ENCINITAS — Encinitas resident Jeremy Kron is fed up with seeing election signs illegally displayed across the city — and he’s making a case for change.
Just before the Christmas holiday, Kron began emailing a host of leaders in the community — including Mayor Catherine Blakespear and all the Encinitas council members — expressing his displeasure with the signs and pleading for their help in cracking down on offenders.
Kron, who in 2016 volunteered for Blakespear’s campaign and learned the rules regarding signage when he helped distribute her yard signs, said he regularly checks for sign violators as he travels around the city by bike. In his emails, he reported seeing the first violation along Leucadia Boulevard on Dec. 19 — signs for Kristin Gaspar, who’s running for re-election in the San Diego County Supervisor District 3 race. He said the signs he spotted were paid for and placed by the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of San Diego County.
“Shortly after reporting the first pair and getting permission that day from City Hall’s code enforcement desk, we checked the map to confirm illegality of placement, they permitted me to uproot them and deliver them to City Hall. I did so,” Kron said Jan. 7.
Kron reported seeing illegally placed Gaspar signs again on Dec. 22 and Dec. 24.
“There are multiple new pro-Gaspar signs on public property along Leucadia Blvd right now which will not be enforced until the city resumes its regular business after the holidays,” Kron wrote in his emails. “These will get thousands of views and grow in number over time, overtaking medians, sidewalks, and other public territories. It is truly a blight and a shameful indulgence by the offenders to pollute this fine city.”
Kron said other current offenses he’s seen include signs from two candidates running for Superior Court Judge.
Candidates who are backed by associations such as the Deputy Sheriff’s Association have no control over the placement of signs posted by the associations.
Kron said that city code is explicit and detailed in its rules on signage in the city on different types of property. The city desk has an online map with the boundary lines.
In general, it says you cannot place signage on city-owned property, which includes sidewalks and street median landscaping — plants, trees and flowers. There are also strict limits on signage size in context of zoning rules.
You need permissions for signage on private property.
“We are fortunate to have many choices of candidates running for our various local and regional offices,” Blakespear said in a statement to The Coast News on Jan. 8. “However, it is never legal to place campaign signs in our city rights-of-way, as it creates unsightly clutter and, in some cases, can impair traffic sightlines. For this reason, we outreach to the various campaigns to let them know our policies, and we have staff pull illegal signs on a regular basis.”
The city said sweeps to look for and remove illegally placed signs are conducted once a week on random days. Current protocol asserts that all signs within the public right-of-way are removed and held for 30 days, during which time the city will make reasonable attempts to notify the candidate or committee of the right to reclaim. Thirty days after the election, the city will discard or destroy any unclaimed signs.
Individuals who want to report a sign can fill out a complaint form and return it to the city with the location of the signs.
The city reports that in 2018, 970 unlawfully placed political signs were removed.
Kron argues that the city of Encinitas has failed to consistently police and enforce the city’s own codes against illegal signage placement and proposes a number of solutions to rectify this. They include implementing steep fines and a daily sweep and cleanup of the major sign hotspots in town, which he says include Encinitas Boulevard, Leucadia Boulevard, El Camino Real, Saxony Road, Quail Gardens Road, Vulcan Avenue, and San Elijo State Beach.
“I believe any enforcement policy must be consistent, fair, transparent and complete,” he said. “Repeat offenders should be subject to steep fines and barred if they cannot abide by the law.”
Kron said in an email he’s officially lobbying Del Mar and Solana Beach for the same changes.
This week, Blakespear met with Assistant City Manager Mark Delin to look into updating the city’s protocols and approach regarding signs. The city says it is considering more frequent sweeps of signs and evaluating additional ways for illegally placed sign locations to be reported to ensure current protocols are easy and efficient to enforce.
Kron said the prevalence of illegally placed signs can give those candidates an unfair advantage over opponents who go by the book.
“I’ve been screaming from the rooftops that the signs are effective at creating votes,” Kron said. “(Offenders) repeatedly break the law with impunity, a strong response is needed to counter these activities. It’s not fair for the ethical operators playing by the rules. In a close election they might lose because they did not compete unethically.”