Poway’s slogan--"The City in the Country"--can seem a cruel joke to commuters who join the rush each morning and return bumper to bumper each night. What happened to the efforts of former City Council members to stem the tide of rampant growth?
That issue dominates November’s election in Poway, with two growth-management plans competing to protect the North County community from developers and itself, and three challengers vying to unseat Mayor Bob Emery, who has been on the council since the city was incorporated in 1980. There is also one open seat on the council.
Emery, 47, is the champion of one of the ballot issues, Councilwoman Linda Brannon the author of the other. Both claim their measures are designed to halt inappropriate development in Poway and remedy the ills of urbanization of the once-barren hillsides in the city.
Issue FF Was on Ballot First
Emery, with the support of the majority of the council, placed his issue--FF--on the ballot first. Then Brannon, who had voted against the Emery proposal, took her ballot initiative--GG--to the voters, obtaining more than 3,600 signatures to place it on the ballot.
Both growth-management proposals seek to strengthen the city’s general plan. Emery’s measure proposes that any upzoning or rezoning of the city’s open space and rural residential lands must be approved by city voters. Brannon’s proposal calls for a citizens’ committee plan that would spell out criteria for development that would relieve, or at least not accelerate, traffic congestion, poor air quality, inadequate police and fire protection, and loss of environmentally sensitive lands to development.
Critics of Emery’s FF see it as an unwieldy way to manage growth and question whether a cohesive land-use plan can be gained through a series of votes on separate developments. Proponents of Emery’s measure see it as a democratic way to settle development issues--by putting each up for a decision of the electorate.
Brannon’s GG draws the most fire because of a “killer clause.” If Brannon’s Quality of Life measure receives more votes at the polls, Emery’s initiative will be thrown out even if it also wins majority approval.
Last-minute talks between the two council members failed to resolve the impasse because the city attorney ruled that the wording of GG and its killer clause could not be changed after it was submitted to the city clerk.
Emery believes that the two initiatives are “very compatible” and, if it were not for the killer clause, both could have been imposed on the city with little or no conflict.
He objects, however, to criticism from GG supporters that his measure does not protect the entire community. Rural residential zoning and open space, where his proposal would apply, cover 75% of Poway’s land area and 95% of the city’s undeveloped acreage, Emery said.
Unlike Dr. Bruce Tarzy, who is retiring from city politics after his term expires this year, Emery has decided to seek another four-year term “because the job isn’t quite done yet.”
There are transportation agreements to be worked out with the city of San Diego for construction of South Poway Parkway, an east-west artery that will link with Interstate 15 and with California 67. There are plans to be worked out for reactivating the city’s sewage treatment system so that Poway will not be dependent on the overloaded Point Loma sewage outfall. There are park plans to be implemented, civic building plans and redevelopment projects to be charted before Emery feels that he can rest on his laurels.
3 Others Competing
Also competing for the two council seats to be filled in the Nov. 8 election are two lawyers and a certified public accountant.
Lawyer Gordon Meyer, 41, says he supports Brannon’s initiative measure because it leaves the final voice with the City Council.
Meyer, who opposes any density increases not allowed under the city’s general plan, says the council must have the power to negotiate agreements with developers, which they would not have if Emery’s ballot measure prevails, requiring rezonings to be submitted to the electorate.
Meyer was elected to the Poway City Council in 1976, but the Poway incorporation measure was defeated, leaving him without a city.
Traffic Seen as Problem
He sees traffic as the city’s worst long-term and short-term problem. If elected, he would seek early release of Poway’s $10-million allocation to improve the Poway Grade--the city’s “back door” to California 67 and Santee--and would attempt to speed construction of the South Poway Parkway to take about 50,000 cars a day off congested Poway Road. The long-range solution, Meyer says, lies in mass transit, especially in trolley routes or monorail serving the city.
Accountant Lawrence Valente, 47, points out that he is the only candidate or council member with business experience. He criticizes the current council for failing to seek analyses of proposed projects from the city staff so that costs and benefits can be weighed.
Valente questions whether either of the proposed growth-management measures is needed to put city government “on a businesslike plane.” Instead, Valente advocates a turnaround in local government, one that would see Poway leaders cooperating with other cities and regional agencies in order to solve the regional problems it faces.
Much of Poway’s traffic congestion and overbuilding were “in the pipeline” when the city was formed in 1980, he said. The situation was made worse because of the city’s isolationism--failure to cooperate with others in seeking solutions, he said.
Valente sees an urgency in resolving traffic problems because coming years will bring completion of the South Poway industrial park, with its estimated 23,000 employees. Without new arterial roads and highways, Poway will be drowned in traffic, which will be double what it is now, he said.
Attorney Jan Goldsmith, 37, makes traffic-congestion solutions his priority. To reduce congestion on Poway’s surface streets, he said, “the only real solution” is an 8-mile-long expressway bypass that will shunt traffic from rapidly growing Ramona around Poway.
Route Revival Sought
Goldsmith proposes that Route 125, from east of Poway south to Lakeside and Santee, be revived on state construction plans. The route, which was dropped from state maps because of opposition from Poway and others, should be built with only one or two access points, so that it does not encourage urbanization along the back country route, he explained.
Goldsmith opposes the construction of main roads through developer contributions because “it creates a road and instant congestion on it” and does not resolve the problems that prevail now. He concedes that “it will be a difficult job” to get state money for a Route 125 bypass but says that is the only method to return traffic on Poway’s surface streets to normal.