Encinitas Council crafts argument against ‘right-to-vote’ initiative

ENCINITAS — Council agreed on language at Wednesday night’s meeting that will appear as the argument against the “right-to-vote” initiative, now known as Proposition A, during a special election June 18. 

When it goes before voters, Prop A will include an impartial analysis, an argument for and against and a rebuttal to the argument in favor. Council will also write the rebuttal.

If Prop A passes, projects that increase density or building heights beyond 30 feet would require a majority vote from the public. Additionally, changing the zoning type of a parcel in some circumstances would need voter approval.

Many zoning changes are already subject to a public vote. But currently, council can raise density limits and change zoning with a four-out-of-five council member vote — a power that would be eliminated under Prop A.

Council’s argument against concurs that it shouldn’t have the ability to “up-zone” with a four-fifths vote. Hence, council said it supports “the spirit” of Prop A. But the argument goes on to say that Prop A would create unintended consequences. Council intends to submit a “cleaned-up” version of Prop A for a public vote that would happen in 2014.

“The initiative must be accepted or rejected as a whole,” says council’s argument.

Among its concerns, council said Prop A, if approved by voters, might also need the go-ahead from the California Coastal Commission. About 80 percent of the city is under the coastal commission’s jurisdiction.

Should voters pass Prop A and the Coastal Commission deny it: “this could result in different rules for different parts of Encinitas,” the argument states.

Also, council said that Prop A would make it more difficult to manage state-mandated housing requirements. Every eight years, cities have to pencil out the locations that can accommodate new housing, or risk penalties.

“If land use plans are challenged, courts could intervene in our local planning decisions,” the argument states.

Prop A received at least 5,700 signatures, guaranteeing a special election.

Council had the option of adopting Prop A outright during its March 12 meeting, but in declining to do so, the initiative was sent to a special election.

Mayor Teresa Barth and Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar met twice in special public meetings over the past few weeks to draft the argument against Prop A, but did not come up with a concrete recommendation. At Wednesday’s meeting, Gaspar said council shouldn’t compose the language in public, because those crafting the argument for Prop A will have the chance to specifically address objections to it — or what Gaspar called, “letting the opposing team into our locker room.”

Further, Gaspar said it’s unconventional for arguments for propositions to be written in the light of day. That might cause some groups to cry foul, and possibly open the city up to lawsuits, she said.

But Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer said the process should be as transparent as possible.

“I don’t see this as a battle where we have to hide our strategy,” Shaffer said. “We have openly discussed our views.”

Barth and Councilman Tony Kranz agreed.

Council also voted to form a subcommittee made up of Shaffer and Councilman Mark Muir to write the rebuttal to the argument in favor of Prop A. That recommendation will be presented to council for adoption April 10.


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