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San Diego County Election Returns : 2 Incorporation Drives Winning in North County

Times Staff Writer

North County voters appeared to be creating their own tale of two cities Tuesday, breaking free of county rule once and for all and establishing new local governments in Solana Beach and San Dieguito.

Early election returns showed the two hotly debated incorporation measures--which mark the third time in 12 years residents in each of the coastal communities have voted on cityhood--passing by narrow margins.

In Solana Beach, where voters were asked to create a 4-square-mile city of about 14,000 residents, retired Air Force Col. Jack Moore and former county planning commissioner Margaret Schlesinger were leading the pack of contenders for the five seats on the new City Council, incomplete returns showed.

Farther north, in San Dieguito, where residents were voting to merge Cardiff, Encinitas, Leucadia and Olivenhain into one 26-square-mile municipality, veteran community activist Marjorie Gaines and probation officer Rick Shea were leading the field of candidates vying to become founding fathers.

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On two related ballot measures, voters were endorsing Encinitas over San Dieguito or Rancho San Elijo as the best name for the new 44,000-resident city and appeared to favor the election of future council members at large rather than by district.

“It looks like the third time’s the charm for us,” said Cardiff resident and cityhood booster Bob Bonde. “After 22 months of work, the mood is joyous. We’re calling June 3 Independence Day for San Dieguito.”

Although interest in the incorporation question was high in both areas, the fight in San Dieguito was particularly fierce, with both camps blanketing the region with placards, billboards and homespun flyers broadcasting their positions on the cityhood measure, Proposition K on the ballot.

The San Dieguito battle also featured a more crowded field of city council candidates than Solana Beach--16 versus 11--and fatter campaign budgets than those that powered the far quieter race to the south, where the incorporation measure was Proposition N.

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Above all, debate in the long-running and frequently bitter San Dieguito campaign turned on one question: Which body, the county Board of Supervisors or a locally elected city council, could best manage the rapid development sweeping into the area?

Champions of home rule charged that county supervisors, ensconced in their chambers in downtown San Diego, were out of touch with North County residents and had heedlessly approved high-density residential projects that violated the semi-sleepy character of the region.

Led by the North Coast Incorporation Coalition, cityhood supporters promised that local government would enable San Dieguito residents--from the amber hills of Olivenhain to the coastal bluffs of Leucadia--to keep a tighter grip on growth and shape their own future.

Moreover, cityhood supporters--from disillusioned retirees to fiery young activists--argued that local government would provide a healthier lineup of public services than that delivered by the county. To make their point, pro-K forces cited studies showing that San Dieguito residents pumped $8.5 million into the county’s general fund in 1984 but received only $4.7 million back in services.

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Officials with the Local Agency Formation Commission, which must approve all incorporation bids before they appear on the ballot, further predicted that San Dieguito would be one of the most fiscally sound cities to incorporate in California in recent years.

Opponents, meanwhile, whose numbers include flower growers, business owners and residents leery of stepping out from beneath the county’s wing, spent most of their time attacking the assertions of proponents. Their favorite tack was to characterize forecasts of economic bounty as a pipe dream.

Despite detailed studies showing a $3.3-million surplus after the municipality’s first year of operation, cityhood foes predicted that the new city would, at best, limp along. Even tax-rich Encinitas, the bustling commercial heart of the proposed city, would fail to generate sufficient revenue to solve the web of problems besetting the neediest corners of the community, they argued.

Anti-K forces also made hay out of some residents’ lingering resistance to merging the four distinctive towns into one sprawling city of San Dieguito. But proponents hoped to defuse community opposition by holding a name contest for the new city and placing three finalists--Encinitas, San Dieguito and Rancho San Elijo--on the ballot.

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In Solana Beach, the issues were much the same--putting the brakes on growth, increasing the citizens’ return for their tax dollars and preserving the community’s character. But somehow, the rhetoric seemed distinctly less shrill. To begin with, the area in question is much smaller and better defined, encompassing only Solana Beach rather than four separate towns.

And the relatively low-key opposition emerged late in the game and consisted mostly of the same voices--and the same arguments--heard in past elections in 1981 and 1974. Finally, Citizens Intending to Incorporate, the group leading the incorporation drive in Solana Beach, formed nearly two years ago and had been steadily building support ever since.

Nonetheless, Stop Inc. leaders did their best to raise red flags, citing the liability insurance crisis facing municipalities nationwide as one compelling reason to remain under county control.


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