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The World v. Prop. A
By Jesse Marx, March 20, 2019

Encinitas is through with its own slow-growth rules.

The Coast News reports that the City Council wants to ask a judge for permission to invalidate or amend Proposition A — a local law giving voters veto power over major land use changes — to comply with the ongoing demands of state housing regulators.

Until last week, Encinitas was the only city in San Diego County that had not adopted a plan identifying sites for housing development of all income levels. It was not for a lack of trying. Prop. A required that voters get the final say on housing plans, and in 2016 and 2018 those plans went down in flames.

After developers and renters sued, the San Diego County Superior Court in December suspended Prop. A, citing the law as the reason Encinitas was continuing to defy California rules. Mayor Catherine Blakespear was then summoned to a meeting with the governor and effectively shamed.

The situation is “untenable,” she told me. At a City Council meeting in February, she encouraged her colleagues to “rip off this Band-Aid.”

Prop. A’s defenders are not going to let the law die so easily.

Arguing that the city hadn’t adequately defended their interests in court, attorney Everett DeLano attempted to intervene in the cases, which had been initiated several years ago, on behalf of a group called Preserve Prop A.

The court on Friday said nope, too late, good luck.

“They elected to sit on the sidelines and watch as the lawsuit as unfolded,” wrote Judge Robert Dahlquist. “Now, after the merits of the lawsuit have been fully adjudicated, [Preserve Prop A] wants to jump into the fray and re-litigate the case all over again.”

DeLano told me he and his clients will continue to defend Prop. A wherever its long-term survival is at stake, because they do not believe it’s in conflict with state housing law. Prop. A may make the process of passing a state-mandated plan harder, he said, but there’s a good reason for it: “Some city councils were not responsible to voters’ concerns, so they felt they needed some protections.”

Before the ruling came down, Charlie McDermott, an Encinitas resident and corporate exec, told me that he and his allies have long considered Prop. A a check on housing plans that only benefit well-to-do people. If the city was serious about housing low-income people, it should force developers to actually build more affordable units, he said.

It’s not immediately clear — to McDermott or to me — what types of rules the city could draft to get there. But we’ll be living with this tension for a very long time.

“I think we need to clear out the mayor and Council in the next election,” McDermott said. “You don’t win every battle, but there are some things we know now that we can begin layering in, and there may be another initiative.”


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