With City Council members operating for the good of a whole city – one district – North County localities have tended to grow around one downtown area.

Most of the shops, bars and restaurants go downtown. Art galleries and events tend to be clustered downtown. Just about everything that lends a town its joie de vivre (while generating that sweet, sweet sales-tax) goes downtown.

But there’s only so much downtown to go around, and with the switch to by-district elections likely coming to Vista and Oceanside, not everyone is going to get a slice of lively commercial area, or a say in what happens in the “centers” of their town.

Two maps drafted by a demographer in Vista try to split the downtown area among three districts, leaving the fourth with largely residential and industrial areas, and relatively little commercial space.

The makeup of a district is going to affect the representative’s positions, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt if your district brings in a lot of money to the city’s coffers, but what happens if a district doesn’t have much of a business presence at all?

In Oceanside, it’s still too early to tell what the boundaries will be, but Oceanside Chamber of Commerce CEO Scott Ashton wants each district to have a business footprint.

Ashton is one of the first to use his position to provide leadership on the move to district elections, and he’s encouraging business leaders to be involved in the public hearing. He told me what he doesn’t want is for some districts to lack businesses altogether.

“For specific issues – we don’t even know what’s going to arise yet. But we want to be careful that no districts are drawn that are devoid of business,” Ashton said. “Whether you want it to or not, (districts are) going to happen.”

The chamber also takes on the role of hosting candidate forums each election year. Ashton said the group is looking at evolving that model to hold forums across the city, in each district, and it has a three-year strategic plan that includes outreach, and holding other events and networking opportunities in different neighborhoods.

Oceanside has several places, other than its downtown, that present opportunities for an ambitious council member to make a name: Plans for both the airport and redesigning Oceanside Boulevard have languished for years, there’s a growing agri-tourism movement in Morro Hills and the shuttering of anchor stores has left food deserts and needed neighborhood services at strip malls from the coast to the valley.

With some zoning reforms falling into place, it’s possible that voting districts will give life to new centers around Oceanside.

Lilac Hills Is Still Breathing

Despite being told “no” by county planners, and by 63 percent of voters in November, Accretive Investments is still pushing the Lilac Hills project near Valley Center.

Maya Srikrishnan and Andrew Keatts report that Accretive applied for, and received, a new stormwater management permit, which signals the intent of the developer to keep the project going.

Unlike the one voters rejected, this one includes provisions for a new fire station and school, and improvements to local roads – all elements the county’s Planning Commission required.

The one change is that Kristin Gaspar replaced Dave Roberts, who opposed the project, on the Board of Supervisors. While Gaspar hasn’t spoken directly about the project, she said projects like that aren’t ideal, but that the county’s development process needs fixing.

Encinitas Sued … Again

After a threat last month, affordable housing advocates have followed through and sued Encinitas, saying the city’s slow-growth measure stands in the way of the city adopting a required housing plan.

“Our clients’ request is simple: that the city stop violating state law,” Parisa Ijadi-Maghsoodi, attorney for San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, told Coast News. “For over two decades, the city has evaded its legal obligation to provide for the housing needs of its low-income residents. The city is now hiding behind its local growth control measure, Proposition A, and applying it in an illegal manner that conflicts with the California Constitution to avoid its statutory obligation to facilitate the development of affordable housing.”

Also in the News

• The Coastal Commission will consider Encinitas’ choice to backpedal on the route for the Coastal Rail Trail, and move it west of Highway 101. (The Coast News)

• The old rail yard in downtown Oceanside will soon be the site of a seven-story apartment complex. (Union-Tribune)

• Carlsbad will hire a consultant to help crack down on unlicensed short-term vacation rentals. (Union-Tribune)

• Rep. Darrell Issa told The Hill that his position on the latest health care reform bill is “none of your business,” but eventually replied when a 10News reporter followed up on Twitter. He’s “undecided, he said. (The Hill)

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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