REGION — It is a four-person race to fill the seat left by San Diego County Board of Supervisor Bill Horn in District 5.
Vying for the seat are republican Mayor Jim Desmond of San Marcos and Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern. For the democrats, legislative analyst Michelle Gomez of Oceanside and Jacqueline Arsivaud of Elfin Forest.
If no candidate receives 50 percent plus one of the vote, the top two will run off in the November general election. The primary is June 5 and the district consists of about 620,000 residents.
For District 5, though, it will be the first time in 24 years someone other than Horn will represent much of North County. It is the largest district, spanning from Camp Pendleton south to Carlsbad, and east through Vista, San Marcos, Valley Center and Borrego Springs.
The county faces numerous issues, especially in North County, where housing, economic development and transportation are areas of financial support, improvement and expansion.
The Coast News spoke with each candidate about how they would approach each issue to ensure North County remains viable and attractive for residents, businesses and visitors.
There is a housing crisis statewide and in San Diego County it is, perhaps, the most pressing issue facing the region. All four candidates agree more housing must be provided, but each has a different approach.
Kern said 80 percent of the county’s growth is internal, meaning residents here are starting families, but local battles against new developments impedes progress. One problem, he noted, is development focuses on high-class housing and not enough units for middle-, low- and lower-income residents.
Another problem is those who have housing, don’t want more, Kern said. He said whether it’s infill or out in rural parts of the county, residents continually push back against development.
Desmond said the state has calculated the county needs 171,000 units to meet its goal between 2021-28 or those entities will be fined. He said the county must provide housing where infrastructure and transit already exist, such as infill projects.
As for more rural projects or those outside infrastructure, Desmond said the board must direct developers to include such measures for their projects.
“Housing should go where the infrastructure and transit opportunities exist,” he added. “In the city of San Marcos, we put a lot of housing over by Palomar Stakes, which is by the transit center. Also along the 15 corridor, as long as it provides infrastructure for the community and emergency ingress and egress.”
A challenge, though, is the state is squeezing cities and counties with various laws and regulations to address the shortage.
Gomez and Arsivaud, meanwhile, said there is against urban sprawl, although Gomez said she is in favor for more granny flats, which would increase property values for existing homes.
She said granny flats, along with infill projects near transit centers, are an opportunity for the county to address the problem, before the state begins to muscle everyone into the “same box.”
Arsivaud has spent her public service career battling against sprawl and said staying within the principles are laid out in the county’s General Plan is essential to providing more housing and reducing residents’ financial commitment to rent. Currently, she said, 50 percent of San Diegans spend nearly half their income on rent.
Large residential developments in the unincorporated parts of the county are shortsighted due to a lack of police and fire services, plus damage to habitat.
“The current direction of the board is promoting sprawl,” Arsivaud said. “It’s not near infrastructure and transit and there are wildfire issues.”
North County has a robust and thriving economy with sectors such as bio-technology, technology, manufacturing, brewing and leisure in the forefront. For each candidate, though, business can only grow as much as housing allows, which is why housing is one of the most pressing issues.
They all see the need for improving freeways, with Arsivaud and Gomez stumping for more mass and public transit. Kern and Desmond, meanwhile, are focused on capacity on freeways and bolstering the coastal train corridor to meet future rail needs.
Bigger corporations, however, are balking at investing in the area due to the housing shortage, Gomez said.
Kern noted business is booming in Oceanside, as the city boasts a 2 percent vacancy rate. However, out east in the rural area of the district, farmers are struggling he said.
Kern said a possibility, and something the supervisors should revisit, is lifting the ban on recreational marijuana cultivation. Gomez and Arsivaud agree, but believe dispensaries should be in the mix as another revenue stream for the county.
Currently, the city of San Diego is the only municipality to legalize recreational marijuana in the county. Kern, who has voted against recreational marijuana, said Oceanside has approved cultivation in specific zones, but with farmers, it reduces water usage and adds another cash crop since avocado production is struggling.
Desmond, though, is not open to dispensaries as San Marcos has banned all recreational uses and cultivation. Still, he said he is open to a discussion about cultivation uses as long as properties are secured, closed and ventilated and not grown wild in rural areas. However, Desmond is “adamantly against” retail sales.
Gomez, meanwhile, said it is another opportunity to crush the black market and provide safe avenues for businesses to grow and residents to purchase the drug. In addition, she said lobbying a California bank to accept tax revenue would be another step in the right direction, as currently no bank, whether federally insured or not, accepts marijuana revenue.
“It’s a revenue stream,” Gomez said. “It would be a mistake to not embrace. It would vastly decrease the black market and would be safer and regulated.”
Traffic along Interstates 5 and 15 plus Highways 76 and 78 is a constant issue within the district. Generating a consistent means of travel also separates the candidates.
Arsivaud and Gomez said alternative forms of transport, such as more public and mass transit options, are a must. Arsivaud said the next supervisor must have a long-term vision for traffic and transportation other than widening freeways.
She said approaching the issue must use a different method of thinking in addressing the needs of commuters. Convincing people who use single occupancy vehicles is a challenge, but investments in mass transit and pilot studies would alleviate those concerns, in addition to smart freeway technology.
Arsivaud criticized Desmond, who is the chairman of transportation committee with the San Diego Association of Governments, for falling short in addressing the issues.
Desmond, though, said infrastructure is his top priority. It ties back housing, development and many other issues with in the district and county.
He brushed off Arsivaud’s criticism, saying transit is in place with the Sprinter and Coaster lines. However, the problem, Desmond added, is mass transit is heavily subsidized.
He also said he’s secured a $7 million for an environmental report for HOV lanes from Twin Oaks Road to connect to I-15. Another issue is Senate Bill 1, or the gas tax, which only 20 percent of the revenue is directed to transportation, with the remaining 80 percent funneled into the state’s General Fund.
He said adding capacity to the freeways is critical to alleviate traffic, while work in Carlsbad to expand the rail lines at Poinsettia Station will help reduce train congestion.
Gomez, like Arsivaud, also believes in public and mass transit, but said more frequency is key to increasing ridership, which has declined, Gomez said. Adding routes would reduce wait times, thus allowing more people to engage with those options.
Kern, whose city has the third biggest train station in Southern California, said he was against Measure A in 2016 because the sales tax would not be invested in North County.
The issue with mass transit is the “first and last mile,” he said. He also said the frequency is a problem with train service. But, he circled back to the first and last mile issue.
“How do you get from your house to the train station and how do you get from the train station to your job?” he asked. “How do you cover that gap? The cost per passenger per miles is probably closer to $15. You’re not recovering the cost.”
To drop off mail ballots, visit http://www.sdvote.com/content/dam/rov/en/election/2018June/2869_Mail_Ballot_Drop_Off_Loc.pdf for locations in North County. Mail ballots will be accepted through June 5.
On Election Day, the polls are open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
Current occupation: Chairwoman, Eflin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council
Work experience: Tech industry executive and entrepreneur.
Public service: Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council chairwoman (2005-present); president of Friends of the Creek (2007-12).
Endorsements: Pam Slater-Price, former chairwoman of San Diego County Board of Supervisors; Jerry Harmon, former Escondido mayor; Chris Cassapais, sr. director, Qualcomm.
Education: Institut Supérieur de Gestio; Master’s degree, Institut d’Etudes Politiques (1981)
For more about Arsivaud’s campaign and endorsements, visit jacquelinefor2018.com
Current occupation: Mayor, city of San Marcos (2006-present); captain, Delta Airlines
Work experience: captain, Delta Airlines
Public service: Mayor, city of San Marcos (2006-present); City Councilman, 2004-06.
Endorsements: Four of five current County Supervisors; former San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, former U.S. Congressman Brian Bilbray.
Education: B.S. in Electrical Engineering, San Diego State University.
For more about Desmond’s campaign and endorsements, visit desmondforsupervisor.com
Current occupation: Legislative analyst
Work experience: Legislative analyst; paralegal in civil and employee law; property management
Public service: San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls
Endorsements: San Diego Democratic Party; Democratic Club of Carlsbad Oceanside; Cori Schumacher, Carlsbad City Councilwoman.
For more about Gomez’s campaign and endorsements, visit michelleforsupervisor.com
Current occupation: Oceanside City Council (2006-present)
Public Service: Oceanside City Council (2006-present);
Endorsements: State Sen. Pat Bates, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, Assemblyman Randy Voepel.
For more about Kern’s campaign and endorsements, visit kernforsupervisor.com
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.