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Deer Springs Road located just south of the proposed Newland Sierra project. / Photo by Megan Wood

I spent a good part of Tuesday talking to voters in Escondido and San Marcos who live near the Merriam Mountains, the site of the development proposal that appeared on the ballot as Measure B. They overwhelmingly said they were opposed to the project.

One resident after another said they did not want Newland Sierra’s developers to build 2,135 homes, a school site, retail and parks north of Escondido in the Merriam Mountains because they believed it would increase traffic and housing costs. Others cited wildfire concerns and how approval of the development could promote sprawl in the county.

Those sentiments, combined with the financial support of Golden Door, a nearby luxury spa and the project’s main opponent, helped sink Measure B. At last count, more than 58 percent of county voters had rejected the project.

The County Board of Supervisors approved a general plan amendment to allow the Newland Sierra project in September 2018, but more than 117,000 county residents signed a petition to force the decision to a countywide vote.

Proponents of the project said it would have brought much-needed affordable housing to the region.

Rita Brandin, a senior vice president for Newland Communities, wrote in a statement Wednesday that the developers would be reassessing their plan for the property over the next several weeks.

“It’s difficult getting voter approval for any development project in California, even without funded opposition. Our campaign faced an unprecedented challenge as a result of more than $6 million of deceptive advertising and other activities financed by the Golden Door,” Brandin wrote in the statement. “When voters have doubts, they vote no, and although most of the Golden Door’s claims were fabricated, they apparently succeeded in raising doubts.”

Rick Schloss, a representative for the campaign against Measure B, said they’ll keep fighting.

“We are ready for whatever Newland tries to do next, this is not the end of our community’s efforts to ensure that positive long-term decisions are made for affordable housing, traffic and transit, and our precious resources,” Schloss wrote in an email.

The developers behind Newland Sierra said more than 60 percent of the homes would have been affordable to workforce families, but whether that promise was legally enforceable was a question of debate in the final days of the campaign. I broke down Newland Sierra’s promise to build affordable homes for working families in the development. Newland had also said they planned to expand Deer Springs Road near the proposed project to alleviate traffic concerns.

Abbas Masifi, a San Marcos resident who voted at the San Marcos library, said Tuesday he’d hate to see another 2,000 homes go up next to his own.

“I’m already having enough trouble with the traffic with the way it is and they don’t have any plans to take care of the extra capacity that’s required,” Masifi said.

Measure A Too Close to Call

Registrar of Voters results also show as of Wednesday that 51 percent of the electorate voted no on Measure A, a separate countywide initiative that would require that general plan amendments increasing residential density in semi-rural and rural areas get countywide voter approval.

Campaigns for and against the initiative said Wednesday they remain hopeful voters decided in their favor.

“The No on A campaign had a very good night last night and while we’re up two percentage points, 51 to 49, we are not declaring victory,” Tony Manolatos, president of the PR firm representing the campaign, wrote in an email. “There are still roughly 350,000 outstanding ballots left to count, and that process could take days or weeks to complete.”

Proponents of the initiative wrote in an email their campaign is encouraged by the level of momentum it has received and will remain “cautiously optimistic” that Measure A will prevail.

More North County Results

  • Carlsbad City Councilwoman Cori Schumacher won the District 1 Council seat, beating out Tracy Carmichael, who formerly sat on the Carlsbad Unified School District board, and Barrio resident Simon Angel. Schumacher wrote in a recent op-ed for Voice of San Diego she wants Carlsbad to declare a homeless shelter crisis and establish a safe parking lot in town for homeless residents living in their cars.
  • Oceanside voters defeated Measure K and will continue to vote on and elect their city clerk and city treasurer. The initiative put on the ballot by the Oceanside City Council would have switched elections for those positions to appointments.
  • Del Mar voters rejected Measure G, the Marisol initiative, which would have allowed for a luxury hotel project on the coastal city’s northern bluff.
  • Two North County school bonds — one in the Escondido Union School District and another in the Poway Unified School District — failed to get more than the required 55 percent approval from voters. Ashly McGlone recently reported the Poway’s bond messaging crept toward the legal line.
  • Republicans Joel Anderson and Steve Vaus advanced to the runoff in the District 2 race for the County Board of Supervisors. District 2 encompasses Poway and other East County cities.
  • Republican County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar and Democrat Terra Lawson-Remer will move forward and vie for the District 3 seat in November. District 3 encompasses the cities of Encinitas, Escondido, Solana Beach and Del Mar. Lawson-Remer finished in second, but Gaspar got less than 50 percent of the vote. That means a majority of ballots were cast for a Democrat.

In Other News

  • North County Transit District officials said the possibility of completing a train tunnel in Del Mar could take longer than 10 years. Meanwhile, coastal erosion is eating away at the bluffs where the train tracks are now. (Union-Tribune)
  • The North County Transit District’s Coaster train turned 25 years old last week. The district says it plans to add five new locomotives to increase service and reliability by the end of the year. (Union-Tribune)
  • The Escondido Union School District appointed Frank Huston, a police officer in the Escondido Police Department, to the school board. Huston told a reporter one of his highest priorities for the district is reversing the trend of declining enrollment. (Union-Tribune)
  • Palomar College President Joi Lin Blake resigned with a $450,000 settlement last month after the college’s faculty declared a vote of “no confidence” in her leadership. (Union-Tribune)
  • Oceanside voters could get a say in November on whether they want to amend the city’s current cannabis business regulations. The Oceanside Voters for Safe Access Coalition’s proposed initiative would allow pot dispensaries with storefronts for recreational and medical purposes.
  • Attention, Gen Z! The Metropolitan Transit District is asking high school students countywide what their generation considers top priorities when it comes to the future of public transportation in the region. (Times of San Diego)

Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to Tracy Carmichael as a current member of the Carlsbad Unified School Board. She is a former board member.

Kayla Jimenez

Kayla Jiminez was a staff writer for Voice of San Diego. She covered about communities, politics and regional issues in North County as well as school...

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