Lincoln Club and related groups even been supporting Lerchbacker with mailings?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10/22/14 City Council meeting open thread

The current city council has continued prior councils' practice of not providing written summary minutes of council discussion, but only "action minutes" which state the outcomes. Encinitas Undercover will provide a forum for observers to record what occurs at each council meeting.

Please use the comments to record your observations.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Developer attorney Marco Gonzalez calls high-density development opponents racists

... because nothing builds community and fosters civil dialogue like calling people who disagree with you racists.

Voice of San Diego:
Neighborhoods that line up against dense development projects are motivated by selfishness and closet racism, [Marco Gonzalez] said, at a panel discussion [VOSD columnist Andrew Keatts] hosted last week on dense housing as part of the San Diego Housing Federation’s annual conference.

“It’s an interesting backdrop to practice law after 17 years being the community activist guy,” he said, “when I have to turn to my former clients and activists and call bullshit. And yeah, we use those terms because, frankly, when you get out of the public sphere, and you listen to what these people are saying, what they’re saying is, ‘I got mine, I have no responsibility to provide for them.’ And when the lights are really low, and the groups are really small, it’s, ‘Don’t bring the brown people here, don’t let the poor people in, let’s build a big gate around our little castle, because it’s really nice and pretty and we don’t want them to mess it up.’ And that’s what I’m fighting.”
Does Gonzalez actually go to meetings of really small groups with the lights really low where people actually say "Don't bring the brown people here?" Or is he just completely making the whole thing up? Neither alternative is flattering.

More Marco:
It is that, the “community character” argument is the most powerful sword being thrown up by communities who really don’t want brown people, who really don’t want poor people, who really don’t want to see a development come into their neighborhood because they’ve got theirs, and they don’t care if someone else can’t get the same thing. They don’t want old people to have a place to retire, they don’t want young people to have a place to live near the coast, and they simply say, ‘Wait, I can argue this nebulous concept of community character, and in certain circumstances our elected officials… become weathervanes and not compasses.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Encinitas' Peak Democracy site is chock full o' fictional TV and movie characters

Earlier this week we brought you the story of how flimsy and vulnerable to manipulation the city's new "public input" vehicle, Peak Democracy, is.  Encinitas council members names were showing up as verified Vallejo residents offering their opinions on Vallejo's Peak Democracy site.

But the abuse isn't limited to the Vallejo site.  Here on Encinitas' Peak Democracy site, we found some unusual characters.

Here's Old Encinitas resident Derek Smalls saying, "Thank you to Teresa Barth, Tony Kranz, and Lisa Shaffer for purchasing Pacific View!  What a jewel!"

We couldn't find any Encinitas listing for Derek Smalls, but it does happen to be the name of the bass player from Spinal Tap.

Here's James Darmody from New Encinitas, who writes, "I would like to thank our excellent city council, particularly Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz, for having the foresight to see that Pacific View can be a tremendous arts cent and a legacy for our children."

We were unable to locate Mr. Darmody of Encinitas; however, that is the name of a character in Boardwalk Empire.

Other fictional characters pop up without praising the council.  Here's "Arthur Vandelay," a running pseudonym gag from Seinfeld.

And here's Vernon Wormer, the Dean from Animal House, suggesting that Encinitas purchase antiquities from Greece, Italy and Egypt.

Any comment on this, Dean Wormer?

True, Dean Wormer, but it's good enough for Encinitas!

If it weren't so serious that Encinitas is actually going to use this tool as the primary vehicle for public input on the housing element update, it would be funny.

Peak Democracy: what a great tool for manipulating collecting public opinion!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Peak Idiocracy: verified Vallejo residents weigh in on Vallejo public policy

You may recall that this past spring, the council majority (Barth, Kranz, and Shaffer, with Muir and Gaspar opposed) followed Gus Vina's recommendation to spend city funds to buy silly blog software called "Peak Democracy" from eccentric Berkeley politician Mike "Moonshot" Cohen.

Residents at the time implored the council not to purchase the software which was rife with potential for abuse, but the majority would not deny Vina his toy.

Six months or so into the great Peak Democracy experiment, all we've got for our money is two absurd polls. The first freaked dog owners out with the question, “How important is it for off-leash dog hours to remain at Encinitas Viewpoint, Orpheus and Sun Vista parks once the new dedicated two-acre off-leash dog park is open at Encinitas Community Park?” This seemed to imply that staff were considering cutting local dog park hours and making everyone drive their dogs to the Hall Park instead. Fortunately, it seems it was just space filler so they could say they were doing something with the new software.

The second trivial question was about the arts, a multiple choice question "What's your favorite type of public art?" The choices were "interactive art," "mosaic," "mural," "sculpture," and, bizarrely, "LED installation." We hope that Encinitas Arts Director Jim Gilliam wasn't involved in writing this inane question that views the medium as the most important aspect of art.

But now the council is considering moving beyond irrelevant time-wasting internet polls, to using Peak Democracy as the primary vehicle for public input on the extremely important Housing Element Update.  They'll use it to decide which properties to upzone, resulting in multi-million-dollar windfalls for some lucky property owners.

How is Peak Democracy working in other cities that have been using it longer?  Let's see how verified Vallejo residents Tony Kranz, Lisa Shaffer, and Teresa Barth used Peak Democracy to give input on Vallejo public policy.


Great idea, Teresa!

Peak Democracy has a feature that distinguishes residents as "inside Vallejo" as opposed to random out-of-town commenters.  Somehow, these three computer whizzes were able to persuade Peak Democracy that they were legitimate Vallejo residents.

How will we know which, if any, Encinitas opinions on Peak Democracy are real people if we are to use Peak Democracy as the primary tool for alleged "public input" on the Housing Element?

Fortunately, we can't think of any reason why property owners looking for a multi-million-dollar upzoning windfall would bother to spend a few bucks hiring teenagers to create fake online accounts to push upzoning in their direction.  Can you?

10/15/14 City Council meeting open thread

The current city council has continued prior councils' practice of not providing written summary minutes of council discussion, but only "action minutes" which state the outcomes. Encinitas Undercover will provide a forum for observers to record what occurs at each council meeting.

Please use the comments to record your observations.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Average Encinitas retiree with 30 years of service gets more than $94,000 per year for life

You know how pension apologists claim that only a few abusers get huge pensions and the average government worker only gets a few thousand dollars per month?

Yeah, not so much.

Data from Transparent California show that the average Encinitas employee with a "full career" of 30 years or more is given $94,602 per year for life.  And no, it's not just skewed by Mark Muir.  The median is almost the same at $93,723.

Want to know why your streets are full of potholes, we don't have any money to build anything at Pacific View, and your city council wants to raise your taxes and fees?  Look no further.

Raw data here.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

HoodLink endorses Cameron, Graboi

HoodLink, Encinitas' long-running grassroots newsletter, has come out in favor of Sheila Cameron for mayor and Julie Graboi for City Council, with a polite nod to Tony Kranz but an acknowledgement that Kranz and HoodLink's community have parted ways on the issues.

See the latest HoodLink here.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Council Candidate debate thread

What are they saying?

Subcommittee plans 1500-foot CN Tower, pasty white people with balloons at Pacific View

Yes, that's actually what they're showing in this subcommittee PowerPoint.

The image is from plans for Toronto's Ontario Place, which is enormous, commercial, and waterfront. In other words, it has absolutely nothing in common with Pacific View. (And the upper photo is not, as some people have suggested, the new development at Weidner's Gardens.)

But on a more serious note, aside from the subcommittee's poor PowerPoint skills and inappropriate image appropriation, the October 6 meeting raised a lot of serious concerns that somebody should have thought about earlier. Like, say, zoning for the new arts center!

Wait a minute... art galleries, music conservatories, dance studios, and recording studios are expressly prohibited? What kind of art center are we getting for $10 million?

Then there's the Coastal Commission approval (and they don't want anything that will impact parking at Moonlight Beach!), and the non-taxable bond limitations fiasco.  Not to mention that the city is too broke to build or operate anything on the site, which is why they are hiring expensive consultants to figure out how to raise fees on residents.  Click on over to Focus on Encinitas for the full scoop on the Pacific View SNAFU.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

10/8/14 City Council meeting open thread

The current city council has continued prior councils' practice of not providing written summary minutes of council discussion, but only "action minutes" which state the outcomes. Encinitas Undercover will provide a forum for observers to record what occurs at each council meeting.

Please use the comments to record your observations.

More D-grade work from city consultants?

From the Inbox:
Dear Council Members and Cabinet Members,

Last night I attended a workshop that Parks and Recreation hosted which seems to be a justification for raising fees on citizens, if the heading "service and fee study," the first line of the announcement is to be believed. I spoke with presenters Al and Chris, who identify themselves as consultants in the field of recreation.

I disagree that the presentation that was given by Green Play should be considered a consulting activity. First of all, the council has stated that they do not want for Department Directors to bring in consultants. Moreover, what was presented at the meeting was a boiler plate set of forms that does not meet the threshold of a true consulting service since one of the managing partners, Chris, mentioned that they use the same instruments everywhere. This would indicate that they are vendors selling the same package over and over--not actual consultants who offer very specific and usually case-sensitive solutions to difficult problems.

Green Play presenters identified their documents and groupings as a "process," a "methodology," and a "study," yet they disagreed with me when I and another attendee pointed out that there was terrible bias in the design of the presentation since attendees did not represent a valid survey sample of Encinitas residents. They seemed to do an outreach to people who went to the senior center, yet I only found out about it because I saw an announcement at City Hall. They said that they were interested in studying all of the recreation services the city offered, but the people in the meeting were only a narrow sampling of people who might use recreation services yet did not know about this meeting. Because the outreach was limited to people who were at the City during particular times, most citizens were not aware of these meetings.

The presenters said that their goal was to start "a conversation" and "raise awareness" about issues without creating a reliable way to capture information or to define their terms. They claimed that they were not trying to do valid studies yet identified their information gathering as "a study." I asked them for a list of protocols, and they said that they trained Parks and Recreation staff yet did not have anything in writing. Why is that? One of the hallmarks of actual consulting work is that the rules of how a formal activity like the one I attended is performed need to be written so that others can understand what took place and evaluate the results.

Why does the City continue to hire firms that produce poor results, or no valid results at all as in this case? I find it hard to believe that the council would approve this program with the unhappy history of consultants that we have had in the past.

Below is an article about a sports park that is named as one of Green Play's clients. Please stop wasting our money on this and other recently hired consultants for the Housing Element update. There are ample residents who would DONATE their skills and work collaboratively with staff to design and process valid studies that would not only save money, but would more accurately capture the will of Encinitas citizens. The stated goals and outcomes that the presenters sought in these meetings were not met since they are not measurable or valid.

I am very sorry to say this, but based on what I saw, whatever you paid them was too much. It looks like the city wants to raise fees on residents, and this is the real reason that you have brought these people in.


Julie Graboi

Check the link at the bottom of Graboi's e-mail. Asheville is building a $5.4 million sports park and is planning to fund it by hosting paid-attendance regional sports tournaments and selling beer. Our park cost many tens of millions to build. What's Green Play's plan to pay for that?

And if the city is telling us that the Peak Democracy blog is the only acceptable tool to gather public input for the Housing Element, why wouldn't it be appropriate to use it to collect opinions on park fees?

UPDATE: Green Play's fees to the city for running five very small meetings for a handful of people? $17,503.50.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Blood moon tonight

USA Today:
The second — and final — total lunar eclipse of 2014 will occur early Wednesday morning, just before sunrise in the Eastern Time Zone and in the middle of the night on the West Coast.

The moon will appear a coppery red, so it's been called a "blood" moon. It'll look red because of all the sunsets and sunrises from the Earth that will reflect onto the lunar surface.


"The eclipse will only be visible in its entirety from parts of eastern Australia, New Zealand, eastern Asia, most of Japan, the Hawaiian Islands and the western part of North America," according to

Officially, the total eclipse will start at 6:25 a.m. ET (5:25 a.m. CT, 4:25 a.m. MT and 3:25 a.m. PT) and continue until 7:24 a.m. ET (4:24 a.m. PT).

If you're in the central or western parts of the USA, you'll see the total eclipse high in a dark sky well before sunrise, according to Sky and Telescope.

Lerch goes big

As former Republican-endorsed council candidate Bryan Ziegler, forced out by party bosses, goes silent and refuses to speak to concerned citizens about the circumstances surrounding the loss of his party endorsement, his GOP replacement is hoping some big money will make up for a late campaign start and lack of campaign boots on the ground.

The campaign finance filings are in, and newcomer Alan "Lerch" Lerchbacker is dropping some big cash. His filing shows he loaned his campaign $20,000 of his own money.

While it's really late to start a campaign in October after absentee ballots have already been mailed out, that kind of money could make a difference if used to begin a flawlessly executed flat-out sprint to the finish. Will Lerch bring in professional consultants to help him run that kind of campaign?

How does goofing off until October and then dropping twenty grand align with Lerch's campaign theme of competence and fiscal responsibility?

But if Lerch can't win, could he tip the seat to Julie Graboi by taking votes from his fellow Cardiffian and anti-Right-to-Vote candidate Catherine Blakespear?

Or is this just a bluff, and will Lerch not actually spend all that money?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Promises, promises

Two of the candidates running for mayor did us the favor of leaving a record of past campaign promises so that we can see how well they followed through.  Here are their "Top Priorities" as submitted to

Kristin Gaspar 2010:

Top Priorities if Elected

  • Public Safety
  • Responsible Budgeting
  • Sustainable Growth

Tony Kranz 2010:

Top Priorities if Elected

  • Complete the General Plan Update ensuring we keep our small town atmosphere
  • Develop the Hall Property park responsibly and without further delay
  • "Right-size" city government and reduce employee pension expenses

Tony Kranz 2012:

Top Priorities if Elected

  • Create a system of accountability for city officials regarding government transparency issues
  • Improve our public safety services
  • Keep the General Plan "Update" from opening the floodgates to overdevelopment and more unbearable traffic

So how are they doing?

Friday, October 3, 2014

GOP dumps Ziegler over Prop A position

In yet another sign of San Diego County Republican Party disarray under the erratic leadership of Tony Krvaric, the party has apparently just dumped its endorsed candidate for Encinitas City Council, Bryan Ziegler. Sources tell Encinitas Undercover the split was over Ziegler's support for Proposition A, the voter initiative passed in 2013 that requires voter approval of land zoning changes.

The party web site now shows an endorsement for newcomer Alan "Lerch" Lerchbacker, who has no significant organization and little name recognition or history of community involvement. Lerchbacker is expected to place third at best, behind two Democrats. The seat should have been a great opportunity for the GOP, with a conservative tilt in an off-year election in a competitively split city. Even more so because the Democrats have split into two factions, the Community Character / Prop A faction represented by Julie Graboi, and the Establishment / Smart Growth faction represented by Catherine Blakespear.

The County GOP's beef with Prop A is bizarre for two reasons. First, it already passed, making a candidate's support or opposition of it largely irrelevant (other than as an indication of a candidate's overall views on development issues and how likely the candidate might be to work to undermine Prop A around the edges). But secondly and more importantly, Prop A is entirely consistent with the professed GOP principles of property rights and limited government. It preserves current property rights and zoning, and prevents politicians from upzoning their cronies' properties at the expense of the neighbors' quality of life and property values. How could a limited-government party oppose that, unless the party was controlled by those very cronies and developers?

Happy Birthday Laney Kook

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Encinitas family, so poor that they had to move to Vista for years, now planning custom home on 1/3 acre here

... all this supposedly illustrating why we have to build high-density development so that every yahoo from LA to Arizona who wants to live by the beach can do so.

Seaside Courier:
His family has a long history in Encinitas.

But the cost of living forced fifth-generation Encinitas resident Tom Cozens and his wife, Peggy, who went to high school in town, to move inland to Vista to raise a family.

“We lived where we could afford it,” said Peggy.

They eventually moved from Vista to Carlsbad. All the while, they stayed involved in the Encinitas community.

Thirty-seven years later, they are back for good. The 60-somethings have purchased an 860-square-foot home on a big lot in Old Encinitas with plans to build a larger home. They hope their children and grandchildren won’t mind visiting more often now that they are so close to the beach.
We sincerely doubt the Cozens were actually priced out of Encinitas; apartments and rental houses were cheap and plentiful here in the 80's and 90's.  In fact, Encinitas has historically been fairly affordable until it recently became so popular and crowded (and high-density development will do nothing to relieve crowdedness or improve affordability; just look at Manhattan Beach!).  Rather, we suspect the Cozens made a lifestyle choice to live in a single-family home with a nice yard in a low-density community, the same choice families here and elsewhere have been making for generations. And a choice the Cozens have once again validated with their new Encinitas home.

But what's with that 1/3 acre lot? We thought seniors wanted to live in high-density development.

Last night's Olivenhain candidate forum

What was said?  What were your impressions?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Did Gus Vina deliberately deceive Council and public about cost of sales tax advocacy campaign?

We've pointed out in the past the dishonesty of Council Members' attempt to paint tax increase propagandist Catherine Lew as a neutral opinion-gatherer. Now it appears that City Manager Gus Vina attempted to deceive the public and at least some of the Council Members about the cost of hiring Ms. Lew.

Andrew Audet writing at Encinitas Beacon:
At the [March 12 City Council] meeting Mr. Vina invited the tax-raising specialist Lew Edwards to address the council on her process and services. During council discussion Ms. Edwards said most cities spend $100,000 dollars. When the council asked for a more detailed estimate of costs and scope of service, neither she nor Vina provided one.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that just that morning Mr. Vina had received from Ms. Edwards a detailed email with the heading "Cost Estimates" that defined two proposals and had an estimate of $168,000 dollars, 68% more than the figure shared with the public. So why did Mr. Vina withhold the information?

Did Mr. Vina conspire with the contractor to mislead the council? In the email defining the cost estimate of $168,000 Ms. Lew recommended to Mr. Vina that they tell the council most cities spend up to $100,000. Why not just tell the council the proposed estimate?

That Ms. Lew was directing the city manager what to say is troubling. The city manager should represent taxpayers not contractors. One day after the emails were released Mr. Vina sent an email to all council members directing them to no longer discuss the tax hike by email. It seems there are things Mr. Vina would prefer the public not know.

On March 25 residents made a presentation to the council showing the emails that the city manager withheld financial information. The council took no action. In July the council gave Mr. Vina a job review in a closed session out of the view of the public. Before the meeting resident after resident asked the council to hold Mr. Vina accountable for his secrecy. The council took no action.

UPDATE: e-mails between Vina and Lew below the jump. I think we can safely assume the $77,500 option was never going to happen, because it ends at the time of ballot placement in July, and without Ms. Lew's services in persuading the public to vote yes, the whole effort would be worthless.  And Ms. Lew was clear in the e-mail that $100,000 was the minimum that other cities spent, not that $100,000 was a valid estimate as the council and the public were led to believe.

UPDATE 2: The Internet never forgets!  Thanks Anon 1:29!  Here's what Barth wrote the weekend after the meeting (emphasis added, but red in original):
Fact Check: What we discussed was NOT to place a tax on the ballot but rather to understand the process and possible cost. The $100,000 was the estimated cost for research, polling, public outreach and the ballot measure.

The purpose of the polling would be to get the public's input: Do they support a tax and if so for what purpose. It would cost far less than $100,000 and more likely around $20,000. Unlike the previous 'feel good' surveys the questions would be much more specific.

If polling showed there was strong support for the idea the city council would then have to vote to place a measure on the ballot. It would require a super majority of at least 4 votes. If the council agreed, then the public would vote on the measure. However, I doubt that would happen since Council members Gaspar & Muir have already said they would vote NO regardless of the public's opinion.

While you may not support the idea, a number of people I have spoken to say they would if it was for specific projects such as street improvements, more pedestrian RR crossing & quiet zones, open space and especially to purchase Pacific View. Others also told me they see it as a way to move these projects forward at a faster pace with everyone, residents and visitors who shop in Encinitas, paying for the improvements and it does NOT create any long term debt.

It is a topic worth discussing not just saying NO.
But who will Fact Check the Fact Checkers?  I don't see anything on Lew's menu that would cost only $20,000.  It's $25,000 just to sign her before she does any work!  Who gave Barth that idea?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Alex goes local

One of the criticism's of political newcomer Alex Fidel's mayoral campaign is that he focuses too much on national issues like the Federal Reserve and not enough on local issues.

Fidel has gotten the message. In the recent candidate forum, Fidel brought his left-libertarian principles to local issues.

Seaside Courier:
Fidel said if elected he would get to the bottom of why the city is “$50 million behind on road repairs.”

“Silence is compliance...I will not be silenced by any injustices,” Fidel said.


To the question about what plans they had to keep Encinitas from "becoming another Pacific Beach," [...] Fidel said the city’s code enforcement should be directed more toward the downtown area instead of being “bogged down” by other minor residential matters.


As to what should become of the Pacific View Elementary site—purchased by the city for $10 million from the Encinitas Union School District—Fidel, the youngest of the candidates, said since his “generation is picking up the tab for it” he would like to see it used as a place to grow food locally.


Asked whether they would support an amnesty program for noncompliant housing units as part of updating the city’s housing element in time for the public to vote on it in 2016, all candidates said yes.


Fidel said: “We need to stop building houses, that is the reasons the banks crashed. How many more houses do we need?”
Please consider this an open thread to discuss any other goings on at the candidate forum or elsewhere around town.

Friday, September 26, 2014

San Diego neighborhoods rally to defend against "Smart Growth" imposition

Raise the Balloon!

Those neighborhoods are in an even more precarious position than Encinitas, as they don't have a Prop A-style right to vote, and must rely on the kindness of politicians.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

9/24/14 City Council meeting open thread

The current city council has continued prior councils' practice of not providing written summary minutes of council discussion, but only "action minutes" which state the outcomes. Encinitas Undercover will provide a forum for observers to record what occurs at each council meeting.

Please use the comments to record your observations.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Backroom deal upzoning for fun and profit!

Well, lookie here. After all that open government and transparency we were promised last election, it looks like we're exactly back to backroom business as usual.

While the city is pretending to just now begin the Housing Element Update (selecting sites for high-density development to meet dubious SANDAG mandates), and will go to great lengths pretending to incorporate public input, it turns out that way back in March, city staff had secretly already selected 95 properties they wanted to upzone.

From the Inbox:
"Staff" applied some fancy math and identified 95 proposed upzones around town to identify the allocation. The approval of these upzones would not invoke Prop A because they'd be rolled into resident approval of the Housing Element Update (HEU). The upzones take some properties, for example, from R3 to R30, and that doesn't include the certain application of density bonus.

The City notified these 95 parcel owners of their upzone status in a mailer that went only to them back in March. You'll see from the attached that the potential "options" that these identified parcel owners could enjoy, should they decide to redevelop their property. Suffice to say, there's a message in there.

The City's current problem is, they kicked off this Update in the dark. They approached the identified parcel owners alone, as they considered them first-line "stakeholders." The City did not notify adjacent homeowners. Six months after notifying these 95 stakeholders, the City still did not notify adjacent homeowners or residents in general. So much for "transparency." Only Lisa is saying that she had no prior knowledge of this outreach, although has said she is ok with staff not telling her about it. Tony MAY have said the same, but I'd have to go back and look at the tape from this past Wednesday to see.

Residents learned of this contact to the 95 when an uphappy one of them came forward to tell her story at oral communications.

Funny how the Housing Element Update was quickly placed as an agenda item a week after the oral comms speaker made her revelation. The City could not afford to sit on it a minute longer.

Here's the city flyer that went out only to the chosen few.

But it gets worse.  Controversial political operative Mike Andreen was let in on the secret 95-property plan, and organized an event with Mayor Kristin Gaspar to get property owners behind the mass-upzoning campaign.  Titled "Encinitas Up-Zoning Can Mean Increased Property Values," the flyer for that event is here.  The purpose is clearly to get the property owners to see dollar signs and help fund a mass-upzoning vote in 2016.

More from the Inbox:
In addition to the 95 city staff-identified property owners, representatives from the development industry were at the Andreen meeting, including Pasco Engineering. Word from others who attended was that Andreen, with Gaspar nodding in agreement, blamed this "need to upzone" on Prop A.

So residents are just now finding out about the underhanded approach that the City took in starting the HEU six months ago with not a peep. Residents are not and will not be told that they may vote "no" on the HEU and what the consequences of a "no" vote would be (a few $100K in lost revenue from the State and some extra assigned low-income units), so that they may truly weigh options. They're merely being asked to decide "go up or go out," and will find out about the "no" option at the polling booth in 2016. Council is ok with that approach. By 2016, voters' heads will be so filled with "must comply with State mandates," they'll feel that they must vote yes; I assume that's part of the City's strategy to push the update through this time.

Best for last: we learned from the oral comms speaker, who is a real estate agent, that if you are a homeowner in the vicinity of a proposed upzone property, you must disclose that on when selling your home. It's an item on the list of disclosures alongside things such as cracked slabs, deaths in the home, freeway widening, etc. This puts the selling price up in the air, as the seller will have to say "there MAY be an upzoning" down the street, I have no idea." You can imagine that the home price will go down. There is no threshold for distance from the upzone; the only test is whether the seller knew about the possible rezone (per real estate/State law). If you fail to disclose, you could be sued later by your buyer who was not counting on 40 low-income apartments down the street.
What's the point of the upcoming Housing Element "public input" sessions? The decisions were made in secret six momths ago!

UPDATE: Here's the map of the proposed mass upzonings.