CARLSBAD — In less than three weeks, the city will add at least one new person to the City Council.
In this election cycle, districts 2 and 4 are up as Keith Blackburn, a current councilman, takes on Lela Panagides in District 2, while Teresa Acosta and Phil Urbina battle in District 4. Each candidate spoke with the Coast News for its election coverage on district-specific issues such as the College Boulevard connection, traffic and Ponto Park.
District 2 — College Boulevard, traffic
Blackburn, who has been on the council since 2012, said the decision to connect El Camino Real and College Boulevard came down to several factors. First, it was needed to alleviate traffic congestion; second, it was necessary to allow development, which he said dovetails into more housing for the city, especially to meet its Regional Housing Needs Assessment goals from the county.
The city, Blackburn said, took the lead because there are at least a dozen landowners who couldn’t agree on how to split the cost of the new road. But by using specific city funding sources, Carlsbad can connect the road, which he said will help alleviate traffic on El Camino Real.
“College is part of the General Plan circulation and is the final leg in that plan and it’s necessary,” he said. “Recently, the state of California said, ‘we don’t care what your General Plan says, you can’t stop development.’ The whole council has agreed it’s time for a new General Plan.”
Panagides said College Boulevard was the “impetus” for why she decided to run. High speeds, children walking to school and were just some of her concerns, so she created a group to engage the city about those issues.
And while the city will implement speed signs, Panagides said identifying the problem is where it starts. So, asking for dedicated turn lanes and lights near both the school campuses is a priority.
But with the pandemic, she said the city must be careful on how to spend on the future solutions for the issue in regard to a decrease in tax revenues.
So, the thing for me about decision making is you have to live in the experience of the people you’re trying to make decisions for,” she said. “And that often doesn’t happen, which means you have to be accessible to people.”
District 4 — Ponto Park
Both Acosta and Urbina are in favor of the coastal park in District 4 proposed by the group, People for Ponto. However, they slightly differ on how to get there. The space being proposed along Ponto Road off Avenida Encinas.
Acosta said she is in full support and said there have been errors admitted by city staff. She added the city must review and clarify what the zoning is, who has paid into the park and whether the park deficit is satisfied, which she believes is not.
There is also an area that has been debated about whether the residents of San Pacifico in this planning area F had paid a fee for a park,” she said. “And this fee had been collected by the city, but the park was never built.”
Due to the complexities, Urbina said he is in favor of an “exhaustive” feasibility study, review the issues raised by the group, collect facts and then make a final decision. He added taking up a firm stance, either way, before the study is conducted would be irresponsible.
“People for Ponto have brought up numerous issues and I think as a councilmember my job is to look at things from a 30,000-foot level, to be able to see what those issues are, to get the facts and then to be able to make a decision,” he added.
Affordable housing has long been an issue throughout the state. All the candidates said analyzing other properties not zoned for residential should be considered, such as industrial zones, along with infill and refill.
One hurdle, though, is penalties from the state combined with a lack of incentives for developers to meet the Regional Housing Needs Assessment set by the county at 3,873 units for Carlsbad. Of those, more than 2,000 must meet very low to low-income residences.
Additionally, all spoke about converting the west side parking lot at The Shoppes at Carlsbad mall into a residential area.
Blackburn said the city has been in discussions with the property owner for several years to find the best project, along with clearing regulatory and legal hurdles. Panagides said a more blended mix of housing is needed, such as mixed-use developments, along with bringing down costs for developers so they can build, and the city meets its goals.
In District 4, Urbina said there is little land left to build and the decisions on where to put housing, whether in the city or District 4, will be complex and require the mix to meet the RHNA goals. Also, he said the cap on the city’s population has been removed by the state, so the Growth Management Plan must be revisited.
Acosta the city can upzone in some areas, add triplexes and fourplexes in line with the character of the area, increase density and reduce delays for builders and city fees. Also, she said streamlining the process to provide permitting and expertise to developers to make the city a friendly entity to do business with.
Coast News intern Catherine Allen contributed to this story.