No news yet on what the Carlsbad City Council plans to do with the hot potato it’s been handed by the citizens who successfully demanded the city reconsider its plan to allow a new luxury shopping mall near the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

There is news, however, on the princely sums being spent to sway the outcome. Caruso Affiliated, the L.A.-based mall developer that started this whole ordeal, has spent over $5 million on its campaign as of Sept. 30, according to the Union-Tribune.

Between July and September, Caruso spent about $3 million on consultants and advertising. The advertisements — which included radio, TV, print and postal mailers — warned that “corporate interests from outside California” were behind a nefarious effort to thwart the will of the people. That was, presumably, a subtle jab at Westfield, the Australia-based shopping mall developer that owns several malls in the region, including one in Carlsbad.

Turns out those foreign corporate tentacles didn’t quite reach into this conflict. The group Citizens for North County spent just $18,000 on a successful signature-gathering campaign to demand a referendum on the new plan, the U-T reported. The group’s largest contribution was $2,200 from Preserve Calavera, an Oceanside-based environmental nonprofit, and most of the rest of the contributions came from Carlsbad residents in amounts ranging from $100 to $300.

On a related note, Westfield is now selling its Carlsbad mall, formerly known as Plaza Camino Real. The buyer is Rouse Properties, which owns another mall in Chula Vista. The Union-Tribune quoted a real estate expert who believes Westfield is getting out of Carlsbad so it can focus on its long-planned expansion at UTC and possible redevelopment opportunities at its Mission Valley and Horton Plaza malls.

Oceanside Puts Charter School Deal on Hold

Oceanside Unified had planned to shut down Jefferson Middle School in June and hand the campus over to Orange County School of the Arts, a charter school. Now, facing backlash from Latino and low-income families as well as the local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, the superintendent has decided to hit the pause button on the charter school plan. The superintendent says waiting a year will give the district more time to conduct community outreach and study the environmental impact of the proposal. (Union-Tribune)

• KPBS has more on Casita Center, the Vista magnet school that outperformed its peers on state standardized tests despite disproportionately high numbers of low-income students and English-learners. Teachers there use a concept-based curriculum aligned with the International Baccalaureate program.

Vista Makes Moves on Mobile Home Parks

The city of Vista has reached a rent-control compromise with mobile home park owners. The agreement before the City Council this week allows park owners to raise rents beyond the consumer price index only when a mobile home is sold. Rent increases would be limited to $67.50 per month. Residents and park owners would split the cost of major infrastructure repairs. (Union-Tribune)

Meanwhile, the city may finally unload an abandoned mobile home park it has owned since 1989. The last mobile homes were removed in 2005, and subsequent attempts to redevelop the property have failed. Now, a residential developer is poised to pay the city $5.5 million for the 6.3-acre property and build 179 apartments there. The city would use that cash to build affordable housing elsewhere, according to the Union-Tribune.

Digging into Nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations employ about 7 percent of the regional workforce and own billions of dollars’ worth of real estate and other property, some of which is tax-exempt. VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt is diving into our local nonprofit universe as part of a new, long-term investigative focus.

The effort begins with a look at the largest nonprofits, which tend to be in health care and higher education. Many have extensive operations in North County, including Sharp Healthcare, Scripps Health, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Goodwill Industries of San Diego County and the YMCA of San Diego County.

Know of a North County nonprofit you think we should dig into? Get in touch with Halverstadt at

The Culture Report: The Other North County Report

If you’re not already reading the Culture Report by VOSD’s Kinsee Morlan, you’re missing out. The weekly newsletter frequently includes news about arts and culture in North County. This week’s edition mentions the Oceanside Museum of Art’s silent auction and a celebration of lowrider car culture in Vista.

Also in the News

• A group of Cardiff residents is organizing to oppose the Encinitas City Council’s decision to build a segment of the regional Coastal Rail Trail along the east side of the railroad tracks. They say the chosen alignment will limit their ability to reach the beach by foot. (Seaside Courier)

• The Encinitas City Council has awarded a contract to develop a new, at-grade railroad crossing at Montgomery Avenue. (Encinitas Advocate)

• SANDAG wants to raise the sales tax rate by half a percentage point countywide. North County leaders say that plan will only fly with voters if some of the revenues are spent to widen State Route 78. (Union-Tribune)

• Law enforcement agents nabbed 36 fugitives throughout North County last month in a concerted operation named after former Escondido Police Officer Laura Perez, who was murdered by her husband last year. Several of the fugitives were wanted on domestic violence charges. (NBC San Diego)

• Just in time for Veterans Day, a group of volunteers has applied the finishing touches to an Escondido veterans’ memorial nine years in the making. (Union-Tribune)

• Carlsbad is asking for community feedback on plans to improve public access near the city’s Terramar neighborhood. (Seaside Courier)

• Encinitas is once again considering an ordinance that would give residents the right to operate small farms and keep chickens, goats and bees in residential neighborhoods. (The Coast News)

• Solana Beach is seeking community input on a possible mixed-use development at the Solana Beach Train Station. (Seaside Courier)

• Oceanside businesses that sell alcohol will be required to train their employees on how to prevent over-serving customers and how to prevent selling alcohol to minors. (Union-Tribune)

• Despite opposition from the Sierra Club, the state Public Utilities Commission reaffirmed its approval of a new gas-fired energy plant in Carlsbad. (San Diego Reader)

• Oceanside is moving forward with plans to replace beach restrooms that were built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. Another project in the works will add an aquatics center at El Corazon Community Park. (Union-Tribune)

• The city of Carlsbad is still hammering out the details of an ordinance that would allow indoor gun ranges in town. One of the biggest concerns is the number of parking spaces to require. (Union-Tribune)

Jeremy Ogul is a freelance writer and editor in San Diego. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter...

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