City Council OKs ‘deemed approved’ ordinance

ENCINITAS — After years of debate, the Encinitas City Council has taken the first step toward approving a new set of regulations that it hopes will crack down on unruly alcohol-serving establishments along the Coast Highway 101 corridor.

The Council unanimously approved introducing the so-called ‘deemed approved’ ordinance at the June 28 Council meeting. Previously the council voted against taking the step in 2014, opting for a proactive enforcement approach.

But the council said at its meeting that the measures weren’t enough to combat the mounting issues of noise, disorderly behavior and public nuisance associated with what some local residents have called an “out of control” nightlife scene in Encinitas. 

“We haven’t achieved the balance that everyone deserves,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. 

Deemed approved ordinances give cities more latitude in enforcing nuisance rules and revoking business licenses on establishments that are subject to less restrictions due to their grandfathered status.

In the case of Encinitas, the ordinance would target all alcohol-serving establishments that are open after 10 p.m., or 41 of the city’s 131 alcohol-serving establishments, making them subject to tougher noise, trash and other nuisance standards.

Establishments that violate the new rules would be subjected to a warning at first, but subsequent violations would result in fines of $500 and $1,000 and an administrative hearing after a second offense to determine if further action — or revocation — is necessary. 

Downtown establishments have fought against the measures, arguing that law-abiding businesses could be subjected to harsh penalties for issues beyond their control. 

But city officials countered that the hearing would give them a chance to prove that the business isn’t responsible for the activities that led to the enforcement. 

Community members have called on the city to do more to control the downtown night scene. The Self Realization Fellowship said that the night scene threatened the serenity many seek when they visit the fellowship.

The Planning Commission voted to recommend the council approve the ordinance in April, arguing that more needed to be done, especially as it pertained to restaurants that operated more like bars after 10 p.m., but without the same restrictions as bona fide bars. 

While approval of the deemed approved ordinance was unanimous, a 3-2 council vote killed a staff request for an additional half-time code enforcement officer, which staff had backed away from before the meeting. 

Councilmen Mark Muir and Tony Kranz, who voted for the additional officer, were concerned the city would not be able to enforce the new rules without the additional staff. 

Staff at the meeting told the council that it believed it had the manpower to enforce the ordinance.

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