Encinitas Mayoral candidates talk issues at forum
Five candidates running for mayor weighed in on a variety of topics, including sea level rise, low-income housing and the Pacific View debate, during a candidate forum Sept. 25 at the Encinitas Library on Cornish Drive.
To address sea level rise and coastal erosion, Sheila Cameron said the city and region should focus on public transportation, rather than widening Interstate 5. She noted automobiles are the largest source of greenhouse gases, fueling sea level rise.
Tony Kranz, the city’s deputy mayor, said the city needs to implement its climate action plan. The document, adopted in 2011, outlines steps for cutting down on greenhouse gases.
“It’s critical that we not just create reports, but we follow reports,” Kranz said.
Also, he said the city’s long-term sand replenishment project would slow down coastal erosion. Kranz added he’s pleased the city is working to make the nourishment project less impactful on marine life.
Later in the forum, Kranz tangled with Kristin Gaspar, the current mayor, over the $10 million Pacific View purchase.
Kranz said he demonstrated leadership by “working very hard” last spring to help secure the historic property.
“That acquisition of that property was one of the most important things that I will do in service to the community,” Kranz said.
Kranz said he was disappointed that Gaspar had a “low threshold” for walking away from the purchase.
In response, Gaspar said: “The price was just too high.”
Because of the acquisition, Gaspar added, the city had to sacrifice infrastructure investments to balance the budget.
Gaspar also said that contrary to a resident’s question, she doesn’t support police militarization. She went on to say it’s not a problem in Encinitas.
“The community-centric approach they take to policing is really important to consider,” Gaspar said of the Encinitas Sheriff’s Department.
When asked how the city could create more affordable housing, Gaspar encouraged the audience to participate in the upcoming housing element update, a blueprint for growth.
To approve a housing element, the city could have to plan for as many as 1,000 state-mandated units.
Gaspar said the housing element will be challenging, but it could result in diverse housing.
“It’s up to each individual community to see where the best place is for these types of developments,” Gaspar said.
Munawer “Mike” Bawany said the city should plan for affordable units on its own accord, not because of a state mandate.
“The government is dictating how we run our lives, and that’s something we have to fight back against,” Bawany said. “I don’t know how we could do that, but we have to fight back.”
Like Gaspar, Bawany opposed the city buying Pacific View for fiscal reasons.
“The city is biting off more than it can chew,” Bawany said.
Alex Fidel said the city should ignore any state or federal housing mandates.
“The problem is really the Federal Reserve’s housing bubble,” Fidel said. “They print money to no end and they cause prices to artificially rise.”
Earlier, Fidel said he refuses to sell his soul to corporations, banks and special interests “that want to take your rights away and tell you how to live via the barrel of a gun.”
All of the candidates said they support an amnesty program for accessory units — referred to as granny flats by some — to provide more affordable housing in the city.
Cameron said she’s promoted the amnesty program over the last two years in lieu of “up-zoning” for the housing element. She added her allegiance to residents over developers distinguishes her from the current council.
One resident stated Cameron, who served as mayor 15 years ago, developed a reputation for going it alone and berating staff. The resident’s question: “What assurances can you give things would be different if you get elected?”
Cameron said that’s a rumor and that she got along great with staff members. She added they praised her for firing a past city manager and assistant city manager.
Cameron also said she worked cooperatively with the council to push several popular projects forward.
One resident asked for the candidates’ positions on cutting down a well-known eucalyptus tree at the corner of Leucadia Boulevard and Coast Highway 101.
Kranz noted the tree is slated to be removed as part of the Leucadia Streetscape, a series of infrastructure projects throughout that corridor.
“While I would rather not take any trees down, it is something that happens now and then,” Kranz said. “If there were a way we could use a roundabout at that intersection instead, we might be able to leave that tree in.”
Cameron said she’s against uprooting the tree for streetscape.
“There are a lot of features in the streetscape that are OK, there are a lot that I’m against, and this is one,” Cameron said.
The League of Women Voters moderated the event. It was sponsored by the Leucadia-Encinitas Town Council.