Voters to Decide in Poway, Encinitas, Oceanside, Vista : Growth Is the Top Issue in 4 North County Elections

Times Staff Writer

The question of how well four North County cities have implemented existing growth management policies--and what direction two others should take in addressing the issue--provides a regional focal point when North County’s electorate votes in two weeks.

The fact that the area’s growth once again rises above--or has fed--other municipal issues in North County suggests that no one city has yet figured how best to manage growth in the burgeoning area. Even in cities where voters in the past year have adopted growth controls, candidates for city councils are suggesting still more can be done to better carry them out.

Voters in Poway and Encinitas are considering adoptions of their own, first-time growth initiatives--with competing measures in each city, not unlike the competing pairs of growth measures that are being put to voters in the city of San Diego as well as countywide.


Voters in the Vista Unified School District are faced with a $63 million bond issue to finance new schools to accommodate growth.

And candidates for city councils in Solana Beach, Oceanside, Carlsbad, San Marcos and Vista are voicing a number of issues, including how effective their incumbents have handled growth within the framework of previously adopted general plans and growth measures.

Agreement on Issue

Ted Marioncelli, a one-time Oceanside City Council member who now is Fifth District Supervisor John MacDonald’s chief aide in North County, concurs that growth is an issue that voters won’t abandon.

“There is an overwhelming sentiment amongst the voters for growth management and growth control. There seems to be an emotional tide that wants to express itself,” he said.

Marioncelli reflected on how the various North County cities have chosen different philosophical approaches to growth control, and the inherent liabilities to cities that adopt various measures.

“Everyone’s trying to find a balance, but then the city councils will find themselves in conflict. They want to control growth,” Marioncelli said, “but they know that growth brings in the dollars they need to solve a lot of the problems they face--road maintenance, sewers, water lines, schools.” Thus arises the question of whether cities should put absolute caps on new growth, or somehow better manage growth by finding better ways to finance and accommodate it.

This election year, it’s Poway’s and Encinitas’s turns to directly address growth through specific ballot measures.

Poway voters must decide between Proposition FF, a measure championed by Mayor Bob Emery which proposes that any upzoning or rezoning of the city’s open space and rural residential lands must be approved by city voters, and the less-restrictive Proposition GG, fielded by Councilwoman Linda Brannon and calling for a citizen’s committee to spell out criteria for future development. Brannon’s measure contains a so-called killer clause ensuring that even if both measures gain majority approval, only the one with the most votes becomes law.

Complex Measure

There are two seats up for election in Poway--Emery’s, who is seeking reelection, and one held by Dr. Bruce Tarzy, who is quitting office. Three candidates and incumbent Emery are running for the two seats.

Encinitas voters face Proposition AA, a lengthy and complex growth-management measure designed to strengthen the city’s still-unadopted general plan, and Proposition BB, a one-page growth control measure that simply places caps on residential construction and limits commercial growth for the next 10 years. To resolve a problem should they both win majority approval, the City Council included Proposition CC which, if it wins, declares that whichever of the two growth measures receives the most votes will prevail.

Oceanside has no propositions, but claims the largest field of candidates for a city council: 14 persons competing for two City Council seats and five candidates who want to be mayor. Each of the three incumbents--Mayor Larry Bagley and councilmen Walter Gilbert and Sam Williamson--is seeking reelection.

A theme that weaves through the Oceanside campaigns is how well the City Council has implemented Proposition A, approved last year by a citywide vote and which restricts residential construction to 1,000 units in 1987 and 900 units each subsequent year until the end of the century. Critics say the City Council in Oceanside has allowed too many exemptions to the policy.

“I believe Prop. A has been defined and we’re administering it through the advice of our attorneys,” said Jim Turner, Oceanside’s deputy city manager. “But if some of the challengers are successful, I’m sure they’ll ask to review our interpretation (of the initiative). How the initiative is to be implemented will be a continual discussion.”

Exemptions Assailed

A similar argument is being heard in Vista, where Mayor Gloria McClellan faces a sole opponent in her reelection bid and two other candidates face two incumbents--Nancy Wade and Bernard Rappaport--who want to retain their seats.

Challengers there are saying a 500-home-a-year building cap ordered by the City Council two years ago has been gutted by too many exemptions and is virtually ineffective in slowing growth in Vista.

In neighboring San Marcos, incumbent Mayor Lee Thibadeau faces two opponents in trying to retain his seat for a second two-year term, while council members Mike Preston and F.H. (Corky) Smith together face only two challengers. As in Vista, the candidates in San Marcos say they want to better establish and direct a growth management ordinance the voters in the city approved overwhelmingly in June.

The growth issues are somewhat less prevalent, but have still surfaced, in city council elections in Carlsbad and Solana Beach.

Carlsbad voters approved their city’s residential building cap two years ago, but campaign talk still lingers over other symptoms of growth in the coastal city. Incumbent council members Ann Kulchin and Eric Larson are up for reelection, and face just two challengers.

The same 1-to-1 ratio of incumbents to challengers that exists in Vista and Carlsbad exists in Solana Beach where there are no propositions and three incumbent council members--Celine Olson, Marion Dodson and Richard Hendlin--face three opponents. Campaign messages have centered on the incumbents’ success or failure in tackling local land use and growth management issues.

Aside from Poway’s and Encinitas’ growth control measures, perhaps the most obvious other symptom of growth being addressed in North County on Nov. 8 is school overcrowding and a request by the Vista Unified School District for passage of a $63 million bond issue.

Need Not Questioned

The money is desperately needed, officials say, to renovate aging schools and build new ones that are needed immediately and to see the district into the next century as growth continues.

Opponents to the Vista schools measure don’t argue the need for the funds but question the equity in a property tax increase to finance it, rather than assigning some of the financial burden to future residents through taxes on parcels that are not yet developed.

Growth aside, a number of other propositions will face North County voters in five communities.

Del Mar voters have Proposition Z, to allow the city to receive retail sales, property and hotel-motel taxes generated by two major commercial developments previously approved by voters. Without passage of Proposition Z, Del Mar will be required, because of the 1979 Gann limitation of tax revenues to cities, to return some of the revenue to the development paying it.

Carlsbad offers Proposition M, a council-backed ballot initiative that would increase the city’s hotel room tax by 2% in order to finance a golf course and tennis complex.

Vista voters are being asked, in Proposition KK, to increase the length of the mayor’s term from two years to four.

San Marcos voters will face Proposition HH, which would prohibit the City Council from repealing the city’s commission on mobile home rent review without a citywide vote, and Proposition JJ, to raise the council members’ salaries from $300 a month to $600 a month.

And in the unincorporated community of Ramona, Proposition NN would require the Ramona Municipal Water District to submit for voter approval all new projects costing more than $1 million. The measure is similar to one approved in Valley Center last June.

Times staff writers Nancy Ray and Gene Yasuda contributed to this story.