Cameron aiming to shake up Encinitas while keeping its spirit
Editor’s note: This is the third in a series profiling all mayoral candidates.
Sheila Cameron served as the mayor of Encinitas 15 years ago. She wants to pick up the gavel again.
A city activist who frequently speaks at council meetings, Cameron turned in her paperwork for the mayoral race just before the filing period closed Aug. 13. After mulling the run for weeks, she moved forward in the belief that her views represent a strong alternative from the other candidates.
“I had friends calling me and telling me they didn’t know who to vote for,” Cameron said.
She vocally supported Proposition A, the growth-control initiative that won voter approval last summer. Candidates Kristin Gaspar, the mayor, and Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz joined the rest of the council in opposing Prop. A.
Largely because of Prop. A, Cameron no longer aligns herself with Kranz, or council members Lisa Shaffer and Teresa Barth, though she backed their earlier campaigns.
“The council didn’t do its homework on Prop. A,” Cameron said. “They’re not listening to residents.”
Cameron also took issue with the council unanimously approving the controversial Desert Rose development without ordering an environmental impact report. After residents appealed, a judge eventually ruled that further environmental review is in fact required.
Her frustration with city affairs extends to the city manager, city attorney and some other staffers. Cameron believes they side with developers too often.
“We have some very good employees, and I want to keep them, and there are some I don’t think belong here,” she said.
Besides Kranz and Gaspar, Cameron faces longtime engineer Munawer “Mike” Bawany and independent journalist Alex Fidel in the mayoral race.
Cameron was elected to the council in 1996 and named mayor in 1999. However, about a month before her term expired, council members voted 3-2 to strip her of the mayor title. The council majority at that time accused Cameron of going it alone on issues and intimidating employees.
Earlier this week, Cameron dismissed that vote as pure politics. She said a former councilman wanted to be mayor to improve his chances for a state Assembly bid.
“You can listen to any tape of when I was (on) city council and mayor, and you will never find anything negative,” Cameron said. “And as far as the employees go, I had a very good relationship with the employees.”
She added that she worked with others during her term to build support for well-regarded projects like Cottonwood Creek Park.
Encinitas is gearing up for the housing element, an issue Cameron has weighed in on many times at council meetings in recent years.
The housing element, due to appear on the 2016 ballot, looks to add affordable housing stock. The city has proposed gathering community input to identify select sites that could be rezoned for denser developments.
Cameron has opposed rezoning. Instead, for the past few years she has pushed to count existing accessory homes — also called “granny flats” — as affordable units.
City Planning Director Jeff Murphy has said that accessory units alone probably won’t fulfill the housing element. But Cameron believes this approach could significantly reduce or eliminate the city’s housing requirements.
“I believe we have 1,000 units out there waiting,” she said.
In hopes of having to rezone fewer properties, the council recently agreed to send out a mailer promoting its amnesty program for accessory units. The council will also consider easing the rules for the program in the coming months to encourage more granny-flat owners to step into the light.
Cameron said she supported those council moves, adding that she’d do everything possible to promote the program.
Another hot topic is the Leucadia Streetscape, and Cameron has raised concerns about it. The Coast Highway 101 plan would add six roundabouts and more landscaping, and would eliminate a northbound lane. A year ago, the council approved funding for streetscape engineering work.
She favors retooling the streetscape so it wouldn’t remove as many eucalyptus trees. Also, because she believes the roundabouts could cause traffic problems, Cameron advocated for temporary roundabouts to gauge their effectiveness.
“What we need to do is see if this is going to work, because it’s very controversial,” she said.
Also on her radar: The California Coastal Commission voted a month ago to approve a $6.5 billion package of improvements for the Interstate 5 corridor. Although the transportation agencies involved have a tentative green light to proceed with construction, they have stated they’ll review projects over time to see whether they’re still necessary.
If elected mayor, Cameron said that when possible, she’d encourage shifting funds from widening the freeway and toward public transportation and rail improvements.
On a related note, with more train trips projected in the rail corridor over the coming decades, Cameron has promoted trenching the tracks to shield residents from noise. She added that she’d pursue federal grants to achieve this end.
Cameron had not raised any money as of June 30, the most recent period for campaign finance disclosures. The next round of disclosures is due Oct. 6.
Former County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price and council candidate Julie Graboi have endorsed Cameron. In turn, Cameron is endorsing Graboi.
“I agree with Julie on a lot of things,” Cameron said.
Cameron said that preserving Indian Head Canyon Trail was among the early causes that sparked her interest in city happenings. Since then, she said she has felt an obligation to protect the city, whether as a resident or on the dais.
“I’m passionate about keeping the soul of Encinitas,” Cameron said.