Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Politics is a universal sport

Often when reading national political stories, we're struck by parallels to happenings in our little town. And such was the case when we read this:
A telling anecdote involves a dinner that [Elizabeth] Warren had with Lawrence H. Summers, then the director of the National Economic Council and a top economic adviser to President Obama. The dinner took place in the spring of 2009, after the oversight panel had produced its third report, concluding that American taxpayers were at far greater risk to losses in TARP than the Treasury had let on.

After dinner, “Larry leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice,” Ms. Warren writes. “I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Thomas Arnold in Seaside Courier calls for Jerome Stocks to run for mayor


Frankly, we don't think this is a very productive idea for the Stocks camp. If we were Stocks (and we assure you, we're not), we'd settle into a mentor / godfather role, run Gaspar for mayor, and then use the Republican Party establishment to run somebody like Forrester for the open council seat, thus having a serious shot at recapturing the council majority. The Stocks name is too tarnished to win election in Encinitas again... unless no other serious candidates run, which is always a distinct possibility.

Other than the "Run, Jerome, Run" idea, the column has some legitimate points about the current leaderless council running around like five chickens with their heads cut off. We hope Arnold is right that an elected mayor will change all that, but we're not holding our breath.

Round and round

From the Inbox, city of Cotati uses ballot initiative to ban roundabouts.

The Prop A folks showed that a citizen initiative can be done in Encinitas, so let's get to it, roundabout haters!

And over at the Coast News, two roundabouts proposed for Birmingham.

The usual policy of no roundabout comments obviously won't apply to this post.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Breaking: Desert Rose saved!!!

In the U-T: Judge finalizes ruling that City Council was wrong to ignore environmental impacts when forcing high-density development on Olivenhain neighborhood:
The developers of a controversial housing project planned for a horse property in Olivenhain must conduct an extensive environmental study before the development can move forward, a Superior Court judge ruled on Friday.

Woodridge Farms Estates LLC wants to build 16 homes on what is now a horse boarding facility on Desert Rose Way on the eastern edge of Encinitas. But neighbors sued the city and Woodridge, saying the project should have been subjected to a full environmental review before it was approved by the City Council last year.

Friday’s ruling by Superior Court Judge Judith F. Hayes reinforced a tentative ruling she made last week that found there was substantial evidence “to make a fair argument that the project may cause a significant adverse effect on the environment.”
The Planning Commission had correctly rejected the development, but the City Council, bowing to pressure from city staff, had ignored the environmental impacts and attempted to force the unwelcome development on the rural community.

As the article notes, high-density developer attorney Marco Gonzalez will be back trying to force the development on the neighborhood, but he'll have a lot more work to do with an environmental impact report required.

UPDATE: Final ruling here.

Encinitas City Council Defines Community Character for Staff

All this is based only on what is in my inbox:

Good news this week! Gaspar, Barth, Muir, Schaffer, and Kranz voted to change the way the city deals with street improvements.

For over a decade people have noticed inconsistencies between various projects, neighborhoods, and what is in city code. This week the council gravitated toward the option of customizing the city’s infrastructure requirements to fit in with the character of individual neighborhoods.  So, for a new development or a remodel, the things residents and developers are required to do should be changing.

More important, the requirements will be clear and well defined for all to see. This should reduce concerns about abuses of power by city staff.

Even better, someone on the council was smart enough (experienced perhaps) to recognize that a gap plan has to be developed, between now and when a long-term neighborhood-by-neighborhood plan is put into place.

Stuff like this (clicky clicky) reduces the appeal and property values in Encinitas. The council voted to take a step toward cleaning that up!

Here's a statement not publicly disputed by the city, written by Kevin Farrel:

“ The City Engineering Department stated, “ Our goal is to have curb, gutter and sidewalk on every home in Encinitas.”

And, apparently staff wants big wide streets, too. In many cases the city requires homeowners to give up significant portions of their property to widen the current right of way beyond what seems justifiable or consistent with the developer just down the road.

The council majority ran campaigns on community character. This is the first real action they have taken that clearly polishes their community character credentials. This week's action is why people voted for them.

They appear to have been way way too humble about this important action. Neither Lisa or Teresa seemed to try to draw attention to this important vote. Maybe they were comfortable in the belief it would work out.

Thanks to those who wrote the council and especially to those who stayed late at night to speak to the council in person before the vote. 

(Pre-snark response: the city engineer’s plans seem to put more water into the storm drains rather than less. )

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Jim the Realtor proposes a solution on Pacific View

... over at

The idea would require a Prop A vote and would violate the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding, but we haven't heard any better ideas from the council on where the money is supposed to come from.

And you'll get a chuckle out of Jim's blunt talk about our city council.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

4/23/14 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 on the agenda tonight:

- 10D.  Imposing suburban conformity on Encinitas' historic neighborhoods.

Council asked to endorse and codify destruction of community character, confiscation of private property

There's another community e-mail going around about tonight's major vote on road standardization that would destroy community character in Encinitas' older neighborhoods and confiscate private property to widen roads.

From the Inbox:
Tom Frank is a long time citizen of the Republic of Leucadia, a Traffic Engineer by trade (currently working for the City of San Clemente) and used to sit on our Traffic Commission. He is an expert on traffic and development. Please read his message below and, if compelled, please respond.

From: Tom Frank
Subject: 4-23-14 City Council Meeting 2014-04-23 Item #10D Street Improvement Standards
Date: April 22, 2014


If you care about your quality of life or home’s property value, you might want to let City Council know how you feel about an item they are voting on Wednesday night's agenda. Either show up and speak on the item #10 D at the City Hall City Council Chambers - Agenda and agenda report can be downloaded by clicking the link on the agenda-

Agenda report on the item is here-

If you can not make the meeting please at minimum send an email to the City Council with the email address being-


Street Design has a significant impact on a neighborhood character, the resident’s quality of life, and property values. As we all know, wider roads results in faster speeds and faster speeds results in lower quality of life and lower property values. The current practice of Option 3 in the staff report is effectively widening roads by 20 feet which promotes higher speeds and also removes the potential for vertical landscaping such as trees which have positive impacts on traffic calming, quality of life and property values.

The current practice of implementing Option 3 in the staff report is having the unintended consequence of destroying community character, promoting higher speeds on streets, damaging neighborhood quality of life, lowering property values, lowering City revenues through lower property tax revenues and wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have resulted in a much more positive road edge design.

Implementing Option 5 is the reasonable, feasible, and preferred alternative . Over 90% of Encinitas is currently developed, so most new developments include rebuilding existing homes and new fill in development.
Other residents have noted that any building permit, even for remodeling, will force residents on non-conforming streets to give up some of their property to widen the street right-of-way, even though this expanded right-of-way is completely out of line with adjacent properties. This can create additional problems with existing structures violating setback rules for being to close to the newly expanded right-of-way!

Funny how Mayor Barth and Council Member Shaffer didn't highlight this major policy issue in their weekly newsletters. Barth included this in a list of agenda items only as "Street Improvement Standards." Amazing what the city can get away with if residents aren't watching like a hawk.

Slacker Kook

Come on, guys. You can do better than this.

In other news, Mayor Barth has responded to citizen inquiries and flatly denied the rumor that she and Marlena Medford and Lisa Shaffer are working on Catherine Blakespear's campaign.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Transforming Encinitas' historic neighborhoods into generic SoCal suburbs

Many people in older neighborhoods of Leucadia, Cardiff, Encinitas, and Olivenhain chose and love those neighborhoods for their unique charm, their winding, non-standardized streets, venerable trees, and country feel.

That's not good enough for city planners.

From the Inbox:
I am concerned that a policy that could allow the Engineering Department to standardize roads is on the consent calendar. At the very least, this should be discussed as a stand alone agenda item [ed.: OK, so it's not on the consent calendar; it's on the regular agenda].

In my opinion, part of the community character of specific communities and neighborhoods are the types of streets that we have. In Leucadia and Olivenhain, some people actually like having dirt roads and no sidewalks.

The hearing about Crest Street 2 years ago was eye opening since engineers wanted to cut down many old trees and replace them with parking spaces. They tried to force some residents to have pieces of sidewalk in front of 1 house that would break off the next house over, so they were proposing a patchwork of approaches on the same street.

This item seems to be directed by Masih Maher, so that raises a red flag for me after seeing what was proposed on Crest.

For those who want to protect their neighborhoods and community character I hope that you will speak to this item on Wednesday.
If they don't decide to impose character-destroying conformity on our neighborhoods, they may as a consolation prize demand "in-lieu" fees for permits. It's not clear whether these fees would apply only to new construction or also to home remodels.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Did 750 people really want the city council to pay $10 million for Pacific View?

We must admit we're a little confused about the web site. When we first saw it, and linked it supportively both in a post and the sidebar, we thought the purpose was to encourage the school district to come back to the negotiation table. We had absolutely no inkling that the idea was to encourage the city council to completely capitulate and pay any price.

Others appear to share our confusion. At least one public speaker at city council recently stated that she was among the 750 supportive e-mails, but she had absolutely no intention of meaning the city should have paid such an inflated price. And both letters in this weekend's Coast News share a similar sentiment.

How many of the 750 e-mailers cited by the council majority as a reason to capitulate and pay $10 million actually intended no such thing?

Court rules city council was wrong to ignore environmental impacts at Desert Rose

A tentative victory for Desert Rose neighbors against the city council and developers:
A controversial housing development planned for a horse property in Olivenhain hit a hurdle this week when a San Diego Superior Court judge tentatively ruled it can’t move forward without further environmental review.

The ruling was a setback for Woodridge Farms Estates LLC, which plans to build 16 homes on what is now a horse boarding facility on Desert Rose Way, east of Rancho Santa Fe’s intersection with 13th Street on the very edge of the Encinitas city limits.


In early 2013, the Planning Commission agreed with neighbors and voted to reject the Desert Rose proposal. That decision was later reversed by the Encinitas City Council, which OK’d the plans in March of that year.
More background here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Should part-time politicians in a small town so broke that it can't afford to maintain its streets receive car allowances and lifetime pensions?

They do.

4/16/14 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.

Items of interest on the agenda tonight:

- Annual document destruction, including documents regarding the Right to Vote (Prop A) petition circulation.

- ERGA subcommittee report.  According to observers, the report is factually incorrect in some places, and doesn't shed much light on the central issue, the apparently illegal gift of public funds from ERGA to Carltas, the Ecke family development company.  We wonder why the mayor and city manager put it last on tonight's agenda when very few members of the public would be around to see it or speak to it.

Flash council meeting on Pacific View terms

From the Inbox:
Please post this announcement online since it was released at the very last minute.

The Encinitas City Council has called a special meeting for Wednesday, April 16, at 4:30 p.m. to discuss and vote on the purchase terms of the Pacific View property. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) containing the proposed conditions for the sale appears below and the meeting agenda can be viewed here.The terms were worked out by an ad hoc committee headed by City Manager Gus Vina and Encinitas Union School Superintendent Timothy Baird. It's hoped that the City Council will vote to approve the MOU, and in turn, the school district will vote to officially cancel the Pacific View auction at its April 29th meeting.City Councilmember Tony Kranz, a primary force behind the city's dramatic last-minute purchase, explained that the meeting should "move the purchase process forward towards the final sale agreement." The meeting may go into a closed session to discuss details-- if so, results will be announced publicly immediately following the closed session.
Special City Council Meeting on Pacific View Purchase
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.
Encinitas City Council Chambers
505 South Vulcan Avenue 
Encinitas, California 92024 will continue covering events relating to Encinitas' acquisition of the heritage site.

Monday, April 14, 2014

What happened at the Traffic Commission?

From the Inbox:
Word from the floor of tonight's Traffic Commission meeting: at the beginning of the meeting, Peter Kohl announced to the crowd that when Bob Bonde's time comes to speak during his assigned agenda item, no one in the crowd may speak to the item even though it's on the agenda. The audience may make their remarks during oral comms only and in addition, the commissioners likewise may not ask questions, comment, nothing, about the agenda item. Once Bob speaks, no one else may comment, period. Kohl is on tape saying all this.

Vina gets wind that the crowd is not happy, comes out of his office and whispers something to Kohl. Kohl then changes his tune and announces that audience and commissioners may speak after all during the agenda item.

Assumption is Vina gave the original instructions to Kohl.

The city is caught yet again trying to stifle freedom of speech...sigh.
Does the Traffic Commission report to Vina?

UPDATE: It seems Peter Kohl has a history of confrontational and condescending treatment of the public.

Blood moon tonight

Look up in the sky right as you roll out of Union after midnight.

L.A. Times
In Los Angeles, the most impressive part will begin at 10:58 p.m. when the first "bite" is taken out of the moon. It will be blotted out entirely by 12:06 a.m. Tuesday, said experts at the Griffith Observatory.

Look to the south for the moon, said Joe Sirard, an amateur astronomer who doubles as a National Weather Service meteorologist in Oxnard. As the “bite” spreads across the moon, it will transform into a dark “blood moon." The dark red hue will come from the light of sunsets and sunrises over the rest of the Earth.

The weather forecast for prime "blood moon" viewing in Los Angeles could not be much better.

“We’ll have clear skies -- even down to the beaches,” Sirard said.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Coast News, Prop A folks hit with FPPC fines

EncinitasElections.Com and Jim Kydd. The Commission approved the filing of a civil judgment to resolve a complaint received by the FPPC against EncinitasElections.Com, an independent expenditure committee that opposed 2012 Encinitas City Council candidates Mark Muir and Jerome Stocks. Also named in the complaint is the committee's responsible officer, Mr. Jim Kydd. The civil judgment requires that EncinitasElections.Com and Mr. Kydd admit to six violations of the Political Reform Act and agree to pay a fine of $1,000.

Encinitas Project - Committee For Proposition A. The Commission approved the filing of a civil judgment to resolve a complaint received by the FPPC against Encinitas Project - Committee For Proposition A, a ballot measure committee that supported the 2013 Encinitas City Ballot Measure Proposition A - Encinitas Right to Vote Amendment. Also named in the complaint are the committee's former principal officer, Ms. Susan Turney, and the committee's former treasurer, Mr. Oliver Canler. The civil judgment requires that Encinitas Project - Committee For Proposition A, Ms. Turney and Mr. Canler admit to thirteen violations of the Political Reform Act and agree to pay a fine of $1,000.
The Coast News stuff seemed like really sloppy rookie mistakes. The case against the Prop A folks is even more disturbing. This is a legitimate grassroots organization, the people challenging the entrenched power structure, who apparently made some paperwork mistakes in California's byzantine free speech regulations. Is that really who the Political Reform Act was meant to target?

Catherine Blakespear announces council candidacy

Estate attorney and traffic commissioner Catherine Blakespear has announced her candidacy for the open city council position.

Her web site is here.  It's professional, generic, and short on issues.  It doesn't mention Encinitas' financial problems at all.

What kind of council member would Blakespear be?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Gaspar launches campaign on fiscal responsibility

Council Member Gaspar's State of the City speech can be seen here, starting about minute 37.

Sure, the sand and rocks stunt was corny, but we thank Ms. Gaspar for taking the opportunity to highlight Encinitas' financial challenges.  Until now, the current council has completely ignored the long-term financial problems and allowed City Manager Gus Vina to keep spending recklessly and expanding his bureaucracy.

Gaspar's pointing out that Encinitas' reckless spending comes at the cost of core services for residents is long overdue.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

New rule

The comments have gotten really abusive.

We'll be marking any name-calling and personal attacks as "spam," which has the unfortunate side effect of making it likely that Google will auto-filter future comments from that person as spam.

Civil debate is not rocket science.  You know how to do it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

4/9/14 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.

Items of interest on tonight's agenda:
8C. Accepting the drastic underfunding of road maintenance in order to preserve the status quo at City Hall.

11A. Passively receiving a report on CalTrans' widening of I-5.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Al Rodbell on Peak Democracy

We recently added local resident Al Rodbell's thoughtful blog to the blogroll at left.

Mr. Rodbell responded with the following. We agree with Mr. Rodbell's concerns about the Peak Democracy blog purchased by the city council. It is at best a worthless toy, at worst an easily manipulated tool for city insiders and special interest groups to create the illusion of public support for their pet projects.

As for the weak mayor and weak council issue that Mr. Rodbell raises, we agree that the council has been little more than a rubber stamp for City Manager Gus Vina's plans, but we see this as a failure of leadership of the current council, not as a structural problem. Vina serves at the pleasure of the council. His failures and deceptions are theirs. Vina only controls the council because they have abdicated their oversight responsibility.  If the council had the intellectual capacity and the will to challenge Vina, they could.

But let us not bloviate on. Take it away, Al:
Greetings.  Thanks for posting my article Al Rodbell's Blog "Peak Democracy" implementation update as of April

Much of my writing and actions at the council on this issue have been written at different times -- from initial gut reaction, actually better described as revulsion, towards this program; then after further research, and finally now reaching a more comprehensive broader view. There is less anger at the President of the company, Mike Cohen, than focus at our defective city governmental system that allows those such as he to exploit it.

The article in my web site that you feature, the "April update," only briefly described the chain of events that was sparked during by a conversation with one of our most informed citizen advocates who described that initial council meeting. I have now appended links of details, including several articles that critique Peak Democracy, ironically from two opposite directions. One, a short column claiming that Mr. Cohen is not true to his "populist" credentials, that in reality the program is designed to help city hall deflect movements such as Prop A. The other longer one published in "Dissent Magazine" is much deeper, and concludes after tracing the gestation of this commercial entity from a citizen based movement in Berkeley, that such easy-access populism will result in the loss of those few who actually show up at meetings and put their emotional well-being on the line by challenging simplistic damaging council actions.

While seemingly contradictory, they both point out to me how Peak Democracy will exacerbate our problems. Yet, in making my case against a company, I realize that what has to be seriously evaluated is the structure of the City Manager system of local government, which entails part time citizen council members. Our council takes all the heat without concomitant authority- so irrespective of certain bad choices that have been made by them that deserve condemnation, a confrontational tone between council majority and voters is often inevitable.

The upcoming election for Mayor is, upon reflection, an example of both defects of Peak Democracy. It was created by direct democracy's baby, Proposition K, but the public voted on their illusion of what "mayor" means, and not the reality based on our city manager system. Right now the Mayor, while possessing no executive branch authority, does have this indirectly by being the representative of the majority faction, which in the aggregate can discharge a City Manager at will. (It's like the power of a Majority leader or Speaker of the House) This this will no longer necessarily be the case when s/he is independently elected. So, what the public did, based on the assumption that an elected mayor would have more authority, allowed the possibility that s/he will have even less.

I had written the above before the vote on Prop K, but it was only read by a few on my website and those on my personal email list. Elections are populist events, the one time when those few who make great efforts at a legislative body have the same single vote as those who are voting with no real understanding of what each candidate stands for, as I myself do when voting for for county and school board offices.

Describing defects in any complex system such as city government is easy, arriving at preferable, yet possible, solutions is a whole different kettle of fish. So, while I'll continue to try to gather support for derailing the implementation of Peak Democracy, enabling the council to confront Mr. Cohen on the exaggerations of his "salesmanship" -- which should result in cancellation of the contract for the services; this should be an occasion to consider a broader restructuring. If this means adopting a Charter city system, this certainly should be explored. One thing I'm convinced of is while there is no system of government at any level that is bulletproof, just trying to achieve something close can be a useful exercise.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Political observations

Some commenters have suggested that Barth's withdrawal from the mayoral race is a ploy, and that she'll get back in.  We are highly confident this view is wrong.  Barth has little to gain from another two years as mayor, and much to lose in a bare-knuckles campaign when she has already alienated a large number of her former supporters on a range of issues from community character to transparency and fiscal responsibility.  Barth is retiring gracefully.  Let's respect that.

A few commenters have suggested that Jerome Stocks will get back in the race.  That's a non-starter.  The Dump Stocks campaign has destroyed his brand permanently.

At this point, unless a well-organized candidate from the Prop A folks or from someone in Vina's 28 dissidents comes together, Kristin Gaspar looks the heavy favorite for mayor.

Barth out!

Many had expected Mayor Barth to run against Council Member Kristin Gaspar for the city's first elected (as opposed to council-appointed) mayor.

From Barth's e-mail newsletter this morning:
After months of discussion with friends and family, I have decided not to run for re-election.

When I first ran in 2006, I said two terms (8 years) were appropriate for local office. However, the addition of a voter elected Mayor added a twist to my previous position.

While many people have encouraged me to run for Mayor, I stand by my original commitment to my family and the voters to only serve two terms.

My most sincere thanks to the many people who supported me these past eight years. I am especially grateful for those who continued to support me even when we disagreed on individual issues. Thank you for not resorting to the inflammatory rhetoric that currently pervades public discourse.

Additionally, I have an opportunity to work with an enthusiastic group of people involved in creating a non-partisan alliance for positive civic engagement. I believe I can be a more effective as a private citizen rather than an elected official. I will share more with you as the project moves forward.

For the remaining 8 months of my term I will continue to be actively engaged in the issues of importance to the community.

Gratefully, Teresa
We thank Mayor Barth for her years of service, and look forward to her continued involvement in our community.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

RIP Rachel Anne Morrison

27-year-old Rachel Anne Morrison, a marine biology Ph.D. student from Encinitas was killed Friday night in a hit-and-run in Del Mar.
Rachel Anne Morrison and a friend were walking eastbound in a crosswalk at the intersection of Camino Del Mar and Coast Boulevard about 10:15 p.m. Friday when Christopher Stockmeyer, 41, allegedly ran a stop sign and struck her at a high rate of speed, according to sheriff's officials and the county Medical Examiner's Office.
The suspect was arrested at his home later that night for DUI and hit-and-run after his car was identified by something left at the scene (license plate?).

According to public data and social media, the suspect is an architect and father of two young boys who lives in the Bird Rock neighborhood of La Jolla.

A ride home to Bird Rock from Del Mar would cost about $35 on Uber.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

4/2/14 Special 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.

Tonight's thread may be quiet, as the meeting may not be televised, and the public won't be allowed to speak until late in the night. But we'll continue these open threads for regular council meetings as well.

Keith Harrison buys Leucadia's Pacific Surf Inn

Keith Harrison, the developer whose reported plans for a 3-story hotel near Moonlight Beach were thwarted by the passage of Prop A, has bought an older Leucadia motel:
The 30-room Pacific Surf Inn at 1076 N. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas 92024, has been sold for $4.08 million.

The buyers were Keith B. and Sara S. Harrison (30 percent), P.O. Box 231594, Encinitas 92023, and James E. Harrison and Sharan K. Harrison, trustees of the Harrison Family Trust (70 percent).
Here's the kicker:
The property can be redeveloped into mixed use with 19 residential units over retail space.