Encinitas Council crafts argument against ‘right-to-vote’ initiative

ENCINITAS — Council agreed on language at Wednesday night’s meeting that will appear as the argument against the “right-to-vote” initiative, now known as Proposition A, during a special election June 18. 

When it goes before voters, Prop A will include an impartial analysis, an argument for and against and a rebuttal to the argument in favor. Council will also write the rebuttal.

If Prop A passes, projects that increase density or building heights beyond 30 feet would require a majority vote from the public. Additionally, changing the zoning type of a parcel in some circumstances would need voter approval.

Many zoning changes are already subject to a public vote. But currently, council can raise density limits and change zoning with a four-out-of-five council member vote — a power that would be eliminated under Prop A.

Council’s argument against concurs that it shouldn’t have the ability to “up-zone” with a four-fifths vote. Hence, council said it supports “the spirit” of Prop A. But the argument goes on to say that Prop A would create unintended consequences. Council intends to submit a “cleaned-up” version of Prop A for a public vote that would happen in 2014.

“The initiative must be accepted or rejected as a whole,” says council’s argument.

Among its concerns, council said Prop A, if approved by voters, might also need the go-ahead from the California Coastal Commission. About 80 percent of the city is under the coastal commission’s jurisdiction.

Should voters pass Prop A and the Coastal Commission deny it: “this could result in different rules for different parts of Encinitas,” the argument states.

Also, council said that Prop A would make it more difficult to manage state-mandated housing requirements. Every eight years, cities have to pencil out the locations that can accommodate new housing, or risk penalties.

“If land use plans are challenged, courts could intervene in our local planning decisions,” the argument states.

Prop A received at least 5,700 signatures, guaranteeing a special election.

Council had the option of adopting Prop A outright during its March 12 meeting, but in declining to do so, the initiative was sent to a special election.

Mayor Teresa Barth and Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar met twice in special public meetings over the past few weeks to draft the argument against Prop A, but did not come up with a concrete recommendation. At Wednesday’s meeting, Gaspar said council shouldn’t compose the language in public, because those crafting the argument for Prop A will have the chance to specifically address objections to it — or what Gaspar called, “letting the opposing team into our locker room.”

Further, Gaspar said it’s unconventional for arguments for propositions to be written in the light of day. That might cause some groups to cry foul, and possibly open the city up to lawsuits, she said.

But Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer said the process should be as transparent as possible.

“I don’t see this as a battle where we have to hide our strategy,” Shaffer said. “We have openly discussed our views.”

Barth and Councilman Tony Kranz agreed.

Council also voted to form a subcommittee made up of Shaffer and Councilman Mark Muir to write the rebuttal to the argument in favor of Prop A. That recommendation will be presented to council for adoption April 10.

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  1. Encinitas needs reform; vote YES! says:

    Council is elected in trust to represent what we, the voters want. The best way to determine what the public wants is for us to vote, YES, in June, so that we are able to vote on upzoning in the future. This has very rarely been allowed, in the past. When we did vote on upzoning to residential the Ecke property zoned “agricultural in perpetuity,” we voted no. We want to maintain our “small town” laid back beachtown, or in some places, our semi-rural atmosphere.

    I am sorry to say that I can’t, and many others don’t trust Council now. If it truly wanted to, Council could have already eliminated, or could have initiated the process of eliminating, by ordinance, the 4 out of 5 Council Member “supermajority” allowance for making zoning changes. Council could do that NOW and could also then pledge to put it on the ballot in 2014, so that a future Council couldn’t vote to change that a public vote is mandated for upzoning. Similarly, Council could have already enacted a Sunshine Ordinance, as promised by Mayor Teresa Barth and Councilman Kranz, and supported by Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer.

    Instead, Council, in its ballot argument is asking the public to believe more “pie in the sky” promises. What would stop Tony Kranz, who had before signed the petition, to angrily announce, again, “I’ve changed my mind!” Neither Kranz or Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer would have been elected had they not signed and supported the right to vote on upzoning initiative.

    Councilman Kranz now says he doesn’t want to waste all the public input that went into putting together the previous Specific Plans, which do favor developers over existing residents. But our new Council has repeatedly been shown, specifically, how the Specific Plans are not now consistent with our existing General Plan, with respect to height limitations, which inconsistencies make them OUT OF COMPLIANCE with State Law.

    It is disingenuous of Council to argue the height limit could possibly “be interpreted” as allowing lower height limits in residential zones to be increased to the preexisting 30 foot maximum, MEASURED FROM THE LOWER OF THE NATURAL OR FINISHED GRADE, as already specified in the GP and in our municipal zoning code definitions. The thirty foot height limit is a city wide maximum, CAP, not an excuse to raise height limits already set at lower than the maximum. The City Attorney could have told Council there would be no issue with confusion over that, and there never has been with respect to our GP and EMC both supporting the 30 ft height limit NOW!

    Also, the existing inconsistent Specific Plans were approved by 4/5 majority of previous Councils, and DON”T indicate what neighborhoods want through previous independent needs assessments, OR a public vote. So all the “time wasted” that Kranz speaks of was time spent lobbying by expansionist development interests.

  2. Concerned Citizen says:

    The Coastal Commission issue is disingenuous too, as a ballot argument. The City Attorney and Council knows, or should know that is a “no starter,” because the CCC should not have to review, as the General Plan is already consistent with our Local Coastal Program, already reviewed and approved. The City Attorney, or Rutan & Tucker, through the process of creating its slanted, pro-development “impact report” could have actually COMMUNICATED with the CCC, to verify whether or not review would be necessary or if there could possibly be any “problem.” The attorney who wrote the initiative, Everett Delano, also confirmed that there would be NO PROBLEM with CCC; Delan’s an environmental law expert!

    With respect to density bonus State Law, if some provision of that were to “trump” the initiative, then the rest of the initiative would be intact, as it was written, by an attorney, to be “severable.” Our City has NEVER built all the affordable units that are “designated” through the State and SANDAG. Yet Joel K, through Rutan & Tucker has successfully set case law precedent that our existing GP is sufficient with respect to affordable housing!

    Council knows all this. Because it is looking for excuses to oppose something that candidates Lisa Shaffer and Tony Kranz both signed, because they have gone back on their promises, then we don’t trust them or their trumped up arguments, which are full of conjecture, speculation and empty promises.

  3. Council's arguments made out of fear says:

    Council appears to be confused, which causes it to make decisions out of fear, attempting to pass on its confusion and fear to the general public in its in-artful and untrue ballot arguments. Council has to dig hard to look for excuses, promoted by developers only interested in short term profit, to oppose, yet they have failed to make ANY decent argument!

    The overwhelming positive response by the huge percentage of those who signed the petition indicates what we already know. We have an intelligent and active electorate that will support the right to vote on upzoning initiative by voting YES in June!

  4. Wimpy Council says:

    At the Wednesday’s meeting, council drafted their statement opposing Prop A, the Right-To-Vote initiative on future up-zoning. Their statement highlights the fact that, in spirit, they support the right we should have to vote on up-zoning decisions. They stated they want to remove policy 3.12 of our current land use element, that allow a 4/5th majority of council to allow major zoning changes when there is a so-called “public benefit”. This is precisely what the initiative is trying to achieve. How can they possibly have in the same statement a list of possible negative impacts the city could face if the initiative is passed?
    While they take their good old time removing policy 3.12, they will need to prepare a housing element this Summer (deadline this August). Of course there is not enough time to vote on this general plan update, so we will be stuck with 1300 planned high-density units with no voice on the subject.
    Then they can change their minds later and retreat from removing policy 3.12, so that in the next housing cycle, there will not be any “unintended” consequences for not complying with the relentless push for higher density that’s being imposed upon by the faceless bureaucrats at HCD and SANDAG.
    Don’t be fooled by the bait and switch tactics from our politicians. They make abrupt U-turns and some have always being going the wrong way.

    Vote YES on PROP A.

  5. I’m for the Right to Vote. But does anyone else see the irony in that proponents of this measure are angry at council for wanting to give the public the right to vote on it?

    • Yes on Prop A says:

      Well, it’s ok that it goes to a vote. It would have been better to follow Tony’s advice to adopt as it and re-draft it for a general election in Nov 2014. It would have save the city some money for sure. I believe the disappointment has more to do with the fact that 3 council members, that had originally expressed support for the initiative, are now joining a council argument against the initiative. In my eyes, it would have been better for the council to stay neutral and have an argument for and against made by independent groups.

  6. Another Yes Vote says:

    The real point is that money talks. Our City is not as well off as Stocks and others like to claim.

    To spend $350,000 on this election is a lot of cash for something that is going to easily pass anyway. Everyone knows that a YES vote protects Encinitas and is a vote against the Building Industry.

    These same people and the City Attorney Glenn Sabine were the ones who accused Teresa Barth of wasting $15,000 when he hired a lawyer to investigate a question of harassment from Jerome Stocks.

    This election is a waste of money, but everyone should vote YES!

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