The Coast News Group
Opinion, Community Commentary
Community CommentaryOpinion

Commentary: Proposition A turns 10

By Bruce Ehlers

June 18 marked the 10th anniversary of Encinitas’ Proposition A, The Right to Vote Initiative. 

Back in 2013, residents had no voice in the city’s growth and were becoming increasingly alarmed by the looming threats of increased density and height throughout Encinitas.  

In response, local volunteer activists formed a group and gathered signatures from approximately one-quarter of Encinitas voters to give residents their voice.  Held on June 18, 2013, in a special election, the voters approved “Prop A.” 

What is Prop A? It was a citizen-led initiative to update the city’s general plan and municipal code. The initiative restored our original city incorporation right to vote on increases in zoning density or increases above two stories or 30 feet in height.  

Because it was approved by a vote of the people, it may only be modified by the people in public votes.  City Councils cannot modify Prop A’s terms without voter approval. 

Why was it needed?  Prior to Proposition A, the city’s general plan required a vote of the people for zoning density increases.  

However, there was a loophole: a super-majority of four (out of five) council members could bypass a public vote and approve zoning density and height increases. This had happened many times in the 25 years prior to Prop A’s passing.  

Closing this loophole, Prop A restored the required citizens’ vote on such increases. Residents took back local control and protected themselves from the inevitable ebb and flow of council majorities.

There have been two Prop A-mandated votes so far, both sponsored by the city. In both cases, the voters denied the proposals.  These were Measure T in 2016 and Measure U in 2018, both of which proposed massive increases in zoning but without the promised lower-income housing.  

Measure T would have delivered only a paltry 199 lower-income units but came with 2,000 additional market-rate housing units, 3,000 total units with a density bonus.  

The associated strain on traffic, schools, infrastructure and community character did not justify the small number of lower-income units proposed. Measure U was nearly identical to Measure T and suffered a similar defeat.  

All three votes went against the unanimous councils and vindicated our need for Prop A.

After the failure of Measure U, the city was sued by the Building Industry Association of San Diego for its non-compliant housing element.  

The judge decided to allow the city to update the housing element and upzone and increase building height on a one-time basis without a Prop A vote. The result is 15 properties citywide zoned at 30 units per acre, 3 stories and 42 feet in height.  

With density bonus, developers may densify to 45 units per acre and add more stories and height in exchange for a minimal number of additional lower-income units. 

Enforcing Measure U was not enough for the city; the council attempted to remove Prop A permanently.  The council initially sued its own residents, then amended the lawsuit to name instead the state, deemed a “friendly” defendant.  

Residents then had to expend their own money for an attorney and intervene in the case in order to defend Prop A.  

It is ironic that despite the city’s predictions of developer lawsuits, the only lawsuit filed against Prop A came from the City Council itself.  

In August 2021, a superior court judge ruled in the city’s lawsuit that Proposition A was protected on firm California constitutional grounds, supporting the residents’ right to local control.  Neither the council nor the state appealed the court’s decision.  

Proposition A remains in effect and is directly embedded in the language of our city’s general plan and municipal code.  We will get to vote on the city’s mass upzoning proposal for El Camino Real, thanks to Proposition A.

I ran on a platform of maintaining local control and will continue to defend Prop A from future threats.  

Please join me in defending our city from unwarranted intrusions by the state on our local character and zoning.

Celebrate this anniversary. Thanks to Prop A, you are in control.

Bruce Ehlers is the District 4 representative on the Encinitas City Council and the primary author of Proposition A.

1 comment

steve333 June 22, 2023 at 3:43 pm

Bruce Ehlers is the only currently elected official in Encinitas that represents the people of Encinitas.
Kranz, Lyndes, Hinze and the appointee need to be shown the door next election.
Don’t let these limousine liberal funded traitors continue to destroy the very reason Encinitas became it’s own City. Vote smarter.

Comments are closed.