How Cardiff residents saved the town

As Cardiff-by-the-Sea turns 100 it’s worth remembering that the Cardiff that is, almost wasn’t.
Cardiff is the result of “small town zoning.” Commercial buildings in the six-block district can only cover 30 to 40 percent of the lot and have a two-story height limit. Setbacks keep the streets wide and views protected. The zoning prevents high density, mixed use development and preserves a small “beach town” identity.
From 1999 to 2010, Encinitas wrote a new zoning document called “The Cardiff Specific Plan.” During this time Cardiff came under pressure from developers who wanted City Council to give them new property rights to increase building size by 200 percent and mixed use zoning. Cardiff would have tripled in size. Residents wanted zoning that would protect the Cardiff they loved.
During the writing of the Cardiff Specific Plan, City Council told citizens they wanted public input, but to many residents it didn’t seem that way. City staff did the opposite of what residents said they wanted. Some claimed city council members who had election campaigns financed by developers worked against the citizens.
For instance, 131 residents attending a city conference led by the Rick Planning group in 2001 produced a report titled “A Vision for Cardiff,” that said, “The conference did not favor increasing height limits,” and “current limitations should be strictly enforced, as should limitations on total square footage, lot coverage and setbacks.”
But, after the city had paid them $100,000, the Steele Consulting group presented a draft of the Cardiff Specific Plan in 2007 that proposed rezoning Cardiff to the benefit of developers, allowing three-story buildings, 200 percent increases to density, mixed use, and zero setbacks that would create ocean view blocking street walls — the very things residents did not want.
When the Steele draft met with resident disapproval, the council appointed the Cardiff Citizens Specific Plan Area Review Committee (CSPARC) to rewrite the Steele Draft. The council paid Mr. Peder Norby to lead the meetings and three city planners took notes.
City staff prepared an analysis showing how the single story VG Donuts center would become a three-story mixed use building that would cover the lot with building and have underground parking. The owner of the Post Office promoted his site as suitable for a three-story Walgreens. Residents fought back with presentations on the negative impact of mixed use on community identity.
On Sept. 11, Sept. 18 and Oct. 2, 2007, the CSPARC committee held five votes on mixed use in the Cardiff Specific Plan and reached a consensus that mixed use would be limited to lots of 5,000 square feet and only on the east side of Newcastle Avenue. The votes were filmed by residents.
One year later, Sept. 17, 2008, Mr. Norby told the Encinitas Planning Commission that the Citizens Committee did not reach consensus on mixed use, ignoring the five committee votes he had led. High density mixed use was put back in the plan and the hard work of the volunteer committee was almost undone. Later, the city staff that took notes told the City Council that, “Staff would like to emphasize the committee did not reach consensus on mixed use in the plan area.” Many said the fix was in.
The Cardiff Specific Plan finally came before the council in 2010 for a vote. Some 20 speakers spoke. An Air Force Academy graduate told the council that the Constitution he swore to defend was a “Government of, for and by the people, not a government of, for and by the developers.”
One resident presented a film showing the five votes of the Citizens Committee.
The council voted to approve the Citizens Cardiff Specific Plan removing new mixed use zoning in Cardiff. The plan is now awaiting approval from the Coastal Commission.
This decision means, that for the time being, Cardiff will keep its unique community character.
Many fear that given developer funding of the election campaigns in Encinitas, it won’t be long before Cardiff again comes under attack.
Last Saturday, many people gathered at the Cardiff Post Office for a parade to celebrate its 100th birthday. Floats and revelers marched down Newcastle Avenue, a wide street with small buildings on small lots past wide open spaces with views to the sea. They passed Cardiff residents who lined the avenue. They don’t make small towns like this anymore. Let’s hope we get to keep this one.
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  1. no mixed use says:

    A comment on the building that houses wine steals -

    There was community opposition to that building that received VARIANCES and other special previleges that included not having a loading zone. It is not what is currently allowed or planned.

  2. anonymous says:

    With Regard to Mr. Farrow,

    I appreciate that you are a surfer and therefore must love our natural beauty in Encinitas. At least we have some shared values on some matters.

    Your vision of how you see your projects is admirable, but it is not how those who live there experience what you have created, or I think that you yourself might still be there.

    I think that people should look up your name and view examples of your work since people who evaluate their own work are not always objective, so if you are going to say that people who don’t want what you sell are ‘selfish,’ I think that you should go somewhere else where your style is appreciated.

    The pattern that we have observed in Encinitas is that developers place projects like your Little Italy projects in desirable neighborhoods and extract the value from exisiting property owners who are left to deal with ongoing safety issues and a degraded quality of life.

    I personally think that the ‘selfish’ ones are not those who have created the original beauty and value, but those who come in to extract it from others. And in terms of using our real names, we are not the ones who have licenses and claim to be experts as you are. We are the people who live here already and want to keep it nice.

    Andrew Audet has been bashed repeatedly for sharing documented public information in an opinion column, so we would invite you and others in your field to uphold the standards of your profession and create projects that we like–not what you can make the most money from.

  3. Jody H. says:

    I very much support the current business development plan for Cardiff. Thank goodness for people like Andrew Audet who saw the bigger picture. If you want to see what happens when you allow for 3 story buildings – look at Pacific Station in downtown Encinitas. I do not consider this 3 story building with no setbacks to be acceptable. This 3 story building was allowed because it included "low income housing". An legal variance that would have been the back door approach used in Cardiff also. If you allow 3 story buildings with no setbacks it WILL change the character of our wonderfull community known as Cardiff or Cardiff by the Sea (take your pick).

  4. Brett Farrow says:

    I supported a height limit at 2 stories no matter the case. I also supported incentives for 1 story development. And, I contributed the idea of making 10,000 sf the maximum lot size to promote small scale and not allow larger projects like Pacific Station. Downtown Encinitas allows 3 story or 33′ in height, the boogie man of affordable housing has nothing to do with it. We could have put a cap at 26′ in here in Cardiff. There were ways to make positive changes.

    What I opposed was automobile parking in the front and curb cuts.

    I live in the Specific Plan area with my family, in one of my projects. My house was Victor Kremer’s house who put "by-the-sea" in Cardiff’s name. And yes, he was a developer too. Anyone in the Composer District can thank him for what he did.

  5. 2000and11 says:

    speaking of making money, who is paying andrew audet? suspicious.

  6. NotSuspicious says:

    The last comment demonstrates how corrupt this city has become with its City Hall employee unions, its developer-run campaigns for Stocks, Bond, and Gaspar, and its preferential sweetheart deals between the City and developers, that nobody can believe that there are many of us who just want honest and competent leadership.

    Instead of asking who is paying Audet, ask the editor of the Coast News how much people are paid. Many people write pieces for FREE, because they think it is important to communicate community information that is kept under wraps at City Hall or they feel passionately about a particular cause like animal rights.

    This is a great community full of 60,000 residents. Get the majority council members, City Employee Unions and the developers, to serve the community and not drain the value from taxpayers, and it would be perfect.

  7. Cardiff Dad says:

    The comments by the city employees and their supporters (or is it the other way around) show a markedly "this goes to eleven" attitude about the development. Kind of reminds me of how the Clintons approached their healthcare plan when Bill was first elected: "we know better than you poor people, be glad to have our enlightened guidance". I guess when your premise is mistaken, then it’s hard for anything that follows to be on track.
    I’m watching the Tour de France on TV these days, and wondering what the idyllic villages these cyclist pass through would look like if Encinitas Council (and staff) had their way. Those villages are so old. Not at all modern. Two story buildings, except for the seemingly obligatory church – which clearly must have had a variance, so that’s a precedent, right? Certainly these villages could benefit from a Monoprix with underground parking, no?
    The residents of Cardiff don’t want our town to turn into an Orange County city, or Carlsbad, or LA, or ANYTHING but Cardiff. Those of us that live here may have slightly different ideas of what’s perfect about Cardiff and what needs protecting most, but by-and-large, the folks that call this home (not the folks that call it Business) want it to stay a home. And that’s the purest, simplest explanation of our resistance to further commercialization of our town. The City Council, et. al., never seemed to understand that, nor could they fathom why we wouldn’t accept a "we know better" change to our town’s very soul.
    I applaud Mr Audet for taking the lead on this, along with the heat. If not for his calls to arms — alerting the residents of Cardiff of the intent of the Council and then documenting and challenging the disingenuity of the leadership and their staff — Cardiff would be getting prepped for slaughter now.
    So let’s be glad that we can live in this wonderful town. Let’s be glad that it’s soul is intact. It’s beautiful as it is, and I hope that in years to come, when the Tour of California comes through town, Cardiff can inspire the watchers the way 1000-year-old French villages do. If we defend our town — as Mr Audet has done — we’ll preserve the treasure of Cardiff. And our jewel will hold it’s worth and continue to shine.
    Respectively submitted from Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, United States of America

  8. anonymous says:

    Well said Cardiff Dad! We are one of the few places in the world that has this spectacular combination of beautiful weather, views and the Pacific Ocean, and we are supposed to let others come in and steal it? I think not!

  9. OCB says:

    The movie showing the citizens votes is up at website. During the meetings the citizens vote and reach consensus. Then Mr. Norby and city staff tell the planning commission and city council they didn’t. Watch it for yourself and decide. I was at the meetings in the Pointsettia room when it happened live.

    Elected officials and hired consultants, and city staff who are paid to lead meetings In Encinitas and North County need to represent the citizens not themselves. They have to be held accountable.

  10. anonymous says:

    A specific plan is simply a document to change zoning. The city planned to upzone in the Cardiff Specific Plan area to allow more density through mixed-use, larger lot coverage, three stories, and reduced setbacks. The city saw increased income through property taxes, and some commercial property owners saw an opportunity to sell out at big profit.

    Audet has it right. The Cardiff small town scale that we all love was saved from becoming something like Moonlight Lofts and Pacific Station. No, it wouldn’t have happened overnight, but certain developers were licking their chops. Now they are unhappy because they lost a chance to personally enrich themselves.

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