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One of the hot issues in Encinitas this year is housing – specifically that residents think they’re building too much of it.

Encinitas has one measure on the ballot dealing with the city’s housing element, and while that’s been taking much of the flak, a separate issue, the density bonus program, has also been creating headaches throughout Encinitas.

The city has been sued a few times because of its handling of the density bonus issue. The city rounds down on calculations that say how many units a developer can build beyond local standards. Its argument was that state law didn’t dictate whether cities should round up or down, and Encinitas opted to build fewer units to maintain its suburban style.

As Maya Srikrishnan detailed in last week’s Sacramento Report, a new bill passed by the state Legislature says cities need to round up, prompting Encinitas’ officials to update the city’s policies.

“A new bill passed this session, AB 2501, adds language that makes it clear Encinitas is wrong,” Srikrishnan writes.

Encinitas fought the bill, and Councilwoman Catherine Blakespear even traveled to Sacramento to argue against it. The city hoped to delay changing its local ordinance until it was clear what the state was going to do, and it seems that time has now come.

Lilac Hills Is a Pioneer for Policy in the Undeveloped North

While the candidates for District 3 county supervisor haven’t taken a firm stance on Measure B, the ballot item to decide the fate of Lilac Hills, both Supervisor Dave Roberts and Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar alluded to impacts on broader planning and policy in the county.

“We have an increasing need in housing stock for the county as the county continues to grow … is going to be an ongoing challenge. Lilac Hills will come and go, and then there will be other projects behind it,” Gaspar said.

Roberts, meanwhile, said of all projects that come before the county, that the county can address its housing shortage while following the general plan.

This week, Srikrishnan expands on the idea that Measure B is about more than just one project: Voters will also set precedent for how future projects are planned, and where they can go.

“In weighing in on Measure B, voters are not just rendering a decision on Lilac Hills Ranch. They may also be setting two major precedents about development in the county. The first is a burgeoning trend of developers going to the ballot to bypass planning processes by local governments and local regulations,” she writes. “Lilac Hills Ranch is also the first of several projects being proposed in the northeastern part of the county, where there hasn’t been a lot of development and where the county hasn’t planned for development.”

• Though the candidates can’t take a firm stance on Measure B (since they might have to take public votes on it later), there isn’t anything stopping them from coming out for or against Measure A, SANDAG’s proposed sales tax increase.

While Gaspar has taken the road against the tax increase, Roberts has hit the brakes on weighing in.

The incumbent supervisor says the measure is good, but not good enough to say whether he supports it.

Maya Srikrishnan writes that Roberts is avoiding the controversy of Measure A, which has been opposed by environmentalists and labor groups, but supported by Democratic politicians.

“I think this initiative is a good initiative, but so many people have taken an opposed stance and support stance, so I’ve decided not to take a public position,” Roberts said. “If I don’t feel comfortable taking a pro or con, I won’t.”

Gaspar is concerned that some cities weren’t consulted when SANDAG decided what the region’s transportation priorities are, and that smaller cities would miss out on money because they can’t put up matching funds like larger cities can to receive grants.

Plant Approval Piques Interest of Appeals Court

A state court of appeals will review a decision by the California Public Utilities Commission to approve a new power plant to replace the Encina station in Carlsbad.

Opponents charged that the plant is bad for environmental reasons, but also because the contract with NRG Energy was adopted without a public bidding process, and an aide for former CPUC Chairman Michael Peevy met privately with the developer about the project.

As the Union-Tribune reports, the appeals court’s decision to review the plan doesn’t speak to the project itself, but merely the contract adopted by CPUC.

“The appeals court decision does not block the potential construction of the Carlsbad Energy Center. Rather, it means a panel of judges will review the approval of the contract passed by the CPUC,” Rob Nikolewski writes.

“Nonetheless, the decision to accept the review caught some by surprise because courts typically show deference to decisions made by state agencies.”

Also in the News

• Housing development is also a concern for Escondido voters. (Union-Tribune)

• Poway is asking a local garage to paint over a new mural, because it was done without a permit and doesn’t match its approved color. (10 News)

• Carlsbad has begun removing invasive palms at Lake Calavera Preserve. (The Coast News)

• A Carlsbad community activist apologized to Councilman Keith Blackburn, after alleging that he harassed guests of her party to celebrate the defeat of Measure A, the luxury mall on Agua Hedionda Lagoon that Blackburn supported. The activist had made the allegations in a statement prepared by someone else, and is now retracting it, leaving columnist Thomas K. Arnold wondering just who wrote it, and why. (Seaside Courier)

• Vista High School was among the 10 schools selected out of 700 applicants for a $10 million grant to create a “super school” to “prove that rigorous, personalized learning is possible at scale.” (KPBS, XQ Super School Project)

Ruarri Serpa

Ruarri Serpa is a freelance writer in Oceanside. Email him at ruarris@gmail.com and find him on Twitter at @RuarriS.

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