CARDIFF-BY-THE-SEA — Keeping true to tradition, the first Encinitas City Council candidate forum was held at Ada Harris Elementary School on Sept. 14. After a brief opening statement the four candidates vying for two seats on the council took questions from the audience.
Two current members, Mayor Dan Dalager and Councilwoman Teresa Barth, joined challengers Tony Kranz of Leucadia and Encinitas Ranch resident Kristin Gaspar.
The first question was on a little-known vote of the council that has the potential to impact what is decided upon at the dais.
Last August, in a 3-2 vote, with Barth and Deputy Mayor Maggie Houlihan opposed, the council changed the rules as to how an item comes before them for a decision. Previously, only two council members had to agree to have an item put on the agenda. However, now a majority of three members is required on the five-person council.
“I was almost thinking that’s what our rules had said before,” Dalager responded when an audience member asked why he voted in favor of the measure and how would the two challengers vote if given the opportunity.
“Your memory doesn’t serve you very well,” Barth responded. “It goes against the grain of our democracy,” she said referring to the inability of the minority to be heard. “You don’t have to have a majority of the people already supporting something to have it go to council for discussion.”
Barth raised the stakes when she called the move to a majority council in order to agendize an item “appalling and embarrassing” to thunderous applause from the crowded auditorium.
Kranz went further saying he would consider a process by which citizens could get an item on the City Council agenda while Gaspar said she would entertain arguments both for and against the three-person agenda rule.
While some issues were new, others were akin to the questions asked of different candidates two years ago when Houlihan and Councilman Jerome Stocks defended their seats on the council.
Cardiff resident Lorrie Greene inquired about the 90-foot lights that are proposed to illuminate the Hall park. Kranz said he is not in support of the lights. “It’s not necessary,” he stated, adding, “get the fields in, mitigate traffic, and then see how it runs.”
Barth said it will take a general plan amendment to install the 90-foot lights, which she termed “spot zoning.”
“I’m totally against it, that’s why we have a general plan,” Barth said.
Gaspar supports lights because of her involvement with the Encinitas Sports council, saying that while lights are needed to continue team sports after dark, it is appropriate to impose a curfew “to be as mindful of the surrounding community as possible,” she said.
Dadla Ponizil’s question about what the two challengers would have done during the controversial tree cutting in Orpheus Park last year was a revisiting of lingering issues. The city continues to struggle with developing and implementing a cohesive urban forest management policy.
Gaspar’s answer didn’t seem to satisfy the audience. “Community character should be preserved, including replenishing trees,” she said as audience member shouted to her to answer the question.
Kranz said that the real problem is that no mechanism is in place to take action to challenge proposed tree cutting. “There is no urban forest policy in place, if I am elected I will make sure that changes.”
The changing face of Cardiff was an issue on the minds of some residents. With several greenhouses either still in operation or shuttered and crumbling, the community has a fair number of agriculturally zoned parcels. Both Barth and Kranz said they were opposed to “upzoning” or allowing a developer to increase the density of a parcel. Kranz made an exception where a public transportation component to the project was available.