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Mizel Foundation stops funding Encinitas grant program

ENCINITAS — A Colorado-based family foundation known for its local philanthropic efforts, has cut ties with Encinitas and its community grants program. 

Encinitas officials confirmed that the Mizel Family Foundation is no longer providing its $75,000 matching grant, which it has contributed to the city’s program since 2007. 

The community grant program doles out small grants to groups in the areas of arts and culture, the environment, economic development and recreation. 

City officials acknowledged the parting of ways on the city website and in a statement. 

“Yes, the City was informed that the Mizel Family Foundation will not be continuing their involvement in the program,” City spokeswoman Lois Yum said. “The City is very grateful to the Mizel Family Foundation for their financial contribution over many years to the Community Grant Program.”

The Coast News attempted to contact Larry Mizel, a Colorado businessman and family patriarch who is listed as the foundation’s president on its nonprofit filings.

Mizel’s secretary at his company, MDC Holdings said that “Larry never speaks to the press,” and told the reporter to seek further comment from the city.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said that the foundation’s withdrawal from the grant program has been in the works for months. She said she contacted Larry Mizel to see if they would reconsider the decision.

“He said that nothing happened to bring the decision on, but there was no chance of them reconsidering,” Blakespear said. “He said that ‘we just have other things we want to do with our money, and it was time to go in a different direction.'”

Blakespear said the decision was a disappointment.

“It’s a disappointment to have a loss of a funding partnership that seemed to be very successful and provide this great opportunity for our local community groups,” Blakespear said. “I also understand that things change, even though you always hope that something goes on indefinitely when there is a private source to support a richer community.

“I felt I owed it to the city and to the family to have a personal discussion and see if I could understand the decision,” Blakespear said. “He said there wasn’t anything wrong, so I take that at its face.”

The announcement comes a month before the application deadline for 2019-2020 grant awards, which are scheduled to be awarded June 12.

According to the city website, the city is seeking other funding partners.

Since the Mizel Foundation began matching the city’s contribution in 2007, the city has awarded nearly $2 million – $965,064 in city funds and $900,000 in matching funds from the foundation.

In its final year, 2018, the city awarded funding to 46 of the 53 groups requesting funding, including six organizations that made their case in front of the City Council to receive funding after their initial request was not granted.

The Mizel Foundation has also donated to a number of other organizations around the region, including several large Jewish organizations including Jewish Family Service of San Diego, the Coastal Roots Farm, and the Jewish Federation of San Diego County.

But the relationship between the city and the foundation has been strained in recent years. 

In 2016, the city declined an offer from the foundation to rename the city library after Patricia Mizel, the wife of Larry’s brother Steven, in exchange for a $2 million naming grant.

City officials said the library was among the city’s most important institutions, the name of which should not be up for sale, and said the offer would set a bad precedent citywide. 

According to a staff report in 2016, in exchange for the naming rights in perpetuity, the Mizel foundation offered the city $2 million — $1.5 million of which would have gone directly to the city and $500,000 to the Friends of the Encinitas Library group.

The gift would have been structured so the city would receive $500,000 after a memorandum of understanding is signed and naming sign is installed — $375,00 to the city and $125,000 to the Friends of the Library.

Both entities would receive the same allotment each year until the gift was fully paid.

At the time, the city council members repeatedly stated they didn’t want its rejection of the offer to signal a lack of appreciation for the foundation’s philanthropy.

The council in 2018 ultimately formed a subcommittee to explore renaming the library’s community center after Patricia Mizel. 

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