Encinitas mayoral candidates discuss housing, homelessness in candidate forum

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(Karen Billing)

Two outsider candidates for Encinitas mayor described during an Oct. 6 candidate forum how they would deviate from the city’s current approach on issues such as homelessness and housing policy. Another candidate, City Councilmember Tony Kranz, said he wants to build on his 10-year record on the council.

A fourth candidate, Jeff Morris, did not participate in the forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters North County chapter. The event was moderated by Roni Seay, who asked questions that had been submitted by the community.

The winner of the race for mayor will replace Catherine Blakespear, who is completing her third two-year term as she runs for state Senate.

“I want to get the community involved,” said Michael Blobe, who has worked in management in the retail and hospitality industries. “I don’t want to ignore them anymore.”

Cindy Cremona, owner of an executive recruiting firm since 1993, said her philosophy as mayor would be “local control, not Sacramento.”

Many residents in Encinitas, as well as neighboring coastal cities, have expressed their opposition to state housing laws that in some cases place strict limits on local policymaking.

“Cities need to gather together to push back against the state,” Cremona said.

Kranz said there’s nothing the city can do to defy Sacramento without provoking legal action against the city, but would look for opportunities to work with state lawmakers to support local control.

“For now, the state has been year after year adopting more land use regulation,” he said.

Blobe said residents need to make their voices heard in the state Legislature.

“Our hands are tied until you make that change with your voice,” he added.

The city also has to address rising homelessness. Steps that council members have taken over the last few years include a “safe parking” program run by Jewish Family Service, which was controversial among residents.

Encinitas, and the broader North County area that includes Del Mar and Solana Beach, experienced a 74% increase in its homeless population, based on the results of the most recent homeless count.

“It is one of those vexing issues that is very difficult to address,” said Kranz, who said he would focus on implementing the Homeless Action Plan that the council adopted in February 2021.

Kranz said it’s a “myth” that law enforcement of the city’s homeless population has been lacking, but Blobe said he would want to “clamp down on enforcement.” Cremona also said she would want to “go a lot further” in code enforcement as a way of addressing homelessness.

Blobe and Cremona said they would also want to make a stronger push for affordable housing requirements in new development.

In addition to the four candidates vying for mayor, there are two City Council seats that will be decided after the November election. Two candidates are running to represent District 3, which covers the southern portion of the city along the coast, and four candidates are running in District 4, which includes Olivenhain and most of the eastern part of the city.

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, the League of Women Voters will moderate Zoom-format debates for the two City Council races. The two candidates for the District 3 spot will go first from 6-7 p.m. The four candidates for the District 4 spot will be immediately afterward from 7:15-8:15 p.m. For directions on submitting questions and/or joining the meeting, visit the league’s website at:
— The paragraph directly above is a from a report by Barbara Henry, freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune