Encinitas Council Candidates Nanninga and Houlihan

ENCINITAS — As the City Council race enters the home stretch, incumbent Maggie Houlihan and activist Bob Nanninga both hope to occupy a seat on the dais. The November election ballot will feature three sitting council members and six challengers vying for three seats.
Nanninga, who is co-owner of E Street Café in downtown Encinitas, said he would represent the best interests of the residents. “I am running to provide the voice of environmental stewardship to the Encinitas City Council,” he said.
The former Parks and Recreation Commissioner is no stranger to local issues. His prior attempts to win a seat on the City Council along with his weekly column in this paper have given him high visibility among many residents.
“I offer experience, education and understanding of the issues; a sense of place and future focus that’s needed in this place at this time,” he said. He describes himself as consistent and committed. “I love Encinitas,” he said.
High on his list of priorities if he is elected is overseeing the expansion of the rail corridor. “The city has grown up around the railroad,” Nanninga said. He supports sinking the tracks underground and safer at-grade crossings.
“Double-tracking is an inevitability,” he said, referring to the addition of another track to accommodate freight and passenger trains. “I could provide better representation on NCTD (North County Transit District) for Leucadia and Cardiff,” he said. The transit district is one of the county agencies responsible for operating public transit services. Mayor Jerome Stocks is the current Encinitas representative to the board.
Nanninga also said building a community park on the 43-acre Hall property was paramount. “It’s time we came together to find common ground and build the park,” he said. “We can break ground within two years,” Nanninga predicted. The city purchased the property along Santa Fe Drive and Interstate 5 in 2001 for $17.2 million.
Perhaps Nanninga’s most notable positions are on environmental sustainability, water conservation and solar generation. “Encinitas needs to be more self-sufficient,” he said. Nanninga calls for a “platinum” environmental model that would allow buildings to generate enough power from solar panels to enable the city to sell energy back to SDG&E.
His environmental model also includes habitat preservation. “The city could purchase open space to use for a land mitigation bank on new developments,” he said.
Bluff preservation is an issue that must be dealt with using a holistic approach with the entire ecosystem in mind Nanninga said. “The question is ‘How do people protect their investment?” he said referring to bluff-top homes. Nanninga has a ready answer. “Through appropriate landscaping on the bluff, kelp restoration, sand replenishment and habitat preservation,” he said.
Houlihan, an incumbent seeking her third term on the council, received more votes than any other candidate during her contentious race in 2004. Houlihan said she is motivated to continue serving the community to maintain her strong record of accomplishment in encouraging citizen participation, transparent government and fostering partnerships between community groups in the city’s best interest. She cites the revitalization of the Cultural Tourism Committee, which puts on the annual garden tour and festival, as an example.
Houlihan’s primary issues center on development and community. “Preserving the quality of life and the character of our five distinct communities is paramount,” she said. The path to community character leads through good planning. “We’ve got to close development loopholes and review our ordinances to make sure the kind of development that overwhelms the community isn’t allowed,” she said.
The specific plans of Cardiff North Highway 101 and Downtown Encinitas need to be updated to allow for more pedestrian-friendly orientation according to Houlihan. “Citizens don’t want lot line to lot line developments,” she said. “They want landscape, ambience, a blend of old and new.”
Houlihan called for acquisition of open space for parkland and habitat preservation. She remembers purchasing the Hall property for a “community park.” “We are moving through the process and that involves public opinion,” she said. “I think we’re going to end up with a community amenity.”
She said that while the city is trying to meet as many needs as possible with the park, not everyone will be fully satisfied. “We have an opportunity to create a legacy (with open space acquisition),” she said.
While the city has not initiated a habitat purchase in six years, Houlihan hopes to end the streak. “We need to maintain habitat corridors, they provide traffic relief and are a part of the high quality of life in Encinitas,” she said.
“Environmental quality and economic vitality go hand in hand,” Houlihan said.
Finally, Houlihan is once again championing transparency in government. “It is important that when you are doing the public’s business it’s done in the public arena,” she said. Houlihan supported the live Webcasts of City Council and Planning Commission meetings that went into effect this year.
“I’ve said we have to minimize the amount of closed sessions the council has,” she said. “Now we have occasional closed sessions on potential litigation, personnel issues and land purchase negotiations.” The City Council had been criticized in the past for holding sessions not open to the public almost weekly. Some saw it as a violation of the state’s Brown Act that requires a transparent municipal government.
“Leaders need to focus on bringing people together, to facilitate civic participation,” she said. “That’s something I’ve always championed.”