ENCINITAS — One Leucadian man is running — bare in foot and frills — for mayor of Encinitas.
Michael Blobe’s approach to city politics is simple: Cut out the aesthetics and focus on functional city government.
Blobe got involved in local politics following the North County Transit District’s installation of a $2.35 million rail fence — which he believes should have been allocated to other capital projects — and the city’s Leucadia Streetscape efforts.
“We need to focus on what is needed first before we do the fancy stuff,” Blobe said.
The mayor-hopeful has worn several hats in retail and restaurant management but now serves as the regional director for the Barefoot is Legal organization. Blobe suffers a medical condition that prohibits him from wearing shoes.
He said that even though no state or general health code exists, people in his organization are discriminated against.
“So we try to educate people,” he said, adding that if someone “runs into major problems, we try to help them with legal advice on how to proceed.”
Blobe’s overarching goal is to have an inclusive city.
“I believe that every person was created equally; all their differences should be celebrated, not shunned,” Blobe told The Coast News. “You shouldn’t be discriminated against, no matter what, because you are a human being and need to be respected for your unique ideas.”
Concerned with increased development in the city, Blobe hopes to curb growth by ensuring that all housing projects have at least 25% affordable housing units dedicated in the plan.
“Why are we designating spots for affordable housing when we can say, ‘Look, if you want to develop in the town, 25% of your building is going to be affordable housing,’” Blobe said, adding this rule may discourage large housing developments from coming to Encinitas.
“If you have one greedy developer who doesn’t want to build that, there will be one right behind them,” Blobe said.
Blobe would also like fewer out-of-town builders taking over commercial and residential projects. He wants to ensure residents can afford their rental or leased homes, no matter who owns them.
“Developers are coming from out of town, buying apartment complexes or shopping centers,” Blobe explained. “[Residents] can’t afford to live there anymore, so they lose their homes.”
Instead, Blobe hopes to introduce a policy that would grandfather in occupants into rent-controlled leases when a housing or business complex is bought out.
“We have to protect the affordable housing we have now before we worry about bringing more,” he said.
He said that responsibly addressing housing and other development to help the environment and natural landscape of Encinitas and its neighborhoods — longing for the days of Leucadia’s rural feel.
“To me [helping] the environment is keeping the environment there, not making it cement,” Blobe said. “My most important this is to cut down on development and focus more on keeping the land.”
Blobe closely connects with the homelessness issue in Encinitas; he firmly believes that homelessness can be addressed with mental health and substance abuse resources.
“Instead of giving out rooms and free meals, that’s just contributing to the problem,” he said. “You can’t treat the problem if you’re helping it go along. We need to focus on health care, mental health care and substance abuse.”
As mayor, Blobe would present the creation of a new office in city hall that would serve as the point of contact for homelessness outreach and other services.
“I want to have [staff] that are going to be able to go out and evaluate these people … instead of just waiting for them to walk into the office to ask for help,” Blobe said.
Blobe is focused on reducing city spending. While city infrastructure has seen significant improvements, there are some projects he can’t make sense of.
“I am an ordinary person, I have to budget money and use it for what it’s needed, and if I have leftover, I can use it for leisure, and that’s the same thing for the city. You have to budget for what’s needed.”
Particularly, Blobe feels Leucadia Streetscape is an example of unnecessary city spending. On several occasions, Blobe has looked to this city program as an example of the expenditure for aesthetics and not function.
“The majority of the population is driving in cars; you can’t force them to ride bikes,” Blobe said, noting that cyclists don’t represent a large portion of the community.
Crime and Safety
While talk of a police department has been toyed with in the past, Blobe would like to see Encinitas dedicate more funds to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for additional deputies in the area. Blobe acknowledged the city has seen an uptick in crime and daily traffic violations — activities he hopes to curb.
“It’s not that the Sheriff’s (Department) is doing a bad job,” Blobe said. “It’s that they don’t have enough of them.”
Read more interviews with Encinitas mayoral and council candidates.