Community Commentary Opinion

It’s Wrong for a City to Sue it’s Citizens, Using THEIR Money!

By Mark Muir, Retired Encinitas Fire Chief and Deputy Mayor

Last December, Superior Court Judge Ronald Frazier overturned citizen-driven and voter-approved Proposition “A”, known as the “Encinitas Right to Vote Initiative”. Proposition “A” gives Encinitas residents the right to vote on housing projects that include significant density increases and/or building heights greater than two stories. The court demanded that Prop. “A” requirements be overlooked for this housing cycle and ordered the City to adopt a legally compliant housing plan within 120 days. The ruling came as a direct result of the voters’ consistently rejecting the City Council’s site selections to upzone (i.e., increase density) in order to meet state growth requirements.

It is important to note that the ruling did not order the City to specifically implement either Measure “U” or “T”, the voter-rejected housing plans put forth in 2016 and 2018.

Instead of honoring Encinitas citizens by appealing the judge’s decision (a viable option), the Mayor and City Council rushed to approve the most recent voter-rejected housing plan, Measure “U”. To make matters worse, the Council also filed a lawsuit against their own citizens in order to seek judgment (Declaratory Relief) on whether they follow Prop. “A” voter requirements in the future.

Question: Who is footing the bill for this lawsuit?

Answer: Encinitas taxpayers – the very citizens being sued!

It’s wrong for a City to sue its citizens and it’s even worse to do it with their own money! As a vocal supporter of both housing measures, I’ve always believed residents should have the final say on critical housing plans that are to serve as a blueprint for all future development. If the court decision is unfavorable to our citizens, nothing prevents the City from holding an advisory vote to honor the intent of Prop “A” and the will of the people.

A 2016 Quinnipiac University poll showed that 76% of Americans agree with the statement, “Public officials don’t care much what people like me think”. The picture that emerges from this recent action is that our council members are not actively listening to their constituents or respecting their decisions. These officials should have learned several lessons from the housing plan failures at the ballot box. Specifically, Encinitas voters want managed growth, less dense development, and “real” affordable housing.

Instead, the City Council repeatedly ignored this voter guidance as seen in their support of AB-805 (which was opposed by every other city in North County). Their support of AB805 ended up increasing the number of housing units required in our region from 110,000 to 170,000. This decision not only ignored the will of the voters but also was in direct conflict of what SANDAG’s Staff was recommending. Consequently, the City will have to add hundreds of new housing units in our 2020 plan, beyond what is actually needed.

Suing your citizens is similar to not listening to your boss, it might feel good at the time, but it usually doesn’t end well for either entity. Our representatives should listen to their boss, the voters, and respect the will of the people.

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