OCEANSIDE — In November, voters will determine if they want the North River Farms project to go forward, effectively overruling the city’s approval of the housing development last year.
The 215-acre project would build 585 homes on North River Road in the city’s northeastern farming region located near Bonsall, Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton.
Council approved the project by a 3-2 vote on November 6, 2019.
Seeking to overturn the council’s decision, opponents of the project filed petitions with the City Clerk’s Office in December 2019 in support of a referendum asking voters if they wanted the project to go forward. Supporters of the referendum had to collect at least 9,609 signatures from residents who agreed with the ballot measure.
After a final count of signatures was tallied by the San Diego County registrar of voters, the city was notified on March 19 there were a total of 12,623 signatures, more than enough to place the referendum on the November ballot.
Additionally, there were 2,130 invalid signatures and another 884 signatures were not counted.
During a March 25 meeting, council members considered three options: repealing the ordinance approving North River Farms; submit the ordinance to voters at a regular municipal election on Nov. 3; or submit the ordinance to voters at a special election.
Councilmember Esther Sanchez asked the other members if they would consider simply repealing the ordinance right there but did not receive any response in support. Just before Council unanimously approved to move the vote to November, Mayor Peter Weiss said it would have been “more prudent” to simply repeal the ordinance but did not want to discuss it further.
The cost estimate for putting the one measure onto the November ballot is between $80,000 and $110,000 according to City Clerk Zeb Navarro. A special stand-alone election would have cost about $750,000.
Navarro said there will be at least three other measures on the November ballot as well as the mayoral race, two district elections for Council, the race for City Clerk and for City Treasurer.
Sanchez said she hopes the question will be asked clearly on the ballot so as not to confuse any voters.
“I believe the way it is going to be on the ballot is, ‘Shall this project be approved or this zoning amendment be approved by the Council and by the city of Oceanside and adopt this project’,” Sanchez said.
In other words, a “yes” vote would mean the project can go forward with development and a no vote would mean it cannot.
Councilmember Chris Rodriguez, who supported the North River Farms project, commended proponents of the referendum for their signature gathering and stated his support for a citywide vote.
“I fully support the proponents’ efforts to allow Oceanside to vote and I refuse to let them down,” Rodriguez said.
Deputy Mayor Jack Feller warned that the state would soon begin enforcing state-mandated housing requirements if the city did not.