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First Encinitas forum reveals candidates’ positions

Ten candidates for City Council answered questions from the audience at a forum Sept. 16. Approximately 85 people filled the Ada Harris Elementary auditorium for the event sponsored by the Cardiff Town Council. While the city’s plan to develop the Hall park took up the majority of questioning, attendees also asked questions regarding the candidates’ positions on development, transparent government and their vision for Encinitas.
Three incumbents — James Bond, Maggie Houlihan and Jerome Stocks — joined challengers Betsy Aceti, Tony Brandenburg, Rachelle Collier, Doug Long, Bob Nanninga, Harriet Seldin and Joe Sheffo at the forum.
After brief candidate introductions, moderator Barbara Cobb opened the floor to questions from the audience.
Several people peppered the candidates to clarify their positions on the Hall park. The city’s plan to develop a 44-acre park west of Interstate 5 and south of Santa Fe Drive has been controversial since the land was purchased in 2001 for $17.2 million. The Planning Commission refused to approve the latest incarnation of the plan earlier this month, calling for a reduction in dedicated sports fields, limits on lighting and further traffic mitigation measures.
The park design as presented by staff called for five dedicated soccer fields overlapping two baseball fields, playground structures, a dog park area and an amphitheater. A teen center, skate park and swim complex could be added in the second phase of development.
Neighbors of the site oppose the high intensity of the park, claiming that constant use of the dedicated fields will generate too much traffic, noise and light pollution. Local soccer leagues support the plan.
Stocks and Bond defended the five fields plan, noting that the park’s buffer zone is adequate to protect the surrounding neighborhood. They were joined by Nanninga, Aceti, Long, Seldin, Sheffo and Brandenburg in supporting the plan that was rejected by the Planning Commission.
“The longer it takes to build this park, the less likely it is that we’ll be able to afford it,” Nanninga said. “Just get it done,” an exasperated Brandenburg said.
Collier drew a round of applause when she said she supported a scaled back version of the sports fields to accommodate a more “community park.” Houlihan said she doesn’t think the plan is settled until the council has more discussions on the impact of the park on the surrounding neighborhood.
One resident questioned whether Stocks and Bond had a conflict of interest in the park because of their membership in the Rotary Club, which sponsors an annual soccer tournament. Stocks and Bond have said publicly that they support five dedicated soccer fields. Both incumbents denied a conflict of interest despite their membership in an organization that raised $70,000 in proceeds from the tournament, according Bond.
Kathleen Rooney, a Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident, asked the candidates whether they support an ordinance when landscape infringes upon ocean views. Long said he wanted to encourage people to work out their own disagreements. “I want to see neighbors being neighborly to neighbors,” he said. Stocks said the city had no business settling disputes among neighbors over views. “I don’t want our city to turn into a homeowners association,” he said. “Be grateful you had the view when you did.”
The next candidate forum is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Olivenhain Meeting Hall and will be sponsored by the Olivenhain Town Council.