OCEANSIDE — Mayor Jim Wood called a press conference on April 13 to give insight into several hot button issues the city is facing.
Among topics of discussion were district voting, homeless issues, skateboard park closure, medical marijuana dispensaries and Coast Highway improvements.
Wood said he would like to put district elections to a city vote. Unfortunately a pending lawsuit, citing the city’s current at-large voting process does not ensure minority representation, will not allow time for a citizen vote.
Wood said other California cities that have fought a similar lawsuit have lost.
It is likely Oceanside will move forward with election changes to avoid litigations the city cannot win.
“For other cities a lot of money was lost,” Wood said.
If the city decides to make election changes districts must be drawn within 90 days. Wood said it is a complicated process to complete within the short timeline.
The City Council is set to discuss elections May 3, and have more information from city staff on the city’s options.
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez put discussion of elections on the April 19 council agenda, and added consideration of term limits and campaign contribution caps.
Oceanside does more than most cities to address homelessness, including having a police Homeless Outreach Team, or HOT team.
HOT officers contact homeless individuals and connect them with regional services. Outreach efforts include transportation to service facilities.
However, some people do not want help that requires them to be sober, or they suffer from mental health issues that make it difficult to stick to goals.
Problems of trespassing and robbery by vagrants have been reported in the Fire Mountain neighborhood and other communities.
Wood said he wants residents to know there are limitations on allowable arrests, and in many cases temporary detainment would not resolve longstanding problems.
City police are putting in extra man hours to resolve issues. Neighborhood police officers are addressing complaints, and meeting with residents to give them tips on how to target-proof their homes and vehicles.
The Alex Road skate park has been severely and continuously vandalized by some park users.
Past vandalism to the 22,000-square-foot, all-cement park has gone way beyond spray paint. The restroom toilet was ripped out of the floor and skating surfaces were damaged.
Oceanside temporarily closed the park for major repairs. At that time the city considered closing the park indefinitely if vandalism continued.
Unfortunately there continues to be intentional damage done to the destination skate park, which is widely used by families and adults.
Wood said the city cannot afford on-site staff, so park closure may be the next step.
Wood said there is a distinction between recreational and medical marijuana.
The city allows delivery of medical marijuana to patients from licensed dispensaries outside the city.
Residents are asking that medical marijuana dispensaries be allowed for patients to receive the one-on-one consultation they need to purchase the right strains of marijuana.
The council will discuss forming an ad hoc committee on medical marijuana dispensaries April 19.
Wood said committee efforts are being headed by Councilman Chuck Lowery and Councilman Jerry Kern. The invitation to join the committee is open to all interested parties. Wood said he sees this as problematic in ensuring a balanced representation of stakeholders.
The standard procedure is for the mayor to appoint committee members.
Wood said since the state passed allowance of medical, and now recreational marijuana, the city is considering medical marijuana dispensaries, commercial cultivation and the complex issues surrounding those allowances.
The future of Coast Highway may be to keep it a four-lane road and add sidewalk and landscape improvements.
Wood said more residents and business owners are coming forward to support a four-lane highway. He added currently there is a split between those wanting to reduce the highway to two lanes and those who want to leave it as is, with the latter option gaining momentum.