Newly-appointed Encinitas City Council member Joe Mosca wants to preserve and acquire open space, pay careful attention to the budget and promote environmental sustainability, he said in a recent interview.
Mosca was appointed at the Jan. 11 council meeting to a seat that became vacant in December when Catherine Blakespear was sworn in as mayor. Twelve people interviewed for the position at the meeting, with Mosca ultimately named for the position after a 3-1 council vote.
Mosca, who has been serving on the Encinitas Parks & Recreation Commission, said preserving the city’s small-town, beach community vibe is important to him.
“Parks & Rec is really the reason why my husband and I chose this community,” said Mosca, 44, who works as a manager at San Diego Gas & Electric and also practiced law. “It’s really about the feel of the community, the parks, the beaches, the programs... Those are the things that make you feel like this is a really nice community that I want to raise my kids in.”
Mosca, his husband and their two sons moved to Olivenhain about two-and-a-half years ago after Mosca’s husband, who is an HIV and AIDS researcher for Gilead Sciences, Inc., relocated to San Diego for his position.
The Rhode Island native — who lived in Mission Hills while studying for the California Bar exam about two decades ago — previously served four years on the Sierra Madre City Council from 2006 to 2011, including one year as mayor.
He made the “difficult decision to” step down from the dais in 2011 when his husband was offered a “once-in-a-lifetime” job offer in London and he didn’t want the family to be split up.
He said some of his favorite accomplishments while serving on the Sierra Madre City Council were helping to approve water system upgrades and playing a role in developing the first park in decades, as well as promoting emergency services.
But some of his votes regarding development also caused tension among residents and a recall attempt.
Mosca drew negative attention from a local blog — the Sierra Madre Tattler, ran by John Crawford, who unsuccessfully ran against Mosca in the 2010 election — regarding Mosca’s viewpoints on development.
Mosca said many people were “under the impression that [he] was anti-growth,” but he did not label himself with a stance.
“To say you’re pro-development or anti-development really pigeon-holes you on the city council when you have responsibilities such as the [state-mandated] housing element and accommodating Regional Housing Need Allocation numbers and balancing that with property owners’ rights,” he said.
The topic came up when Mosca voted against Measure V, which ultimately passed and allows Sierra Madre residents to vote on the city’s downtown specific plan.
Mosca said he voted against it because the plan “said what the city didn’t want but not what the city did want.”
A recall effort in 2007 was placed against Mosca, with a petition earning 1,600 signatures and about 150 signatures shy of going to a vote. Residents also spoke against Mosca during public comments at council meetings, often going over the three-minute time limit, which the mayor allowed, Mosca claimed.
He was re-elected in the following election, citing support from a majority of the community.
“I think that some folks who saw me as basically anti-growth didn’t want me to engage in any discussion about a downtown specific plan,” Mosca said. “I was always of the mind of certainly planning to preserve the community. How do you preserve your community? Change happens, and how do you actually preserve? You preserve by getting out in front and making sure that your zoning laws have your community vision, and any constraints or rules that you can put in place to encourage that specific vision is a good thing.”
Blakespear has said she believes Mosca’s experience in city government and commissions make him an ideal council member.
Going forward in Encinitas, Mosca said he wants to address the challenges facing the community.
He wants to work with residents to figure out a development plan that will satisfy them as well as state laws after the failure of Measure T in November.
“This is a measure that had a tremendous amount of public input over many years, and while it wasn’t perfect, it allowed us to get in compliance with state housing law and also do away with some lawsuits that were draining precious treasure from our general fund that could be used for other purposes,” he said. “I think that’s an important discussion.”
Mosca, who said he didn’t run in the November election due to timing conflicts, said his goals for the city revolve around open space, quality of life and environmental sustainability.
He said he wants the city to acquire open space and identify parcels that can be preserved and look at connectivity when it comes to trails.
He also wants to pay careful attention to the budget and “make sure we’re ahead of the curve on any of the risks that are coming down the line,” including CalPERS changes.
He is also an advocate for environmental sustainability.
“I’m a big believer that — especially in the next four years — it is our role to really fight the good fight on climate change and make sure we’re reducing and doing as much as possible in terms of energy efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint,” he said.
Mosca said he was “honored” to be chosen for the appointment, which has a term ending in November 2018. He said he plans on running in that election.
“I’m going to work really hard and focus like a laser on some of the challenges that are facing our community,” he said. “I really do feel like politics is about making a difference and that’s what I’m going to be about. I hope I can earn people’s respect and earn their vote in the future. I hope to really impress people.”