News broke last week of an important decision made by the Southern California Association of Governments, or SCAG. SCAG is analogous to the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG – both are planning and transportation authorities for their regions.
SANDAG is governed by a board composed of representatives from each of San Diego County’s 19 cities, but SCAG is much bigger, encompassing 191 cities in six counties — Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Imperial. In the governance of SoCal, SCAG is the Big Kahuna.
SCAG’s governing board voted by an overwhelming majority to support the “Community Planning Voter Initiative,” otherwise known as “Our Neighborhood Voices.” This initiative, currently underway as a statewide petition drive, is an attempt to restore local control to each city in California via a constitutional amendment.
Some background: New state laws recently took effect that brings huge changes to our neighborhoods by eliminating single-family zoning in every city. Any home on any block can now be demolished and then replaced with a multi-unit multi-story structure and you can’t do a thing about it.
You’ll lose privacy, neighborhood trees, and curbside parking. Your elected leaders can’t stop these densification projects. City planners have been muted. Your HOA is powerless. No development fees are to be collected for schools, roads, sewer, police and fire.
Adding insult to injury, there are no affordability requirements – the additional units won’t even count toward the state’s low-income housing mandates.
Make no mistake about it. Encinitas faces a life-or-death struggle with Sacramento. If the pols have their way, our coastal town will be filled with expensive multi-family dwellings jammed into every possible available space, leading to even more congested roads and straining our infrastructure.
The Our Neighborhood Voices Initiative is a silver bullet in what is mortal combat. It’s a stake through the dark heart of Sacramento’s overreach. If the California Constitution is amended as proposed, we’ll have the means to resist this push to convert Encinitas into a “mini-me” of Santa Monica. Without this protection, it’s only a matter of time before the Encinitas of today is buried under millions of tons of concrete.
This is a non-partisan initiative, led by elected officials across the spectrum – Democrat, Independent and Republican. It relies on a fundamental pillar of the democratic process: the government closest to the people serves the people best. In Encinitas, that means the voters and our elected City Council. The proposed amendment will give us the power we need to defend our neighborhoods.
So kudos to the elected officials of SCAG. They know what their cities are facing and they are standing up for local control. If this reform becomes law, Encinitas will have the power to shape its own future. Our Proposition A, which requires voter approval for zoning changes, has been subverted in the past by our own local leaders.
Unless Our Neighborhood Voices Initiative succeeds, that will happen again and again, reducing Prop A to a quaint artifact of local history.
I call upon our City Council and the SANDAG Board of Directors to stand with SCAG in support of Our Neighborhood Voices. They should clearly express their support by resolution and direct our SANDAG representative, Mayor Catherine Blakespear, to do the same in that body.
Perhaps Blakespear can take time out from her state senate campaign and focus for a moment instead on the interests of the residents of Encinitas. It’s time for her to choose: serve her constituents or continue to serve the interests of those who will profit by paving Encinitas into oblivion.
Learn more about the initiative at Our Neighborhood Voices.