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Each month, VOSD editors, reporters and staff travel to different locations in San Diego County to discuss the issues. Our Member Coffee events provide an environment for readers to share their thoughts and ideas about San Diego, and give us feedback on our coverage. On Wednesday, we hosted August’s Member Coffee at the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation in Encinitas. This is a recap of that conversation. To learn more about Voice of San Diego member benefits, please click here.
Lately, we’ve been writing a lot about North County, so it made sense to hold a Member Coffee in Encinitas.
Much of our recent coverage has focused on land use, like the proposed Lilac Hills development. Last week, VOSD reporters Andrew Keatts and Maya Srikrishnan published a series of stories about the “bullying” tactics of Accretive Investments, the developer that wants to turn 600 acres in rural Valley Center into 1,700 homes. Some locals don’t want to sell their properties and the county’s planning department has said Lilac Hills doesn’t meet its guidelines, but so far Accretive has managed to overcome every obstacle in its path.
Lilac Hills is one of several proposed developments in the county that would be built in a high fire-risk zone.
Our Legal Status
To kick off the meeting, Managing Editor Sara Libby gave the group an update on our recent legal affairs. VOSD is currently involved in two lawsuits for public records. In May, we sued the city of Carson for any correspondence related to that city’s Chargers stadium negotiations. Last week, VOSD — along with KPBS, inewsource, the Union-Tribune and 10News — filed a motion in federal court to unseal surveillance video of a police shooting of an unarmed man.
Andrew Keatts said someone recently joked to him that we’re turning into “the new Cory Briggs.”
We also touched on other VOSD happenings, including our popular Politifest event. The event is on hiatus this year while we plan to bring it back bigger and better than ever for 2016.
The Culture Report also came up, and members were pleased to hear that Kinsee Morlan will take over our arts coverage as part of her new role as VOSD’s engagement editor. She’s taking over for the inimitable Caty Green, who recently left us for a sweet new gig at The Atlantic.
Strawberry Fields Forever for Now
Our members mentioned a recent VOSD story about the efforts of Caruso Affiliated, an L.A. developer, to bypass the California Environmental Quality Act and build a shopping mall on wetlands in Carlsbad. In the story, Maya Srikrishnan describes the company’s other projects as “massive and ornate, kind of like if your hometown mall and Disneyland had a love child.”
The developer collected enough signatures to skip CEQA and a public vote and took the project directly to the Carlsbad City Council. Earlier this week, the Council unanimously approved the shopping center. During our discussion, Andrew Keatts noted that aside from a successful citizens’ referendum, almost nothing can stop the mall from being built.
Jeremy Ogul, who writes our North County Report (and was also in attendance), notes that the proposal “permanently designates another 173 acres, including the famed strawberry fields, as open space.”
Former Encinitas Mayor Teresa Barth, who was in attendance along with Encinitas City Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer, remarked that an “air of secrecy” surrounds the vote but “that’s Carlsbad’s modus operandi … I’m not surprised it got passed, I’m surprised it got passed unanimously.”
Farm Country vs. Farms
Urban farms are becoming a touchy North County topic. These small residential operations have become a subject of controversy in rural Encinitas, despite “seeming like a no-brainer,” in the words of one member. In our North County Report, Jeremy Ogul writes:
Encinitas leaders are considering a new urban agriculture ordinance that would make it easier to keep chickens, goats and bees on residential property and to sell farm produce at small neighborhood stands. One local business group has described the proposal as “dangerous, filthy and intrusive,” the Coast News reports. The city’s Planning Commission wants more time to mull it over.
One member said “there’s lots of misinformation” and that advocates don’t necessarily want to change what’s allowed, they just want to “reduce the permitting required.”
State Park Maintenance Is a Beach
To close the member coffee, attendee Tom Applegate gave a nod to the Friends of Cardiff and South Carlsbad State Beaches, an organization that has helped restore beach access points at San Elijo State Beach and South Carlsbad State Beach.
Applegate said the organization “Needs recognition for the work they do … the two campgrounds are No. 1 and 2 in the state in producing revenue, but none of the revenue comes back.” Shaffer said that part of the problem is “most people don’t know who to go to.”
For the quote of the morning, Andrew Keatts said, “You do often find yourself hoping for a moment of bureaucratic kindness.”