ENCINITAS — The cloud of uncertainty looks to have passed.
City officials recently clarified that Proposition A is on the books for all of Encinitas.
Prop A was victorious at the polls more than a month ago. Immediately after, one question loomed: Will the California Coastal Commission need to approve the growth-control initiative for it to take effect in all of Encinitas?
Initially, the answer seemed to be “yes.”
A letter from coastal commission staff on July 1 stated it had review power over Prop A’s changes. And that meant the city would have to file an amendment to its local coastal program, which could take more than a year.
The letter went on to say that until the amendment was completed, Prop A would only go in effect outside of the coastal zone — the northeastern portion of the city.
However, a follow-up letter from the coastal commission on July 10 said the city had discretion whether an amendment was necessary. Given the reversal, city staff met with the coastal commission legal counsel to see if an amendment is actually required, according to city Planning Director Jeff Murphy.
“It was a confusing process and we were trying to get at the true answer,” Murphy said.
In the end, the city reached the conclusion that an amendment for Prop A isn’t necessary to satisfy the coastal commission. As a result, the initiative is effective as of July 21, 2013 throughout the entire city.
“We are implementing Prop A both inside and outside the coastal zone,” Murphy said on Monday afternoon.
On Monday morning, the city issued a letter to the coastal commission stating that it’s going to “clean up” some of its local coastal program language as a result of Prop A. However, Murphy said the language change is “minor” and won’t affect its implementation.
The coastal commission hasn’t responded to the city’s recent letter. However, Murphy said he doesn’t anticipate the coastal commission staff reversing its stance on Prop A again.
“During recent conversations, we seemed to be on the same page as their legal counsel,” Murphy said.
He added that the city is issuing building permits in the coastal zone that stay within the guidelines of Prop A.
Prop A was drafted to eliminate the City Council’s ability to “up-zone” beyond height and density limits with a four out of five councilmember vote. It also sets a maximum building height of 30 feet.
Prior to Prop A’s June 18 special election, some weighed in on whether parts of Prop A would demand coastal commission approval.
Earlier this year, the City Council ordered an impartial impact report on Prop A from the Orange County law firm Rutan and Tucker.
The report said that for the roughly 80 percent of the city that’s in the coastal zone, Prop A will need the go-ahead from the coastal commission.
After the Rutan and Tucker report was released, the City Council’s argument against Prop A, which appeared with ballots, stated the different zoning rules could “increase, rather than decrease, development pressures” in the coastal zone.
Bruce Ehlers, spokesman for Prop A, said time proved Rutan and Tucker, as well as the City Council, wrong.
Ehlers said the city recently reaffirmed what Prop A supporters have argued for quite some time: The initiative’s height limit doesn’t conflict with the city’s local coastal program, making an amendment with the coastal commission unnecessary.
“We didn’t change our stance,” Ehlers said. “Prop A supporters were vindicated.”
Among those vindicated, he said, was Sara Wan, a former coastal commissioner who wrote editorials to publications arguing Prop A wouldn’t create different zoning rulings in the city.
Ehlers added that the city should examine why the Rutan and Tucker report was “so biased.”
On Monday, Murphy said there aren’t plans to review the report.
The cost of the report was $48,000, according to city records.
Joel Kuperberg, who co-authored the Rutan and Tucker report, said it was based on statutes cited throughout the document.
As an example, the report cites the California Public Resources Code Section 30514 when referring to coastal commission certification. Kuperberg declined to comment on how that code section relates to Proposition A.
Also, he was unsure if the coastal commission was consulted prior to the report being finalized.
“I don’t believe we did — but I worked with another attorney, so I’m not sure at this time,” Kuperberg said.