Oh, deer! Encinitas pols paralyzed in spotlight.
By Logan Jenkins - Jan. 29, 2013
four deer caught in headlights, the Encinitas City Council froze
in fear last week. Thats not to say the matter at hand
whether to green- or red-light a 16-house tract on Olivenhains
Desert Rose Way is an easy call.
would have to do his homework to slice this bawling baby.
Farms Estates, which bought a 6-acre horse-boarding ranch
during the zenith of the housing market, is trying to exploit
a state law that, in this specific case, allows some four
extra houses in exchange for including one low-income dwelling.
a fair bet that architects of the original density bonus
law, passed in 1979, did not have a horsy town-and-country
hamlet like Ohain in mind while rigging the rules in
favor of low-income housing.
the social engineering is on the books. It offers Woodridge
a gambit: Pump up return on investment via an end run around
November, a bare majority of the Planning Commission struck
a blow for home rule and rejected the Desert Rose project.
satisfying, to be sure. Take that, Sacramento!
citys planning bureaucrats, on the other hand, are less
inclined to throw tea into the harbor. Theyve concluded
that the development plan meets the states density bonus
requirements and must be approved or risk losing a lawsuit.
far, a thousand pages of evidence have been submitted. Arguments
have been heard multiple times, most notably by North Countys
two most prominent environmental attorneys for the
developer, Marco Gonzalez, famous for opposing coastal fireworks
and the Carlsbad desalination plant; and, for the Ohain
residents, Everett DeLano, a courtroom leader of the Hundred
Year War against the Gregory Canyon landfill in Fallbrook.
following last weeks repetitive marathon meeting
DeLano noted a sense of déjà vu the council
should have been amply prepared to vote. Instead of manning
up, however, council members ran out the clock with vaguely
relevant questions, ultimately voting to reconsider the project
at a later date.
ample information, this weak-kneed council was not ready to
answer the only question that matters:
Encinitas willing to reject a development plan that rides
roughshod over local control and, by so doing, risk a lawsuit
that, if the city wins, will set off fireworks over Moonlight
Beach or, if it loses, will call the councils judgment
I said, its not an easy call. But making it is what
the council was elected to do. Instead of stepping up to the
plate, the council choked and fled.
developer, it should be noted, has played a masterful hand,
retaining Gonzalez as the projects public face. This
is like hiring John Muir to build a strip mall on Highway
his remarks, Gonzalez asked a rhetorical question: Is
he (the developer) here to screw the city? Am I here to screw
the city? He paused before answering: Not a chance.
subtext: I would not risk my eco-puritan brand by pushing
a truly terrible project? Trust me.Gonzalez conceded that
the density bonus law can suck eggs as policy, but since it
exists and has teeth, he warned, Encinitas should be grateful
that this developer is not going to maul the community character
too badly. Trust me.
former Encinitas council, more conservative and more seasoned,
would not have gagged under the pressure. Chances are, a pragmatic
majority (with Teresa Barth dissenting) would have agreed
with the staff that, while the Desert Rose development may
not be utopian, the projects adverse effects on fire
safety, traffic and the wetlands are not so grievous that
prolonged litigation should be risked.
this new council majority, which includes two rookies, is
a horse of a different political color.
Mayor Sheila Cameron, no doubt echoing the thoughts of most
of those in the chambers, said last week, We chose you
to bring about change. We are asking you to have courage and
accept the challenge and make a stand here now.
six weeks or so, short of the developer pulling a less-dense
dove out of a hat, the new council will be forced to do its
job. It either approves Desert Rose and turns Olivenhain
into a wailing Greek chorus or the council majority
does what its populist instincts says it must do: Deny the
project outright or, if it lacks the resolve to fight, fall
back and order an environmental impact report as a legally
dicey tactic to postpone the day of reckoning.
of the greenest (in both senses of the word) councils in North
County appears to be, under the blinding glare of the spotlight,
the least sure of itself.
Copyright 2013 The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. An MLIM LLC
Company. All rights reserved.