Encinitas council candidates put forward contrasting views
Three Encinitas City Council candidates offered varying views on a number of issues at an Oct. 9 forum at the Encinitas Library.
The forum, hosted by the Leucadia-Encinitas Town Council and moderated by the League of Women Voters, drew a crowd of around 90 people.
On the fiscal state of Encinitas, Julie Graboi said city staff members have reported debt obligations are around $50 million. She added groups like the Encinitas Taxpayers Association have stated it’s much higher.
“You also have to take into account the things in the pipeline like pensions,” Graboi said.
Graboi added Encinitas’ fiscal shape is “much more serious than what the city is saying” and that she’d review the city’s books.
Alan Lerchbacker said the council’s decision to buy Pacific View put the city’s budget “off the mark.”
“We’re going to have to juggle things around to make it work,” Lerchbacker said of the purchase.
Catherine Blakespear disagreed. She said the city’s debt-management ratio is 8 percent, meeting the city’s goal of staying below 10 percent, while the state guideline is to come in under 15 percent.
“When we take on the Pacific View property, we’ll still be at 8 percent,” Blakespear said. “So we are in good financial condition. We still can pave our roads; we can pay our water bills; we can fund public safety.”
Bryan Ziegler, the fourth candidate in the race, was not in attendance because he was recovering from a medical procedure, his wife announced at the beginning of the forum. She relayed that her husband was against the Pacific View purchase and supported Proposition A, an initiative that requires a public vote for density increases and projects over 30 feet.
Graboi, another vocal supporter of Prop A, was asked why she continues to bring up the initiative even though it already passed last year.
She said Prop A is in jeopardy right now, stating select landowners next to greenhouses recently received a mailer gauging whether they’d be interested in “up-zoning” their properties to accommodate more density.
“This is a very underhanded way to work around Prop A,” Graboi said.
Blakespear called Graboi’s answer “fear-mongering,” adding it’s unlikely open space will be converted into high-density housing.
“The reality is any zoning changes have to go to a vote of the people — that is Prop A,” Blakespear said. She added: “We need to move on from debating Prop A and recognize that it’s the law and talk about what we’re going to do under the law.”
Lerchbacker also stated that Prop A is the law and that he’d abide by it.
The candidates were asked whether they’d support stadium lights — even if below 30 feet — at the soon-to-debut Encinitas Community Park.
Blakespear, who’s against the lights, said there’s enough time during daylight hours for all to enjoy the park.
Likewise, Graboi said there had been talk of 90-foot lights at the park, and she argued this would negatively impact surrounding residents and migratory bird patterns.
Conversely, Lerchbacker said he lives next to the park, so “if anybody is going to be affected by the lights, it’s my wife and I.”
He added that under Prop A, lights over 30 feet would have to go to a public vote.
“If you vote for that and you make it happen, then I am all for it,” Lerchbacker said. “I understand the technology, and I understand that if you blind the technology, you can block those lights so it just shines on the field. I am for having our children be able to play until 9 o’clock at night as long as they’re supervised by their parents.”
While the candidates offered varying perspectives, all noted they oppose Measure F, which proposes to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. And they agreed the city should do everything in its power to fight density-bonus housing, a state law that allows developers to build more homes on parcels than otherwise permitted under city rules.
When it comes to late-night issues in downtown Encinitas, Graboi said she’s in favor of a “deemed-approved” ordinance that would impose tougher regulations on bars.
“A deemed-approved ordinance is not a punishment for those who follow the rules,” Graboi said. “It will address the bad players.”
Blakespear said the ordinance seems like a good idea, but she’d prefer to hear a report, due Oct. 15, on whether the downtown situation improved over the summer. She added that she’s hopeful that a new city code enforcement officer assigned to the area on weekends has made a difference.
Lerchbacker said the city should enforce the laws on the books and crack down on violators, as opposed to passing a new set of rules for bars.
The candidates all said their professional backgrounds would serve the council well.
Lerchbacker touted his 26-year career in the U.S Navy, and he highlighted that he served as the CEO of a shipbuilding company.
“The residents are the shareholders,” Lerchbacker said.
A community college instructor, Graboi said that experience would translate to council.
“My students are actually the experts, and the connection here is that I consider our residents the experts,” Graboi said. “I would carry out the will of the people.”
Blakespear, a former journalist and currently a lawyer, said the council could use someone with a legal background.
“The reality is there are a lot of decisions that are driven by the fear of litigation,” Blakespear said, adding, “The background and training of law could only be helpful in making those decisions.”