sides with residents, upholds voter-approved Proposition A
Jordan Ingram, August 28, 2021
For the second time in eight years, a judge has rejected
the citys attempt to override Proposition A, a voter-approved
initiative requiring a public vote for any major zoning and
density changes, in its pursuit to meet state housing requirements.
Earl. H. Maas III denied the citys request for declaratory
and injunctive relief on Aug. 26 in Vista Superior Court,
reaffirming the right of Encinitas voters to have the final
say on development proposals that fall outside of certain
land-use parameters and policies outlined in the citys
so-called friendly lawsuit (two parties seek judicial
resolution to resolve a legal question that impacts them both),
filed by the City of Encinitas against the California Department
of Housing and Community Development in March 2020, sought
to invalidate, or carve-out, a portion of Proposition
A, namely decisions on density, related to housing
supply, according to court documents.
group Preserve Proposition A filed as intervenors to the suit
to defend the interests of those citizens of Encinitas
who voted for the proposition.
is another failed attempt by the mayor and council to circumvent
our citizens right to approve increases in density and
height, said Susan Turney, a longtime Encinitas resident
and member of Preserve Proposition A. Judge Maas was
the latest judge to affirm this California Constitutional
right. Prop A has never been the constraint to
passing a compliant Housing Element Update. Rather, the constraint
has been the councils housing plans that gifted developers
with extras, while providing minimal affordable housing.
to court documents, Proposition A seeks to protect the
natural resources of the City of Encinitas, maintain the character
of the Citys five communities, ensure that infrastructure
and public benefits are adequately planned and funded prior
to any increase in zoning, and preserve the zoning and property
rights of the voters.
view the initiative as a constitutional stronghold against
unfettered development running amok in the small coastal community.
to a city release, the states position is that no
up-zoning actions, whether or not related to a housing element,
should be subject to the vote of the people.
Catherine Blakespear told The Coast News the city achieved
its goal of receiving judicial clarification on the matter.
city was involved in this lawsuit in the first place because
the state required us to resolve what they believed was a
conflict between the right-to-vote initiative (Prop A) and
the citys ability to stay compliant with state housing
law, Blakespear said. We asked for judicial clarity
on whether the city needed to ask voters for approval of state-mandated
new housing sites. The court has now confirmed that we do.
remain committed to providing opportunities for housing thats
affordable to people at all income levels, and per the requirements
of Prop A, we will continue to work for voter approval.
Tony Kranz acknowledged asking the court to make an exception
to Prop A for the purpose of meeting the citys affordable
housing requirements was a tall order.
always felt that expecting a judge to declare a citizen initiative
that passed in our city didnt apply to our housing element
was asking a lot, Kranz said. Now that the judge
has ruled, we are going to need to address this inherent conflict
on matters of law and the constitution with regard to land-use
issues in Encinitas.
Gonzalez, attorney at Coast Law Group and outspoken critic
of the proposition, told The Coast News via email that he
doesnt think this is the last legal battle facing Prop
a couple of decades watching these housing issues unfold,
Im pretty confident this isnt the end of the story,
Gonzales said. Whether its an appellate court
or the State Legislature, the tension between local control
and housing affordability is not going to ease in favor of
exclusivity as a result of this lower court ruling. While
those fighting tooth and nail for local control will always
argue they arent compelled by a desire to keep less
fortunate people out of their community, thats the unavoidable
outcome of their policy position and not one that many
of us will accept.
his 10-page decision, Maas noted legal precedent makes clear
neither the citys state-mandated responsibility to adopt
and update its housing element nor the states regulation
of housing law supersedes the power of initiative or
city does not have the authority to amend Proposition As
requirements; only the voters have that authority, Maas
also noted the state has a number of tools at its disposal
to enforce municipal housing requirements, including fines,
withholding or intercepting funds and appointing a court agent
to bring a jurisdictions housing element into compliance.
nothing in these enumerated powers of enforcement allows [the]
state to require a jurisdiction to seek to invalidate a voter
initiative, nor is there any provision for a jurisdiction
to sue either private citizens or to invalidate a voter initiative,
Maas wrote. Invalidating the citizens right to
vote should only be a last resort.