Monday, June 29, 2015

Kudos to the Council's unanimous, firm stance on AB 744

We first brought you news of AB 744 back in April. The development industry's bill would make density bonuses worse and overrule local ordinances on parking requirements.

Today we have the good news that our Council has unanimously signed a firm letter opposing AB 744 unless critical changes are made. The letter can be read here.

According to observers at last Wednesday's Council meeting, the letter was drafted by Deputy Mayor Blakespear after letters written by staff and our paid lobbyist were rejected as too pro-developer.

And kudos also to the citizens who made the Council aware of the awful AB 744 bill, and kept up the pressure until the Council did the right thing. Here's one agitator's take:
I'd say the pressure started within a day or so of finding this little gem on the State website. After that others who can count themselves among Vina's "28 identified activists" dogpiled on and started digging into what city staff (McSeveney) and the lobbyist (Clay) were NOT doing to alert the council. Clay was actively on the developers' side with his personal opinion on base density rounding that ran contrary to the round down approved by council last summer.

Which council member is exceeding your expectations?

Encinitas Guerrilla asks which is the most disappointing current council member.

As we prefer to focus on the positive here at Encinitas Undercover, we'd like to turn that around and ask which council member has most positively surprised you.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

DA Dumanis fails to report government worker felonies, allowing criminals to keep accruing pensions

San Diego Reader:
San Diego, known for its mayoral miscreants, also has a goodly number of felonious bad apples further down in the barrel of public servants.

And until a recent audit exposed the problem, repeated failures by San Diego district attorney Bonnie Dumanis have allowed the employee felons to qualify for retirement benefits barred by California law.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

6/24/15 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, June 22, 2015

Coast News: What's the beef between Encinitas and brewing industry?

Aaron Burgin reporting:
When a representative from the Encinitas 101 Main Street Association asked Tom Nickel to donate a few barrels of his popular beer for a local beer festival, Nickel said he was taken aback.


“While I appreciate the invite, I can’t in good faith do anything to support Encinitas when the city is so hostile to the brewing industry. Encinitas is the last major city in the county without a brewery — and that is because of the city government. It feels very disingenuous to not have any breweries and then reach out to the brewing community for donations. And I know that breweries have tried to open there and been turned down.”

The Coast News spoke to several major stakeholders in the region’s craft brewing industry, all who confirmed that Encinitas has an unfavorable reputation within its circles. Many point to at least one instance in which a high-profile brewer attempted to open a “brew pub” in town only to abandon the plans and instead wind up in Oceanside. They also point to the well-documented struggle between downtown’s alcohol serving establishments and residents as a potential reason for the perceived indifference toward breweries.
That brewery that tried to open in Encinitas and ended up in Oceanside is Bagby Beer, founded by award-winning brewer Jeff Bagby, who opened his beautiful new brewpub and restaurant last year on South Coast Highway in Oceanside.
“What I can say is that this is news that I have never heard that we are ‘anti-brewery,'” Encinitas Planning Director Jeff Murphy said. “I was surprised to hear the word ‘hostile’ to describe our stance against breweries. It is not that we prohibit them, we limit them to certain areas of town.”
Never heard? Maybe that's part of the problem.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Woman dies off coast of Encinitas after being thrown from immigrant panga

Times of San Diego:
A woman believed to have been an undocumented immigrant died Thursday following a collision between a crowded smuggling skiff and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vessel off the North County coastline, authorities reported.

The agents, members of the CBP Office of Air and Marine, spotted the panga early this morning near Encinitas, hailed the occupants and ordered its pilot to yield.

The motorboat continued on, prompting the government agents to fire warning shots, CBP spokeswoman Jackie Wasiluk said. The two vessels then collided, causing the skiff to capsize and sending its 20 occupants into the ocean.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

6/17/15 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, June 16, 2015

Supreme Court slaps down BIA

The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that cities have the right to require developers to make a portion of new units available as affordable housing.

The court unanimously upheld a [law] that requires developers of 20 or more units to provide 15 percent of those units at below-market rates affordable to people with low and moderate incomes.


The court rejected a challenge by the California Building Industry Association, which argued that the measure amounted to an unconstitutional taking of property without just compensation. Cantil-Sakauye wrote for the court, “This condition does not require the developer to dedicate any portion of its property to the public or to pay any money to the public.

“Instead, like many other land use regulations, this condition simply places a restriction on the way the developer may use its property by limiting the price for which the developer may offer some of its units for sale,” the court said.

More than 170 California cities and counties have adopted similar laws, known as inclusionary housing ordinances, according to the court. The San Jose law was put on hold while the building association pursued its lawsuit.
A stricter inclusionary housing ordinance could both create more affordable housing and discourage some of the more obscene high-density market-rate projects we've seen.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

More Porn on iPads in class at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary

The long and sordid saga of Tim Baird's iPad adventures continues.

From the Inbox:
Thought you might be interested in this letter that we received today from the EUSD. I already had the following objections to iPads in the school:

1. Gadgets that will be obsolete in 2 years purchased with 30 year bond money;
2. No evidence that these devices actually improve learning; lots of evidence that they are a distraction and detract from learning;
3. Privacy issues (facial recognition software)
4. Kids losing them all the time; parents have to stress about paying to replace something that they did not want their kids to have in the first place
5. Porn being shown in the class room

These iPads, like many of the other expensive useless projects of Baird, are designed to earn Baird and the district honors and awards that pad their resumes leading to bigger and better jobs in the future. And we are stuck with the costs.
And here's the letter from the district psychologist to parents whose children were exposed to porn during class.

This is not the first time EUSD schoolchildren have been caught using their iPads for porn.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

6/10/15 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.

Sheriff's Department seeks funding for new Baywatch patrol

From Sheriff's Captain Theresa Adams-Hydar:
Since all of the improvements have been made to Moonlight Beach, Encinitas beaches have become the destination location for north county beach- goers which increases the daytime population greatly. During the summer months, Lifeguard staffing is increased, but Sheriff's staffing has historically stayed the same despite the increased calls for service from beach goers and Lifeguards calling for assistance.


It is my intention to remedy this issue with the deployment of a dedicated, two-man beach team. I would use a current rover position already contracted for and pair them with the newly contracted unit. During the summer months this team would be assigned to the beaches for both reactive and proactive policing. They would work closely with the Lifeguards and identity [sic] problem areas, using the COPPS philosophy to affect changes.
Sounds like we'll be seeing more cooler checks at Beacon's Beach.

Monday, June 8, 2015

TK Arnold rebuts Blakespear; roads still deteriorating

Yes, Arnold and the Seaside Courier are allied with the opposing council faction, but consider:
To me, “excellent financial shape” means being able to pay for all the things that need doing, like fixing roads and undergrounding more train tracks — not to mention smaller projects like allocating matching funds for sand replenishment. A city with $394 million in unfunded projects doesn’t make the cut, in my view, and to proclaim otherwise is disingenuous.


Blakespear says that on June 10 the Encinitas City Council is scheduled to approve a “balanced budget,” but in truth it’s easy to balance a budget and make it appear a city is in “excellent financial shape” by underfunding roads and facility maintenance. As for the projects that made the priority list, the Beacon’s Beach bluff repair — which according to Glenn Pruim, Encinitas’ director of public works and engineering, will require placing a mixture of cement and sand at the base of the bluff — is estimated to cost $3.2 million, not $750,000, as Blakespear maintains in her commentary.

As for Blakespear’s contention that the city pays about $5 million each year in total debt service, for an “excellent” debt ratio of 7.9 percent, ask any economist and he’ll tell you the only thing this means is that Wall Street feels that repayment is secure. The problem is that Encinitas simply doesn’t have the cash flow to take on more debt, unless it wants to further defund maintenance and capital improvements. Encinitas is certainly not going bankrupt, but it is a city that is only living within its means because it is allowing things it should be doing to slide. Funding the roads and facilities at a level that allows them to continue to degrade is not sustainable over the long term, and not being able to fund the entire list of capital improvement projects denies city residents the desired amenities that they deserve.
With respect to underfunding road maintenance, the city's consultant's report last year said:
Based on the principle that it costs less to maintain roads in good condition than bad, the StreetSaver program strives to develop a maintenance strategy that will improve the overall condition of the network to an optimal PCI somewhere between the low and mid 80's. Although the average PCI of the roadway network is 75.1, which is in the “good to excellent” condition category, a significant portion of the network suffers from load-related distresses. If these issues are not addressed, the quality of the road network will inevitably decline. In order to correct these deficiencies, a cost-effective funding, maintenance, and rehabilitation strategy must be implemented.
The same report estimated costs to maintain the sub-optimal 75 average would be $3.26 million per year, which would allow the number of roads falling into the "failed" category to increase seven-fold, from 0.6% of our roads to 4.2% of our roads. The city is expected to fall short of even this funding level.

Downtown vibrancy update

Del Mar Times:
A 43-year-old man who allegedly led sheriff's deputies on a pursuit through Encinitas and Solana Beach is behind bars.

A sheriff's deputy attempted to stop a vehicle driven by Steven Richard Leacock around 9:20 p.m. Sunday, June 7 after he allegedly blew through stop signs at the intersections of Second and K streets and South Coast Highway 101 and K Street in Encinitas, sheriff's Sgt. Rich Eaton said.

However, the driver refused to pull over. Leacock briefly stopped in the vicinity of South Coast Highway 101 and Chesterfield Drive, but then sped off and headed the wrong way on southbound Interstate 5 [sic: if he was heading the wrong way and ended up in Solana Beach, he was going south on northbound I-5]  Eaton said.

Deputies terminated the pursuit, but saw the suspect's vehicle exit the freeway and drive into an apartment complex at 700 S. Nardo Ave. Eaton said Leacock then ran from the vehicle.

Leacock was quickly found and placed under arrest on suspicion of felony evading a peace officer with wanton disregard for public safety. He was booked into the Vista Detention Facility and was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail, according to Eaton and jail records.
In completely unrelated news, Union Kitchen & Tap held its 4th Anniversary party that same evening, on the same block as the stop signs at 101 & K and Second & K.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Negotiation 101

It seems Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear has taken negotiation lessons from Jim Bond.

In the midst of not only negotiations for the new city manager's salary but also labor negotiations for pay and pension increases for the entire staff, here's Blakespear in the Coast News shouting, "Look everybody! We've got lots of money!"

We don't doubt that the current property boom has Encinitas' finances looking rosy; homes in Encinitas are now valued well above the peak of the last bubble, and residential and commercial development is roaring. But Blakespear's carefree outlook reminds us a lot of a certain former mayor during the last bubble. Wouldn't it make sense to use the current boom to save a little money for the next rainy day?

And if Encinitas is in such great financial shape, why were Barth, Shaffer, and Kranz pushing for a sales tax increase just last year?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Water Board approves $430,851 fine for city stormwater construction mismanagement

Water Board press release:
The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board’s executive officer has approved a $430,851 settlement agreement with the city of Encinitas for violations of storm water requirements that led to sediment pollution in Rossini Creek, a tributary of the San Elijo Lagoon.

The San Elijo Lagoon is a designated natural preserve by the State Park and Recreation Commission and is a federally listed impaired water body for damage to the salt marshes caused by excess sedimentation and silt.

Encinitas and its contractor, USS Cal Builders, Inc. failed to prevent pollutants at the Encinitas Community Park from entering storm water runoff during storm events in December 2012 and March 2013.

The polluted runoff resulted in part because of a failure to implement adequate management practices during construction and the city’s failure to properly oversee the construction project. The statewide construction storm water permit and the San Diego Water Board’s municipal storm water permit require management of sediment during construction to avoid the type of discharges that occurred from the project. The maximum penalty for the violations could have been $2.7 million.


“The mismanagement at this construction site was really unexpected given the level of experience of both the contractor and the city of Encinitas,” said Chiara Clemente, the Water Board’s enforcement coordinator.
As is customary at the City of Encinitas, no one in city management has been held accountable.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

CalPERS considers Chinese Water Torture method of restoring pension funding

CalPERS is considering small increases in employer and employee rates over decades to reduce the risk of big investment losses, a policy that also would lower an earnings forecast critics say is too optimistic.

The proposal is a response to the “maturing” of a CalPERS system that soon will have more retirees than active workers. From two active workers for each retiree in 2002, the ratio fell to 1.45 to one by 2012 and is expected to be 0.8 to 0.6 to one in the next decades.

As a result, investment losses will trigger bigger California Public Employees Retirement System employer rate increases. It’s a kind of “leveraging” effect as the investment fund becomes increasingly larger than the payroll on which rates are based.


It’s a sea change from the late 1990s when CalPERS cut employer rates to near zero for two years and sponsored a large retroactive pension increase for state workers, setting a benchmark for local police and firefighter pensions critics say is unsustainable.

Awash in earnings from a booming stock market and a funding level that briefly reached about 135 percent, CalPERS told the Legislature that, due to “superior” investment returns, SB 400 in 1999 would not increase state rates for “at least a decade.”

A 17-page CalPERS brochure on SB400 distributed to the Legislature quoted former CalPERS President William Crist: “This is a special opportunity to restore equity among CalPERS members without it costing a dime of additional taxpayer money.”


A staff report on risk last November said employer contribution rates for many CalPERS plans are at record highs, exceeding 30 percent of payroll for more than 100 miscellaneous plans and more than 40 percent of pay for 150 police and firefighter plans.

“Employers are reporting that these contribution levels are putting significant strain on their budgets and limiting their ability to provide services to the people in their jurisdictions,” said the report.
This would mean Encinitas' pension costs continuing to rise faster than payroll costs for decades.

Across-the-board pay increases currently being considered by the Encinitas City Council would make the city's unfunded liabilities worse.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Long Live Free Encinitas!

Letter in Seaside Courier:
Dear Encinitas City Council,

Having just watched the May 20th "alcohol ban" issue on the city website … I'm blown away that this non-issue made it all the way to this dais. Who's driving this thing? The only real take-away from this session that I could see is the potential liability in the combination of skateboarding and beer in the new Encinitas Community Park. Well then, set up new parameters for that park for 12 months and monitor that. End of story.

The rush by Parks and Recreation to legislate an across-the-board, scatter-shot law that will give teeth to policing Encinitas adults enjoying a glass of wine as they celebrate the setting sun is highly disturbing. What happened to the "less government is more" as a template for governing? Especially when it comes to creating legislation that cannot easily be undone, as long-time resident and speaker Denis Puscas noted at the podium. Mr. Puscas speaks for a much larger group of people, you may be sure.

As Puscas mentioned, it’s about the larger neighborhood coming together to appreciate community and celebrate sunset, most with dogs, once a week. Not everyone knows one another. And that’s part of the beauty of it: people are plugged in to different degrees. Welcome to the neighborhood! It’s about neighbors, enjoying the quality of life right here, where we live.

This proposal by Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Rudloff banning alcohol at all city parks -- citing cookie-cutter "continuity and consistency" for Encinitas sheriffs -- is unnecessary and punctilious in the way that big government, unchecked, becomes its own worst enemy. Why not regard each park as its own entity, with its own community identity? There is no homeless/alcohol problem at Orpheus Park, for example, and only an occasional skateboarder. Ms. Rudloff further mentions the other cities that have alcohol bans, but fails to include the many others that do not. Her lobbying for more government regulation loses credibility quickly. The four Encinitas parks where alcohol have been banned all had everything to do with the combustible combo of homeless and alcohol. Period.

Even more ridiculous bureaucratic rhetoric was put forward by Jason La Riva, Encinitas Parks and Beach Superintendent, who along with Director Rudloff is proposing new sunrise to sunset hours because the city doesn’t want people congregating at night. Yes, he said that. When did Marshall Law arrive in Encinitas? Mr. La Riva went on to clarify that “tripping, falling, and other safety hazards are a greater risk at nighttime.” Yes, he said that too.

So the real question before the city council seems to be: Should Encinitas create a greater governmental monolith because something might happen in the future? Or because we tidily want to make things “consistent” for the Sheriff’s Department? At what cost do we do that? Although respected, the opinion of the Encinitas Sheriff Department is not sacrosanct, nor should it be. It serves the people, and the peace -- not the other way around. The city council creates legislation for the citizens who put their trust in them at the ballot box. The Sheriff's Department did not elect city council. Nor did the councils’ staff, or the Head of Parks and Recreation. Curtailing rights that citizens here now enjoy should not be so flippantly put forward. Once gone, they are lost. That’s the political rule-of-thumb.

I am genuinely surprised by the opinions of Mr. Kranz and Ms. Shaffer. I think Catherine Blakespear is wise and magnanimous in seeing a bigger picture -- we're lucky to have her broad mindset onboard. I did not vote for Mr. Muir or Ms. Gaspar in this last election, but with what I see, I am completely open in the next election. Thank you, you three, for your wisdom and sensibility in this vote.

Long live free Encinitas.

Stephen Keyes

Well said, Mr. Keyes!