ENCINITAS — To sway voters against the right-to-vote initiative, the City Council intends to pass an amendment before the June 18 special election.
Council will also send out mailers regarding the right-to-vote-initiative, also known as Proposition A, prior to voters lining up at the ballot box. Councilmembers maintain these mailers will be informational, and not political.
Prop A reaffirms the city’s 30-foot height limit and would eliminate council’s power to “up-zone” beyond height and density limits with a fourth-fifths vote. Councilman Tony Kranz said that council unanimously agrees that the fourth-fifths provision should be scrapped — in what he called supporting “the spirit” of Prop A.
“People are leery of council having that four-fifths exception,” Kranz said. “We recognize this.”
But council has misgivings with other parts of the initiative. Consequently, council said it will strike the four-fifths power in late May or early June — before the special election — by amending the city’s general plan with a councilmember vote.
If accomplished, the change would take effect immediately.
Kranz believes this action will make residents less likely to vote for Prop A. Also, backers might withdraw support because the city will have already passed “the heart of it,” Kranz said.
But Bruce Ehlers, spokesman for the initiative, said that it’s still crucial voters show up in favor of Prop A.
He said that council’s intent to eliminate the four-fifths provision via a general plan amendment is admirable, but a future council could theoretically reverse the action.
However, should Prop A pass, it would take another voter initiative to overturn it.
“Even if this council doesn’t want to use the four-fifths (provision), there’s no telling what future councils will do,” Ehlers said.
“We want a greater protection than a simple majority of the council,” Ehlers added.
For Kranz, he’s especially concerned Prop A would hamper “specific plans” like the one in downtown Encinitas, hurting the businesses in them.
Specific plans were developed after years of input from residents and businesses. Within them, some of the buildings are denser than normally allowed under city standards and taller than the 30-foot height limit. Kranz said that Prop A would make modifying or building properties in specific plans needlessly difficult and expensive.
“It’s a meat-cleaver approach,” Kranz said.
“A lot of hard work went into crafting those plans,” he added.
However, Ehlers believes that the specific plans are inherently flawed, because they were passed with a four-fifth council majority, instead of a public vote, and buildings in them exceed height limits laid out in the city’s general plan.
If Prop A passes, constructing buildings greater than 30 feet within the special plans would trigger a public vote.
As well as eliminating the four-fifths provision, council voted to send out informational Prop A mailers leading up to the election.
Kranz dismissed comparisons to mailers Escondido sent out last October. As a result of those mailers, Escondido is being sued for allegedly using taxpayer dollars to advocate for two November ballot measures.
Rather, Kranz said that the mailers will be factual, and that they’re intended to list the impacts of the initiative in neutral fashion for those who are unfamiliar with Prop A.
“We want to take another route to reach these folks,” Kranz said.
In the coming weeks, a council subcommittee made up of Kranz and Councilman Mark Muir will finalize the language of the mailers and bring it before council for approval.
Ehlers said the mailers are “walking right near the edge of the rule” for what’s acceptable under California election law, considering that council has formerly come out against Prop A.
Additionally, council asked the League of Women Voters to host a pros-and-cons debate. The date and location of that event hasn’t been set.
At least 5,700 signatures gathered for Prop A during the summer and fall were deemed valid, qualifying the initiative for a special election this summer.
The cost of the special election is estimated at $350,000 to $400,000.