In the hills outside San Marcos, a land battle is brewing between Newland Communities, which wants to build a 2,100-home development, and a neighbor, an exclusive resort called the Golden Door.

The project, dubbed Newland Sierra, sits on Deer Springs Road, just a few miles west of Interstate 15, and is one is a line of projects that would require a change to the county’s general plan, either by county supervisors or voters.

The Golden Door says the development represents a threat to their business because it would build homes and bring more people than live in Del Mar to the rocky slope across the street from their tranquil property, so they’ve filed lawsuits to try and halt the project.

But unlike other developments that have come before voters in North County, this fight isn’t shaping up to be the scrappy locals against the out-of-town millionaire. The Golden Door is owned by Joanne Conway, the billionaire wife of the cofounder of the Carlyle Group.

“We aren’t the Goliath in this one,” Rita Brandin, senior vice president with Newland, told VOSD’s Ry Rivard. “We’re the David.”

Vista’s Mixed-Use ‘Loophole’

When Vista set out to create a new vision for the city, it sought to combat sprawling development and make parts of the city more walkable by combining homes, shops and offices in dense areas.

The city faced a problem: The Great Recession was still dragging new construction down. To help kickstart development, Vista officials opted to allow developers to decide how much of a mix between commercial and residential to include in their projects in the city’s new walkable, urban areas.

Four years later, after the city adopted its new general plan, residential construction was the clear winner in the new mixed-use zones. In other words, there hasn’t been much of a mix. Already in some neighborhoods, that’s made problems the city tried to fix in the general plan even worse, like being able to walk to shops and work.

“What ended up happening is residential came back with a fury … but commercial is still lagging,” Councilman John Aguilera told me.

Neighborhood advocates say there’s a loophole in the code: Developers can opt not to build any commercial space, resulting in bigger residential projects at much lower standards than is possible in residential neighborhoods.

The City Council was set to consider the matter on Jan. 10, but after other items on the agenda stretched the meeting past the 4.5-hour mark, the Council pushed the issue to its next meeting.

Gaspar Sworn in as Supe

Last week, former Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar was sworn in as supervisor for the county’s third district.

Gaspar unseated incumbent Dave Roberts, a Democrat, in the district that stretches from Encinitas to parts of Mission Valley, and north to Escondido. Coming out of Election Day, Gaspar was behind in the count, but as mail-in ballots were tallied, her lead grew.

She recently sat down with Voice’s Maya Srikrishnan to talk about the election, the transition to a countywide seat and how she’ll achieve what she promised during the campaign, which includes commitments to combat homelessness.

Gaspar said with the unprecedented time it took to count all the ballots, it was critical to get a few key positions on her staff filled.

“It’s been the longest shortest period imaginable. Because it took 20 days to count the ballots, it was a shorter transition than most would experience,” Gaspar said. “The most important that we wanted on board by Jan. 9, was the chief of staff – and we can check that box – the scheduler and also a communications director.”

The Coast News’ Aaron Burgin attended the ceremonial swearing-in, where Gaspar discussed her top priority: homelessness.

Burgin reports Gaspar compared the task to Florence Chadwick’s swim across the Catalina Channel, which she ended just miles from shore due to fog.

“As we try to take on some challenging issues throughout the region … we won’t always be able to see the land, but the main thing is that we have to keep our goal in sight, and before we ever enter the water, we have to establish our goal,” Gaspar said. “We can’t let the fog (obstacles) stop us short of reaching our goal. We have too much at stake.”

DA Is Investigating Former Poway Superintendent

While Poway Unified School District seeks $300,000 for unauthorized pay from its former superintendent, John Collins, Collins’ legal team let slip that he is now facing a criminal investigation by the district attorney’s office.

Not much is known about the investigation, but Voice’s Ashly McGlone details what we do know:

“In the Jan. 3 filing, Collins’ attorneys ask to delay all civil proceedings ‘until the conclusion of an ongoing investigation’ by the district attorney. ‘Counsel is informed that the San Diego District Attorney’s Office is investigating the allegations made in this civil action for possible criminal prosecution.’”

Also in the News

The Encinitas City Council will decide whom to appoint to the Council seat vacated by Catherine Blakespear when she assumed the mayor’s chair, from among 16 – count ‘em, 16 – applicants. (The Coast News)

Rep. Darrell Issa introduced rules to make it tougher for companies to get H-1B visa workers, the program that allows for highly skilled foreign labor. (Los Angeles Times)

A narrow alley that is the primary access for some homes in Leucadia ain’t big enough to handle large commercial traffic for the businesses that also share it. (The Coast News)

At a meeting in Escondido, the California Public Utility Commission got an earful from ratepayers about who should pay for the 2007 wildfires. (KPBS)

Among District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ announcement Tuesday on police shootings was the decision that two Sheriff’s Department officers were legally justified in shooting a man in Vista last August. (Union-Tribune)

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

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