From the coast to the mountains, land use and development issues dominated the news – at least here in your trusty North County Report.

In Carlsbad, it was the defeated luxury mall on the shores of a lagoon, and for Encinitas, it was the ongoing saga to meet a state requirement to show where it will allow more development. VOSD also had extensive coverage of the sprawling 1,700-home community known as Lilac Hills Ranch that was planned for Valley Center but was shot down by voters.

One lesson for North County from 2016 is that residents aren’t likely to approve developments that get put to a popular vote.

Some residents voted against a particular measure because of the details in the plan. Others are simply open about not wanting more development.

Whatever the case, when it comes to more homes, residents showed they don’t want to build sprawling communities in rural parts of the county, but they also don’t have the stomach to build in urban, coastal areas.

Measure B, the Lilac Hills Ranch development, was about one specific project; while Encinitas’ Measure T was a more general measure that would have allowed more residential growth in accordance with state law. They both failed.

Maya Srikrishnan writes that the two votes not only sent the message that many residents aren’t open to new growth, they also highlighted the paralysis on the part of elected officials when it comes to building more housing.

“The takeaway: Many county residents don’t want new development near them, but they also don’t want it where there aren’t many people either,” she writes.

Death at the Border

During the week, Fallbrook resident Ely Ortiz helps care for avocado farms, making sure the irrigation systems work for the water-hungry crops. Come weekend, Ortiz heads to the desert to lead a group that helps find migrants who have gone missing near the border.

In the second story of her four-part series, KPBS reporter Jean Guerrero writes about Ortiz’s group, Aguilas del Desierto, which he formed in the wake of the deaths of his brother and cousin, who were found in the desert after trying to cross into the United States illegally.

“Searching as the Aguilas do — on foot, through the brush, in a horizontal line formation — is the most efficient way to find bodies. Along the most frequented border routes, the vegetation is too dense for cars. Dying migrants often crawl under trees seeking shade. They are difficult to detect from the sky, even with the high-tech helicopters of (The Border Patrol), but they can be spotted and smelled from the ground,” Guerrero writes.

Though Ortiz lives and works in North County, he often finds his group going as far as Arizona to help search for missing migrants.

How Schools Are Spending

A review of school district budgets across the county shows that while revenues are up – as much as 40 percent compared to five years ago – spending has kept pace or exceeded revenue growth at several school districts, including Poway and Vista.

Ashly McGlone reports that while revenues are increasing thanks to statewide tax increases, districts plan to draw down their reserve funds to near record-lows to accommodate increased spending over the next couple years.

Poway Unified’s revenues grew from $252 million five years ago, to $365 million this year – a $113 million, or 45 percent bump. During the same period, the district’s expenses grew $130 million, or 53 percent. At Vista Unified, revenue is expected to top $242 million, and spending $262 million – representing 34 percent and 41 percent increases from four years ago.

Also in the News

 A mudslide on Christmas displaced four families from an apartment building in Oceanside. (Fox 5 San Diego)

 The Sheriff’s Department is investigating an incident in Vista in which three deputies were filmed kicking and punching a man who was pinned on the ground. (CBS News 8)

 Judges denied a change of venue from San Francisco to San Diego in the hearing to decide whether ratepayers will be charged $380 million for costs related to the 2007 wildfires, which SDG&E acknowledged was caused by its equipment. (Union-Tribune)

 Escondido launched a gang tattoo removal program that is free for young people who have left or are trying to leave gangs. (The Coast News)

 An eight-story hotel that has been planned for 10 years, and a redesign of the area just south of the pier, are finally ready to break ground in Oceanside. (Union-Tribune)

 The group behind the renovation of the former Pacific View school in Encinitas is looking for an inaugural “class” to help raise money. (The Coast News)

 Medical marijuana advocates in Oceanside and Vista are launching initiatives to allow dispensaries in the two cities. (Union-Tribune)

 Palomar College is a finalist in a national competition for college radio and television. (Union-Tribune)

Ruarri Serpa

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

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