The “Right to Vote” title alone sounds very compelling.
Those who have heard the enticing pitch from supporters of Proposition A might be led to believe that the initiative was providing Encinitas voters with a new right — the opportunity to vote on changes to the General Plan, the document that controls the growth of our city.
In reality, Encinitas voters already have this right. However, due to the complex nature of our General Plan, confusion is understandable.
Under current law, voter approval is required for any increase in residential density or nonresidential intensity, or any change in land use designation between residential and nonresidential uses.
The City Council has the ability with at least four of its five members agreeing to approve a change in density, intensity or zoning designation of land — but only if the proposed change provides a “significant public benefit” to the city. In the 26-year history of Encinitas, no council has ever used this provision to approve a major project without first a vote of the people. Two earlier examples are when voters approved the Home Depot and rejected houses on the Ecke Ranch.
Again, even though this provision has never been used, in response to Proposition A proponents’ concerns, the City Council voted unanimously to remove this provision. In addition, the council unanimously agreed to begin the process of ratifying this change in the 2014 election.
Voter ratification would eliminate a future council from reinstating the four-fifths provision without voter approval. This decision by the council affirms our support for the spirit of Proposition A but would avoid many of the other consequences that come with other parts of this poorly written initiative.
While Prop A has a deceptively simple name — “right to vote” — the initiative does far more. It includes other faultily written provisions that will create confusion and legal nightmares for the city.
For instance, a citywide height limit written into the initiative would actually allow taller structures in certain areas by overriding existing statutes. Proposition A will also nullify community-specific plans created with years of public input and millions in taxpayer dollars.
When the Encinitas City Council voted to unanimously oppose Proposition A, the primary reason was that we could not accept the poison pills that came with any positive aspects of the initiative.
By moving forward with the process to permanently remove the four-fifths provision, we’ve put actions behind our words by providing Encinitas voters with the ability to reject Proposition A, along with its flaws. The voters will have the “Right to Vote” to permanently delete the four-fifths provision in November 2014.
Encinitas residents should be confident that they will have a voice on future growth of our city. Thanks to the actions of the City Council and your No vote on June 18, we won’t have to suffer the negative impacts of Proposition A.
Mark Muir, Encinitas Councilman.
Elected in 2012 after retiring as fire chief of Encinitas.
Filed Under: Community Commentary