With an extremely high voter turnout for a one-issue special election, over 40 percent of Encinitas’ voters turned out on June 18 to express their opinion on Proposition A — the Right to Vote Initiative.
A classic fight between community activists and developers, the initiative requires the city to put to a vote any proposed “up zoning” and maximum-building-height increases in development plans.
The initiative passed with 51.85 percent of the vote. The slim victory is not expected to change much when the remaining provisional and absentee ballots are counted.
The initiative’s signature-gathering campaign began last year when the then–empaneled, pro-development city council began working on updating the city’s general plan. The proposed plan would have allowed the addition of mixed-use residential and offices, primarily as second stories on top of existing shopping centers along the El Camino Real corridor. It would have doubled the density around the major arterial roadway.
As the signature gathering began, voters in last November’s 2012 general election replaced two of the four pro-development councilpersons with pro-community-rights candidates. The bigger-is-not-better sympathizers then had a three-to-two council majority.
But the signature gatherers continued their efforts with the objective to write into law the requirement for a public vote on zoning issues pertaining to density and height, thus removing authority from the five-person council.
The grassroots organization’s success in getting the initiative to the ballot caused a bit of a rift between the new councilmembers and the voters that elected them in November. All five councilmembers, upon the advice of the city’s legal council and staff recommendations, came out against Prop. A. This surprised the voter base that had just put their two new councilpersons into office.
Lots of money from shopping-center owners, developers, and out-of-area real estate political action committees was dumped into the “No on A” campaign. The Encinitas Right to Vote organization hung out in front of those same shopping centers, encouraging a “Yes on A” vote.
Former Encinitas mayors Pam Slater-Price, Sheila Cameron, Dennis Holz, and Gail Hano all endorsed Prop. A. As retired San Diego County supervisor Slater-Price stated, this was the most important election in the city’s history, next to the 1986 incorporation vote.
Former mayors Christy Guerin and Jerome Stocks opposed Prop. A.
Jim Kydd, publisher of the weekly Coast News, took a big gamble in editorially endorsing Prop. A. In times before the 1980s incorporation, when former local newspaper the Coast Dispatch would endorse a slow-growth candidate or issue, every one of the city’s real estate agencies would boycott the paper and pull their advertising for two weeks. No such protest is planned this time around.
The special election cost the city around $400,000. Law mandated the special election because the initiative petition was signed by more than 15 percent of the city’s registered voters. Had the tally been between 10 percent (minimum to qualify) and 14.9 percent, the initiative would have had to wait for a general election in June or November of 2014.