Opinion/Letters to the Editor: June, July, August, September 2020
June 5 issue:
The new Cardiff Way
The Cardiff Way counsels students: “Be Honest.” Cardiff School District’s press release published in this paper on May 22, 2020 about a loan obtained for construction at Cardiff School makes clear they don’t practice what they preach.
The district’s statement claims that OGALS, the state agency overseeing the park conversion, “assured the District that no redesign was necessary … and that only the interference of these neighbors … caused a delay in the approval process.”
The district learned about the federal protection of Berkich Park in February 2018. The district initiated discussions with OGALS in March 2018 while forging ahead with plans it had already finalized to expand into the park. OGALS advised the district of the requirements for boundary adjustment, however, no application was submitted until February 2019. A month later, after OGALS forwarded the application to the National Park Service, the only agency authorized to approve a conversion, OGALS notified the district that their application was unlikely to be approved.
Junk e-mail folders are often filled with congratulations for winning millions in some sweepstakes. Some people are fooled, but wiser minds think, “wait – I didn’t enter any sweepstakes – how could I win?” With these claimed “assurances,” how is it possible for OGALS to assure approval if the district hadn’t even submitted the required application for review? Is it reasonable to believe a state agency with no approval authority for a federal program could assure approval?
In sworn deposition testimony, the district’s bond manager could not identify any documents, or even a single person, to corroborate these “assurances.” He also testified that the district never considered alternative plans to avoid building in the park – a prerequisite to submitting a conversion application. This testimony was confirmed by the project architect.
One might ask how the district finally gained approval from the NPS, more than two years after being asked to not expand into the park. The answer is that the district threatened to sue OGALS, giving them until close of business November 25, 2019 to approve the conversion. Not coincidentally, the approval signed by the district and OGALS on that very day includes the district’s promise not to sue OGALS or NPS.
“Be Honest” is not a policy practiced by the district. Topping it off with bullying, one hopes the children they are charged with educating know to do as they say and not as they do.
June 19 issue:
Safe gun storage essential
With the closure of schools throughout San Diego, parents not only have the responsibility of keeping children safe from the spread of COVID-19, but also the dangers of unsecured firearms in the house.
Nearly 4.6 million children in the U.S. live in a household with at least one gun that is stored loaded and unlocked. Deadly unintentional shootings by children increased 43% in March and April compared to average gun deaths during the same two months over the last three years (Everytown For Gun Safety).
We need to be aware that children and teens with time on their hands are in danger of finding these weapons and causing another preventable, unintentional shooting.
Safe gun storage, including storing guns locked, unloaded or separate from ammunition, reduces rates of accidents or child firearm suicide.
We’re asking our neighbors to take extra precautions during this pandemic and to store their firearms safely.
Concerns about SDUHSD fall reopening options/lack of mask requirement
The letter below was sent to the San Dieguito Union High School District board, superintendent and San Dieguito Academy principal. It was also submitted to this newspaper for publication. The letter was submitted Saturday, June 13 so timing references in the letter are referenced as of that date.
I received the survey with the options for the fall. I am very concerned by a couple of points noted for these options:
I am troubled that students will not be required to wear masks. (Followup from this letter’s author: The superintendent sent a lengthy reply to me, noting that “no final decisions have been made.”) Allowing students to forego face coverings is a significant and unnecessary risk to the teachers, students, and their families’ health. Numerous scientific studies support wearing masks as an effective way to reduce the risk of transmission, and the county health department has ordered that “All persons… shall wear [a] face covering whenever… within six feet of another person who is not a member of their family or household.”
Also, I noticed in the new survey sent this week that it says that if you pick the remote/hybrid option, not all classes may be available. Could you offer the opportunity to be remote when possible, but come to campus just for the courses that require it (with masks)? We are concerned that if we select this option out of concern for the safety of our family, that you will prevent our son from taking some classes that he may want or need. It is frustrating to have to choose between our family’s safety and access to courses that may be important to his education.
I would also request that you provide a more visible outlet for parents to give feedback. I only learned of ThoughtExchange from the the Solana Beach Sun article this week. When I read the article, I searched for and found the link at the bottom of an email titled “Superintendent’s Update”; the nonobvious placement of the ThoughtExchange link in the email and the lack of mention of a request for input in the email subject line made this opportunity very easy to miss. And this ThoughtExchange link now says, “This exchange is now complete” and won’t allow further input even though you sent the email only three weeks ago. I also find it frustrating and odd that the new, much more visible survey (linked in bold text as “Survey Link”) sent to parents this week has no place for any feedback or comments. Given that you only received 3,700 “thoughts” (as noted in the Solana Beach Sun article) from a district the size of SDUHSD, I would strongly recommend and ask that you give parents a more visible avenue for input and feedback on these newly published options.
A concerned parent of an SDA sophomore
Partial obstruction of views more likely reason for objection to school expansion
Eleanor Musick’s letter of June 5 suggests that the Cardiff School District was not honest. Consider the fact that the opposition against the district was initiated by a small group, led by Musick. Five of six individuals in the group live across the street from the school. This group maintains that their objection to the school expansion was for reasons having to do with an incursion into the district’s owned land onto George Berkich Park. It is really more likely their honest objection had to do with the probability that their views would be partially obstructed. That’s the truth. You can review the public meeting records and see that the OGALS and NPS boundary adjustment was brought up as an issue long after the initial district community meetings were conducted. This group discovered that the district was thought to be violating the use agreement between the city and the district. They then transitioned to a position of opposition based mostly on their interpretation that the expansion could not take over space that was defined in the boundaries for the Land and Water Conservation Fund Project Agreement executed by the city and the school district.
It is true that the district was not cognizant of particulars as the agreement was signed into existence in 1993. Institutional knowledge and historical memory unfortunately wasn’t engaged. However, it is also important to point out the city itself did not recall the agreement as they had approved construction for a prior bond issue into the disputed land area.
What is also true is that Musick’s group sued the school district and garnered a settlement to the tune of $500,000. Legal extortion. The school district was forced to make a business decision about expending substantial further funds in defending Musick’s lawsuit. Most likely the school district would have prevailed, but it would have spent several million dollars going forward and, in the meantime, the current construction was suspended with significant delay costs being owed to the general contractor for having to stop their work on the project.
As it is, Musick’s group has thus far cost the school district in excess of $4 million comprised of legal costs, project impact changes and other fees! I am also of the opinion that all of this could have been avoided had the city mayor and city council facilitated the boundary adjustment. The city was uncooperative and seemingly opposed to helping the school district and that is another story in itself that will ultimately be revealed.
M. Boone Hellmann
Cardiff by the Sea
July 3 issue:
Marijuana ballot initiative an effort to override local control
I would like to thank Encinitas City Council members Tony Kranz and Kellie Shay Hinze for recognizing the marijuana ballot initiative is nothing but an effort by the pot industry to override local control and remove the council’s ability to make land-use decisions with regard to pot businesses.
The industry deployed paid signature-gatherers, who often used misinformation in convincing people to sign the petition getting the measure on the ballot. It would allow at least four marijuana retail outlets, cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution centers in this small beach community, which voted down a 2014 ballot initiative.
In other cities, the industry poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into advertising campaigns, making it a very one-sided effort, disguised as choice. In reality, the ballot measure takes away all local control.
Council in unique position to educate citizens
As someone who works with young people, I’m very grateful for Encinitas City Council member Tony Kranz’s voice in opposition to the marijuana ballot initiative. I hope council member Kellie Shay Hinze will consider signing the ballot argument as well. The Encinitas City Council is in a unique position to educate the citizens of Encinitas regarding negative consequences with this ballot initiative. It’s too bad Mayor Catherine Blakespear and council member Joe Mosca won’t step up even though they have publicly stated they aren’t in favor of dispensaries in Encinitas.
The citizens of Encinitas elected the City Council to have the best interest of all residents, not just the marijuana industry. The public listens and respects the council’s opinion. Their leadership is paramount. Also, by defeating the initiative the city will keep local control of their land use which is critical for a city.
Public Health Educator
Response to Cardiff School supporter letter
The letter by M. Boone Hellmann published in the June 19, 2020 Encinitas Advocate raises issues.
His first claim, that the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was raised long after the community meetings, is false. The LWCF restrictions, discovered in a search of City records, were disclosed to the district on February 6, 2018, five days after the fourth Community Workshop on the school design. At this point, the district had incurred all of $40,000 on concept design fees -- hardly a point of no return in a design process that since then has cost over $1.5 million.
Hellmann’s claim of no institutional knowledge of the agreement is feeble given that the express terms of the agreement required retention of the agreement on site, and that a current school board member had been on the board when it unanimously approved the LWCF agreement. Beyond that, “I forgot” is no excuse for ignoring a legal obligation.
Hellmann opines that “most likely the school district would have prevailed.” Was he unaware that a Superior Court judge decided against the district five out of five times, including a final ruling that the district was in violation of CEQA? Hellmann is also unaware that, by law, a winning party is entitled to recover legal fees incurred in bringing actions for CEQA violations. He was apparently ignorant that the 4th District Court of Appeals had reviewed the facts and denied the district’s request to lift the stay ordered by the judge. It is delusional to think that the district could have prevailed under any circumstance.
Hellmann levels unfounded accusations of non-cooperation by the City, which insisted only that the district observe LWCF rules. The City even established an ad hoc committee to address the LWCF violations, but the district was less than cooperative, even failing to give the City advance notice in June 2019 that it was completely closing the park for two years -- a violation of the LWCF. Instead, the district excluded the City from discussions with the parks department, forcing the City to separately ask the parks department to keep them informed. The district convinced the parks department to cut the City out of the agreement entirely, violating fundamental tenets of contract law, denying the City input on the future of a park in which it had invested nearly a half million in Encinitas taxpayer funds.
Finally, as to the issue of views, my now panoramic ocean view after the district felled 40 mature trees for the project has never been better. I, and my neighbors, preferred the trees.
Progressivism and social justice
The foundation of progressivism is about progress in social reform based on the idea that advancement in science and technology, economic development and social organization are vital to the human condition.
The core of being progressive is an environmental commitment. As Encinitas is a coastal community, most people are concerned about the environment, no matter what politics they identify with at the national level. In 2018, Encinitas’ Climate Action Plan set seven strategies to curb greenhouse gas production. In 2019, the entire city council voted to establish a Community Choice Energy program; Encinitas also joined San Diego Community Power. Improving the environment is still the focus, however, the financial uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus may affect when improvement projects will be done; however, our belief is that the city will not let these obstacles prevent progress.
The Encinitas City Council is working fervently to solve the growing issues surrounding local homelessness and affordable housing within the community without bankrupting the city. The necessity to find a balance between fiscal responsibility and social justice to help members of the Encinitas community in need is important to the city.
Since instating a safe parking lot in the area, numerous homeless individuals have found use for the structure. These parking lots help prevent those on the verge of homelessness from residing on the streets. Much to the chagrin of naysayers, who believe giving the homeless a place to find shelter will create a “welcome mat” for homelessness and add to the existing problem. In fact, it would be unusual for people to make a choice to be homeless when they have other options.
Ultimately, progressivism is about addressing the problems that face us head on and actively thinking of efficient ways to confront those challenges. We should give the homelessness crisis a voice and accept that it is a problem, and we need to work on it, instead of pretending it’s not there.
“The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty!” — Pope Francis
Narima Lopes and Cori Wilbur
Youth health and safety should be a priority
As stated in a recent Union-Tribune article the city of Encinitas unfortunately declined the opportunity to take the opposing position on a citizens’ initiative on the November ballot that would allow cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and up to four retail dispensaries.
As a parent of teens and youth mentor I find it disheartening that the city council wouldn’t recognize their responsibility to the citizens of Encinitas. This initiative is only on the ballot because of out-of-town paid signature gatherers’ going out in force, often using misinformation to convince people to sign. This is not what the majority of Encinitas families and youth groups want. During these unprecedented times it is extremely important that children and teens know that Encinitas has their health and safety as their upmost concern.
Critical thinking skills needed this November
Encinitas voters may be quite intelligent, and they’ll need their critical thinking skills this November when voting on the “Cannabis Activity Zoning Ordinance” – an initiative to allow various marijuana businesses.
Throughout election season, voters will likely be inundated with glossy mailers appealing to their demographic, whatever that may be. For Vista’s Measure Z in 2018, the industry spent $575,000 on a campaign appealing to seniors, conservatives, and young families convincing them that medical marijuana shops would create a safer community.
The marijuana industry has lots of money; community prevention does not. Voters will not get mailers informing them that the initiative puts barriers on the city to impose additional regulations, that the industry makes most of their money on highly potent smoking and vaping products, and that young adults 18-25 are the primary consumers of marijuana.
Will Encinitas voters support the commercialization of another addictive industry? It will be up to them to decide.
Erica Leary, MPH
Program Manager, North Coastal Prevention Coalition
Ballot measure will not benefit community
People usually run for local office because of a deep commitment to a town and to influence the community’s direction. It is a service to the public. It is a challenge to rise above the fray and to work with others to enrich the community.
With this in mind, it was highly disappointing for the mayor to remain hands off and not encourage the council to author an argument against the upcoming ballot measure regarding marijuana business in Encinitas. Furthermore, the considered opinions of previous public servants, mayors, elected officials and others generated little interest and discussion.
This ballot measure will allow up to four marijuana retail storefronts, marijuana greenhouse grows and marijuana products to be manufactured and distributed in our town. I fail to see how this will enrich our community.
Nancy Perry-Sheridan MSW
31 - year Cardiff resident
San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth
July 17 issue:
Global effort needed to create policies to save lives
Where does climate change fit during a pandemic, economic collapse and the Black Lives Matter movement? Lack of action on climate change will have significant adverse effect on all economies. Climate change impacts people of color and those living in poverty disproportionately, so it is a social justice issue. The pandemic is teaching us lessons on how a global effort is needed to create policies to save lives. It is a wake-up call for action on climate change.
It is all connected.
Recently, the bi-partisan House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, unveiled a comprehensive plan “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.” It details ambitious and actionable climate solutions that Congress should enact.
We thank Congressman Mike Levin as a member of the committee and author of the report.
We must act now.
La Costa 48 developer misleads Coastal Commission
At last week’s Coastal Commission hearing, the La Costa 48 project developer piled unfunded liabilities on the city, hinted again at the mayor’s endorsement, and insulted the widely respected Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation.
Opponents pointed out that committee staff and the developer together planned to use nothing more than some paint to “create” a required traffic lane where there is none, on a road where there are no shoulders and minimum easements. The developer also said city staff had unreported but planned traffic improvements on its own.
The city’s added liability for safe public vehicle or pedestrian access to site trails has been ignored – especially for a stretch of road that has no sidewalks and missing bike lanes. Personal injury lawyers will have a field day when the inevitable traffic or pedestrian accidents occur. Be assured the developer will be added when they name defendants in pursuit of six and seven figure settlements.
The committee reported an ex parte meeting with Mayor Blakespear, presumably to discuss the city’s approval despite the committee’s newest concern about waste and toxins (including DDT) that will remain, to be stored under the low income portion of the project.
The developer then boasted that he outclassed the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation, characterizing the foundation as unsophisticated and lacking expertise with the hazards the project poses. For decades the non-profit has managed the Batiquitos Lagoon with quiet diligence, directing tens of millions of dollars in improvements to restore the lagoon from a wasteland dotted by shopping carts to the healthy tidal lagoon it is today. Committee members did not allow foundation representatives to rebut the developer’s statements.
The Sierra Club of San Diego delivered a stern warning about the importance of protecting the lagoon, but technical issues prevented it from being read.
July 31 issue:
I am sickened to read the majority view against a homeless housing project at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Do people hear what they are saying? That they oppose sheltering other human beings who have nowhere to live because it might lower their property values? We have found ourselves living in the most beautiful place on earth, and yet we are so stingy. North County NIMBYism has reached a new low.
Aug. 14 issue:
Encinitas Boulevard Apartments developer silences public input
I write to address inaccuracies in your July 31 article titled “Encinitas Boulevard Apartments developer collects public input.”
This title was misleading. The zoom meeting hosted July 23 by developer Randy Goodson was intended to qualify for the required Citizen Participation Plan meant to give residents the opportunity to understand the project and raise concerns about impacts on Encinitas. The CPP should facilitate open dialogue so the developer can work with residents to mitigate concerns. The 270 residents attending were never allowed a voice in the meeting.
A disturbing outcome of silencing participants was that Mr. Goodson was able to avoid difficult questions and handpick those that suited him. The residents’ urgent concern about wildfire evacuation was paraphrased as: “We have some questions about emergency evacuations.” Mr. Goodson answered, “We have no involvement in that. The Encinitas Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department will handle that. They do a great job.” This project will cause a bottleneck at one of two evacuation exits for Olivenhain. To ignore the potential life-threatening problem that he will create is unconscionable.
Your article quoted many of Mr. Goodson’s statements which could not be contested since no questions were allowed. Some of his assertions include:
• “The project will provide for a much broader range of housing for the city.” This should be put in context: 42 units for families making $80,000/year will do little to help those most in need in our community.
• Mr. Goodson said the project is between 3 and 4 stories. This complex is one 7-story building.
• “This project does not make the traffic on Rancho Santa Fe Road worse.” How can adding 1700+ daily auto trips to a congested 2-lane road not make traffic worse?
• “This is the perfect location for an apartment complex and affordable housing” because of its proximity to retail, restaurants, and public transit. The only nearby grocery stores and restaurants are far from affordable. The NCTD 304 bus with only 2-3 stops per day, weekdays only, is inadequate for transportation to jobs.
• Mr. Goodson said, “We believe this is adequately parked.” His expectation of less than one car per bedroom is unrealistic. Tenant’s rights, which cannot be discriminated against, allow 3 people per 1 bedroom apartment and 5 people per 2 bedroom apartment. With minimal street parking nearby, all those additional occupants with vehicles will be forced to search for parking in neighborhoods up to 1/2 mile away.
This particular development has many negative impacts for which Mr. Goodson claims he has no responsibility. It will set precedents for future projects across Encinitas. Many residents feel that city officials are listening to developers over citizens while ignoring safety and community character.
Amy McCord for Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development
There should be two options in every school
I am appalled by San Dieguito Union High School District’s decision to follow the lead of other districts in the state in not opposing Governor Newsom’s school closure order and starting the school year in a full distance learning mode. This is a decision based on politics and fear-mongering. There should be two options in every school — full distance and full in-person. If families do not want to send their children to school, then they can choose full distance. They should not, however, be allowed to dictate what all families do. Additionally, many of the families in support of distance learning are also hiring teachers and tutors to teach small groups of children. How is this right if it is so dangerous for children to be together?
I am disappointed that affluent families will be widening the achievement gap because they can afford to create micro-schools for their children. As long as families who are willing and able to pay for private tutoring can mitigate the damage that distance learning does, there will be little reason for politicians to push for schools to reopen.
Warning: Snake in the grass
Early in the morning on Monday, Aug. 1, someone stole two yard signs from my front yard. One was a sign supporting Catherine Blakespear for mayor and the other, a sign that said, “Support Black Communities.” I awoke in the morning and wondered why the perpetrator of this crime believes that their right to “free speech“ superseded mine? I call this petty theft and trespassing! Since when does someone have the right to do that?
Ironically they left my “End White Silence: Black Lives Matter” sign but turned it around. Now the folks driving the other way can see where I stand.
Childcare organizations are fighting to stay afloat
By Marineke Vandervort
CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito
Childcare has become one of the next great needs in this pandemic. As Supervisor Nathan Fletcher noted, more than 600 childcare providers in our community have had to close their doors. We now have a critical childcare shortage. Our success as a community in supporting this industry will influence our economic recovery, as well as our youth’s ability to bounce back from these events, as many children rely on afterschool programs to supplement their education, and many working families have structured their lives around affordable care.
Decisions are being made about what our classrooms will look like in the fall. Virtual, live, or some combination of the two, and all subject to the course of this pandemic and state mandates. Educational systems are tasked with incredibly difficult decisions and planning challenges, as are families, who will likely need to fill longer gaps in their children’s supervision. Organizations such as ours, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito, are among those who will make up the difference in this new environment, so that parents are not faced with near-impossible decisions. Childcare organizations are positioned to help with this next stage in our public response because they are inherently linked to the structure of the school day, and they have built-in flexibility for this purpose. They are built for the job; what they need now is support in order to fulfill their role.
Childcare organizations across the nation are facing new financial realities that are bringing their budgets to their limits. It has become more expensive to care for fewer children due to the direct and indirect costs of this pandemic. Before COVID-19, a group of children could all use the same box of colored pencils, but now in order to avoid cross-contamination, children have to be provided with their own individual materials at expense to the organization. There are also new costs associated with safety precautions, such as protective gear, and sanitizing products. By one estimate, it will cost providers three times as much to care for one-third of the number of children. As the CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito I can attest to how childcare organizations such as ours that cover costs of attendance for those youth who need it, operate on a small margin to begin with. The new cost of COVID-related safety measures has already created an uncertain future for many of us in this industry. Childcare facilities that have chosen to reopen their doors to the community under high financial penalty to themselves are struggling, and will have to stretch even further to meet the challenges of the coming school year.
In this pandemic, vulnerability and hardship for one group or industry has had a ripple effect, which has impacted society’s capacity to care for everyone. Recent events have been harshest on those who were at a disadvantage to begin with. We know that children are experiencing learning loss from school closures, and the degree to which this is occurring is largely a function of household income. Certain processes have been set in motion that experts predict will affect graduation rates, and other aspects of our children’s futures. We are about to lose ground on important steps we have taken to support a more equitable future for our youth. Afterschool programs have always played a role in changing outcomes, and nonprofit afterschool programs are part of a support network that create a buffer for underserved youth. We work with school districts to support individual students, serving as an added component of our youth’s education. We provide tutoring, as well as technology to help our youth complete their homework, and during the last few months of this school year we offered virtual tutoring. In addition to bolstering graduation rates, we believe that childcare makes our youth more resilient. Childcare organizations ensure that our youth remain counted in many different ways.
Affordable childcare can help sustain and rebuild our community. It can support reopening in whatever shape that takes. Our organization impacts over 16,000 in the community, so just as our losses are losses for the community, our gains benefit the broader community that we serve. Childcare organizations are part of an industry that supports many others, and now is the time to show support for them.
Sept. 11 issue:
Carbon pricing bill
People can walk and chew gum at the same time! At least that’s what a new survey shows. Great news. Because if we only focus on the current pandemic, we’ll be behind on all the other crises brewing in our midst. I was heartened to hear that climate change, not just the pandemic, is a high priority for voters and that 25% of the population feel this issue is extremely important to them personally. Now we just have to solve the dang thing. That’s why I support the legislation that is foundational to all climate legislation and supported overwhelmingly by economists: a price on carbon. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act has 82 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. This carbon pricing bill is market based (good for conservatives) and revenue neutral (appealing to progressives). So let’s get walking. . . and chewing also!
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