Editor’s note: Each of the candidates has received the same 10 questions. Their responses have been unedited and will be posted online as they are returned.
Name: Julie Graboi
Occupation: College Instructor, Consultant
Previous government experience:
I have been a citizen advocate for Encinitas residents for the past 5 years. I was directly involved and worked hard to get Prop A approved for the benefit of our residents. When our City Council voted to approve the Desert Rose Density Bonus housing project without an Environmental Impact Report, I joined with other Olivenhain neighbors to bring legal action against the developer, and we won. I have also been involved with many other citizen groups seeking to protect their quality of life and the community character of their neighborhoods from developers who choose to maximize density with no concern about the surrounding neighbors. I have spoken out loudly about the need to enact an ordinance to help reduce the late-night neighborhood impacts caused by the increasing number of bars and nightclubs in our coastal downtown area.
I have worked in the field of higher education for almost 30 years. In my experience as a consultant, I have worked in many contexts with adults in workplaces, colleges and universities in a range of industries. I presently work with a range of stakeholders and work with those trying to find better ways to define success in projects and to measure results. We need to put the needs of our residents before the needs of special interests. City employees and our City Council must be held to account to the citizens for the work that takes place in City Hall.
- What prompted you to run for council or mayor?
I decided to run for council because I have been involved in many important issues as a citizen advocate that continue to go unabated or addressed satisfactorily by the city council. I passionately embrace the original vision that founded the city of Encinitas. Incorporation of Encinitas was motivated because of overdevelopment throughout the city by the County of San Diego. Our community leaders and residents wanted to preserve individual community character of each of the 5 communities under the banner of a single city. I have watched our current General Plan be put in jeopardy as more and more commercial and residential developments continue to be approved by our present council and this must stop. If elected, I will put our residents first and will continue to work to protect our original General Plan that protects our five Encinitas communities.
- What do you feel are the three biggest priorities for the next city council, and how as mayor or council member would you help the council achieve those objectives?
- We should conduct a true forensic accounting of our Revenues and Expenses to determine our ability to fund future projects as we move into the future. At a recent Council meeting, our Finance Director claimed that out liabilities were $50 million, but that amount was disputed by Bob Bonde of the Encinitas Taxpayers Association. Mr. Bonde estimated that when pensions and other liabilities are included, we are indebted by over 300 million dollars. If elected, I would ask for the Council to prepare a report for our residents so that they have a better understanding of how employee pensions and other long-term expenses are accounted for in the budget.
- We need to evaluate the performance of our City Manager and our City Attorney and decide if this is the type of leadership that benefits Encinitas citizens and results in the best performance of City staff. Over the past seven years, our City Attorney and his law firm have been paid nearly $10 million dollars by our city. There is a serious conflict of interest that has made this possible, and it must be closed immediately.
- We need to do everything possible to reduce density bonus housing projects. We must
preserve the character of our five communities so that we have sustainable growth without destroying our quality of life because of overdevelopment and unbearable traffic throughout Encinitas.
- In 2016, the electorate will vote on the Housing Element Update, which is currently in its preliminary stages of public input. What do you think the housing element should reflect in terms of density, housing types and community character?
The research has been done over and over with very consistent results. Citizens from all five communities do not want to make any major changes to their community, and over 90% of respondents again and again confirmed that they like Encinitas the way that it is. To me, this shows that our City Founders’ vision and our General Plan -which took years to negotiate – have withstood the test of time. Recently, because of citizen pressure, the Planning Department once again placed our complete General Plan on the front page of the City of Encinitas website Planning and Development page and restored the Index to the document so that EVERYONE can have access this important source document. The City has presently contracted over $200,000 in consultant fees to work on the Housing Element, which is only one of 10 elements of the General Plan. In my opinion, the Housing Element Update should include the least number of changes possible.
- City staff has contended that the housing element needs to include zoning to accommodate for the development of more of 1000 “affordable” units to meet state affordable housing mandates. A number of residents feel the city could achieve its affordable housing mandates by providing amnesty for illegal dwelling units provided they are earmarked for a certain period of time for affordable housing. Where do you stand on this issue?
Before building any new affordable units, we should take an inventory of existing unpermitted affordable units and offer generous terms for an amnesty that would incentivize owners to identify the units for affordable housing. This would be a realistic way to avoid some of the negative impacts of densification such as worse traffic, pollution, noise, and overcrowding. If elected, I would support moving in that direction rather than planing for more and more residential development as part of the Housing Update.
- The City Council recently received a report that showed that nuisance complaints stemming from the city’s downtown bar scene had decreased since increased enforcement began during the summer, but it also showed that two of the largest alcohol-serving establishments, Union and Shelter, consistently missed the mark during inspections. What do you feel needs to be done to continue to improve the downtown night scene and specifically what needs to be done in regards to the two bars that have been out of compliance?
I strongly support a Deemed Approved Ordinance (DAO) to put real consequences behind the laws for those who own bars. Most of the bars are following the rules, so there will be no consequences for those that are doing the right thing. However, since bars are currently self-regulated, unless some rules and penalties are spelled out, there will continue to be problems. We have tried it without a DAO, and it has not worked. We need to put a DAO in place so that the rules can be enforced with consequences to those bars and nightclubs that don’t follow the rules. For those who break the capacity rules, we could initiate a first time fine of $1,000 and $2,000 fine each time thereafter. For the nighttime peace and quiet of the surrounding neighborhoods, we must take immediate action.
- The City is currently in the process of closing escrow on the purchase of the Pacific View Elementary School site for $10 million, which it will pay for with debt financing that will amount to $24.4 million (this includes the financing of the lifeguard tower) over the life of the bond repayment. Briefly state your position on the purchase, and, moving forward, what should the city’s next steps be with the site, and what priority should be giving to accomplishing those steps?
On October 22nd, the Council made a decision to move forward with the purchase of Pacific View using taxable bonds because that form of financing would allow for more types of interim uses. Although I was in favor of a much lower purchase price for the property, the present Council elected to purchase the property even though many of our residents thought that the purchase price was too high. Moving forward, it will be up to the new City Council to restore the property so that it can be utilized as a center for arts and culture activities. If elected, I will be in support of that option.
- How would you rate the city’s efforts with road and infrastructure maintenance and how much of a priority would it be for you as mayor or council member?
According to the Nichols report of 2011, the City was about $47 million behind in road repairs. These funds were taken away from long-term maintenance fund and reallocated to the General Fund where they have been comingled with funds to pay for wages, consultants, and other expenses that have nothing to do with maintaining our infrastructure. Recently, our Engineering Department Director, Glenn Pruim, has put forth a new “Pavement Management Program” that allows for the Engineering Department to lower the acceptable standard for road conditions. Reducing standards for our roads maintenance is not a smart idea, and I would oppose this new plan.
- What action should the city be taking to address the Leucadia rail crossing issue. Should the tracks be lowered similar to Solana Beach or should there be level crossings, and how much of a priority should this be for the council?
We should make every effort to find the funds to lower the tracks at Leucadia as a first priority. The traffic congestion at the intersection of Leucadia Boulevard, Vulcan Avenue and the Coast Highway is the worst in Encinitas and must be addressed as soon as possible. There will be more trains going through the city in coming years, and lowering the tracks would make it safer and quieter for Encinitas residents. If elected, I will work with the Council, the State and the Federal government to find the necessary funding.
- The performance of several high-ranking city staff members, namely the City Manager, City Attorney and high-ranking planning department officials, has been a steady talking point during the election. How would you rate the performance of these staff members, what can be done to improve their performance, or do you believe at this stage they are irredeemable?
There is a perception that our high-ranking city staff members are out of control. When Council asks them to a specific task, they return to the Council with something completely different. When something is due, they City Manager invariable says that it is an emergency and that council must approve something that evening. The decision-making power should reside with the Council, and council should be accountable to our citizens. After watching many months of the bad decisions the City Manager convinces the Council to make, I have concluded that he has poor professional standards which bleed over to and affect the credibility of our current Council. Several candidates have called for the City Manager and the City Attorney to be fired. I am starting to agree with that opinion and will keep a close eye on their actions if elected.
- Why should people vote for you?
What distinguishes me is that I have a solid record of 5 years of citizen advocacy on several important issues. I have worked to protect our community character and worked hard with many of our residents to get Prop A approved by the voters. This Right to Vote Initiative allows for the voters—not the city council – to decide changes in zoning, density increases and height limits. I have spent hundreds hours examining records and meeting with staff and consultants to identify why the General Plan Update (GPU) was such a failure. Every step of the process was manipulated, changed, or simply not processed in violation of the ethical and professional standards that should be upheld by our city staff. If elected, I will put the needs and concerns of our residents first in all decisions that come before the Council.