OCEANSIDE — There were still 112,000 votes to be counted in San Diego County as of Nov. 21, but most of Oceanside’s elections have been solidly decided — all except one.
Currently, City Councilwoman Esther Sanchez holds a 179-vote lead against her opponent, Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery. The two battled it out for City Council’s District 1 seat in the city’s first district election.
Despite the narrow lead of his opponent and the amount of uncounted ballots, Lowery said he probably wouldn’t be returning to council in December.
“I’m very disappointed about losing, and I believe I have lost my re-election,” he said.
Lowery said he ran a “100 positive campaign” for the District 1 seat by choosing to talk about his accomplishments in his mailers while Sanchez “went negative” with hers.
“I didn’t attack anybody in any of my mailers at all,” he said.
The Coast News previously reported that Sanchez had criticized Lowery and the council for potentially using eminent domain in Jefferies Ranch near the proposed New River Farms development.
Lowery noted there was negative campaigning done against Sanchez, but it was by community organizations and not by his own campaign.
Sanchez holds almost 36 percent of the vote while Lowery holds 34 percent. Two other candidates vying for the District 1 vote are Susan Custer and Michael Odegaard, who currently hold about 21 and 9 percent of the votes, respectively.
Sanchez did not return The Coast News’ request for comment by print deadline.
In the city’s District 2 race, Chris Rodriguez came out victorious with 43 percent of the vote. Dana Corso received about 26 percent, Terry Johnson, Sr. received about 15 percent, Larry Kornit received almost 10 percent and Kristopher Kagan received almost 6 percent.
One of Oceanside’s most contentious debates during this election was Measure Y, which failed by about 54-46 percent. Had it passed, Measure Y would have amended the land-use element of the Oceanside General Plan to require voter approval to change the land-use designation or zoning of agriculture or open space land until Dec. 31, 2038. Because it failed, the current ordinance will remain as it is.
The Save Open Space and Agriculture Resources (SOAR) Initiative campaigned in favor of Measure Y, fearing the construction of mass-scale development in the city. Several conservation groups endorsed SOAR.
According to SOAR organizer Dennis Martinek, Measure Y “was defeated by a big money developer and a few large farmers who want to maximize the value of their land by changing its zoning.”
“They spent over $1.2 million (versus $30,000 spent by Measure Y proponents) for a campaign based on the untrue statement that Measure Y would hurt farmers,” Martinek told The Coast News via email.
Martinek explained that Measure Y would have required the City Council to get Oceanside voter approval before rezoning agricultural and open space land, and would have preserved farmland, habitat areas and parks like El Corazon.
“The close vote, despite the unbalanced funding, should make the City Council aware of Citizen opposition to the loss of these precious lands and the concern about increased congestion and air pollution caused by high density sprawl development,” Martinek stated in the email.
Opposing Measure Y were Nagata Brothers Farms Inc., Mellano & Company and North River Farms, the proposed community in South Morro Hills of nearly 700 homes, a boutique hotel and restaurants.
Orange County-based Integral Communities Inc., the 12th largest developer in the country, presented North River Farms to the Oceanside Planning Commission and City Council in 2017.
Lowery also opposed Measure Y.
“It created additional government oversight on top of already overburdened farmers,” he said.
While Measure Y failed in Oceanside, Measure X, a one-half cent sales tax, passed by about 55-45 percent. The revenue generated by the sales tax will go toward emergency services.
Lowery said he is relieved that Oceanside citizens agreed to the sales tax, noting the city’s increase in police and fire calls.
“I think it’s vital for the city to continue to function,” he said.
He explained that as demand goes up, so does the strain on emergency equipment as well.
“The increased volume of calls does not give us any more income,” he said.
Money from the sales tax will go toward maintaining emergency services in the city, according to Lowery, and anything left over will go into the city’s general fund to make up for street repairs and other infrastructural maintenance.
Two other races in Oceanside were for Oceanside Unified School District Trustee Areas No. 1 and 3. Eric Joyce came out victorious for Area No. 1 and Stacy Begin won Area No. 3.
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son