Council strikes down four-fifths exception

ENCINITAS — Prop A is headed for a special election June 18. Yet councilmembers passed what they believe is the heart of the initiative at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting.Proponents of the land-use initiative say council’s action is only symbolic at this point, and maintain that it’s still critical to vote “yes.”

Prop A was created to remove the council’s ability to “up-zone” beyond height or density limits with a four-out-of-five councilmember vote.

Backers say that power was ripe for abuse and could have led to development that didn’t sit well with the community.

Council unanimously agreed to strike the four-fifths exception by passing a resolution at the meeting.

While in support of the resolution, councilmembers have come out against Prop A.

“Although I have expressed opposition to Prop A for other reasons, I have not wavered in my support for eliminating this provision,” said Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer, referring to the four-fifths power.

Councilman Tony Kranz said the resolution approved by council fulfills “the spirit of Prop A.”

But as the resolution currently stands, a future council could theoretically overturn the action. That’s why council plans to put the resolution, as part of an update to the city’s General Plan, to a public vote in 2014, Kranz said. If passed, council wouldn’t be able to undo the elimination of the four-fifths power.

After council’s vote, Bruce Ehlers, a spokesman for the initiative, said there’s no guarantee the resolution will go on the 2014 ballot.

“A lot can happen between now and then,” Ehlers said.

Besides, Prop A would immediately take the four-fifths exception out of council’s hands, he said.

“Let’s reduce the amount of work that has to be done and just pass Prop A,” Ehlers said.

While in favor of striking the four-fifths exception, councilmembers have stated Prop A could negate “specific plans” on the Coast Highway 101 corridor — one of their reasons for opposing the initiative. Some of the buildings in the specific plans, approved after years of community input, are taller than normally allowed under the city’s 30-foot height limit. Should Prop A pass, proposed buildings greater than 30 feet within the specific plans would trigger a public vote.

As for putting the General Plan to a public vote in 2014, Mayor Teresa Barth acknowledged that it would be difficult to keep residents engaged with the complex land-use document.

“Our challenge as we work through the General Plan Update is that we communicate with the community,” Barth said.

At least 5,700 residents signed Prop A last year, qualifying the initiative for a special election.

 

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