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This post has been updated.

Once a profitable venture in North County, agriculture faces a difficult future with the prices of labor, water and land.

And as profits grow thinner, farmers are looking to grow two new things that could keep them in business: marijuana and neighborhoods.

North County Report

One idea is to develop part of a farm as an “agri-hood,” a neighborhood built around a working farm, where developers envision residents can grow, process and sell their own food. Instead of grassy medians, perhaps there will be beds of kale.

Farmers see the potential of developing agri-hoods and farm-based tourism as ways to generate income and continue farming.

Oceanside’s agricultural zoning allows one house on a 2.5-acre lot, but a proposed project – on land owned by Self-Realization Fellowship Church, which owns the temple next to Swami’s in Encinitas – was slated for a 177-acre parcel that dedicated only 10 percent of the land to commercial farming.

Earlier this year, the Oceanside City Council said it couldn’t yet support that plan to build a 1,000-home agri-hood in the city’s Morro Hills, a more rural part of the city dominated by agriculture.

The Council didn’t exactly shut down the plan as much as send it back to the drawing board, and now a group of residents is gathering signatures for an initiative that would require a city-wide vote to change the zoning on agricultural lands or open space.

Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery, who characterized the initiative as “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine too,” said his experience chairing the city’s Medical Marijuana Ad-hoc Committee taught him that farming in the region is finished unless something gives.

And if not houses, farmers should be allowed to grow marijuana, he said.

As I wrote last week, the committee’s marijuana rules are awaiting a vote by the City Council, while a separate initiative would allow commercial marijuana operations.

A similar situation is playing out in Encinitas, where a local flower grower asked the city to allow him to grow marijuana to stay in business. After the City Council decided to put the question to voters in November 2018, the grower revoked his request, and will instead look to rezone half of his property to build about 200 homes on 10 acres.

Like Lowery, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear says if not marijuana, farmers should be able to build homes.

Blakespear added that because the only person requesting to grow marijuana pulled his request, the question may not even appear on the ballot after all.

Update: After this post published, Mayor Catherine Blakespear wrote to us clarifying that while she’s interested in the agrihood concept in general, it’s too soon to say whether she supports one landowner’s specific request to build homes on his property, which is zoned for agricultural uses but not for building homes.

Encinitas Chooses District Map Drawn by Council Member

While Encinitas has settled on a map that creates four new City Council districts, an 11th-hour revelation about the source of the Council’s map alternatives is grabbing the most attention.

The Coast News’ Aaron Burgin reported last week that Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath told the Council that she created both of the final maps the Council was considering, from among the 16 that were anonymously submitted.

Two Council members were disappointed that Boerner Horvath didn’t disclose her role in the maps’ creation, while Mayor Catherine Blakespear congratulated the councilwoman.

“Anyone who watched the meeting or has talked with Councilmember Boerner Horvath knows that she has an unparalleled depth of knowledge and interest in virtually every census block of our city,” Blakespear wrote in her newsletter.

Boerner Horvath also made news recently when she announced a run for the 76th Assembly District before her first term on the City Council has ended. Blakespear also stood by Boerner Horvath in that decision, while other Encinitas pols past and present criticized the move.

VSD Picks New Superintendent

The small Vallecitos School District has chosen Dr. Olga Maritza Koeppen to serve as its next superintendent and principal.

Koeppen currently serves as San Marcos Unified School District’s director of special programs, and replaces former Superintendent David Jones.

Jones abruptly resigned in August, after he was hired as the new superintendent of the Bonsall Unified School District.

As VSD watchdog Bill Harding pointed out, Koeppen’s contract does not include medical benefits – but it does include a clause requiring her to let the board know if she applies for another job, and to give at least 10 weeks’ notice before resigning.

Also in the News

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

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