Candidate Kristin Gaspar emphasizes budget experience


Editor’s note: This is the first in a series profiling all Encinitas mayoral candidates

In a field of five mayoral candidates, current Mayor Kristin Gaspar has stressed her experience managing budgets.

Gaspar noted in an interview last week she’s the chief financial officer of Gaspar Doctors Physical Therapy. Her husband, Paul, started the company 20 years ago.

“Managing our city’s budget is exactly the same as every person does with their own personal budget at home and what you do as a business manager or CFO,” Gaspar said.

On that note, Gaspar has criticized the city’s last budget, both on the dais and at the State of the City address last spring.

Chiefly, Gaspar opposed the council recently buying the Pacific View property from the Encinitas Union School District for $10 million. She argued the purchase came at the expense of infrastructure and safety services.

“The city simply failed in its negotiation on that property and paid way too much,” Gaspar said.

Gaspar noted she supported paying a maximum of $4.3 million for the 2.8-acre property, an amount based on two city-ordered appraisals under the current zoning.

“$4.3 million would have actually allowed us the opportunity to build something on that site, and now it’s up to our community to make that project happen,” Gaspar said.

Some have proposed transforming Pacific View into an arts or community center. Gaspar, though, said the city should have taken a closer look last spring at the Encinitas Ranch Theater Pad, which she called a less expensive alternative.

Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz (who is also running for mayor), Lisa Shaffer and Teresa Barth have disagreed with Gaspar on a number of high-profile issues. Notably, they voted to buy Pacific View days before a planned auction.

The council majority has stated the district potentially had a legal case for rezoning the property for homes. Thus, they argue, the council averted the risk of the property falling into a developer’s hands.

“I just do not feel as though the district made a compelling enough case, where a judge would have said, for certain, that the property should be rezoned,” Gaspar said.

Meanwhile, Gaspar believes streets need more attention.

Four months ago, the council majority voted 3-2 to allocate $2.23 million for road funding, an increase of nearly $1 million from the prior few years.

Gaspar, though, favored another option that would have dedicated $3.26 million toward roads. She noted Encinitas’ overall street quality is due to slip by 2018 if road funding isn’t bumped up, according to a city analysis.

Parks facilities and Fire Station No. 1 are deteriorating and will need additional funding in the coming years, too, Gaspar added.

She said her commitment to public safety led the San Diego Deputy Sheriffs’ Association and the Encinitas Firefighters Association to endorse her.

Gaspar, who was elected to the council in 2010 and became mayor in June, has yet to decide whether she’ll endorse any of the four candidates vying for the one open council seat.

While against Pacific View on fiscal grounds, some critics have noted Gaspar voted in 2012 to approve $19.3 million in funding for the Encinitas Community Park construction.

In response, Gaspar said a past council had already acquired the 44-acre property and a vision was in place for the property. Further, she added the council in 2012 was able to fund both the park and pass a budget with enough money for key city services.

“The timeliness of Pacific View played a great role in things,” Gaspar said. “Five years down the road, it may have been a different consideration.”

She added on the heels of the park, the city should have held the line on spending and not bought Pacific View.

Gaspar, who came to Encinitas with her family at the age of 5, later moved away to attend the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. The time away, she said, made her appreciate Encinitas that much more.

On that note, Gaspar said her familiarity with Encinitas’ five unique communities makes her the best candidate to guide the city through the housing element.

Essentially, the city will map out where to place state-mandated housing. A final map, possibly with one or two alternatives, will be put to a public vote in 2016.

“We should look to residents in specific communities and say here is your share to meet the housing need — where should these units go?” Gaspar said. “The community can be very helpful in this process as we move forward, and making sure that any plan we come up really fits within the uniqueness of the five communities.”

As of June 30, the most recent filing period for campaign finance disclosures, Gaspar reported $8,093 in contributions and $8,528 in 2013. Former Mayor Jerome Stocks and Councilman Mark Muir, who frequently sides with Gaspar, each gave $250 to her campaign.

Although often voting with Muir on wedge issues, Gaspar said she’d continue to work with the entire council.

“It’s not about a team or a side; it’s about a person who’s open minded — that listens to all sides,” Gaspar stated.

She also has her eye on business reforms.

“We have a reputation around town that we’re not the easiest city to do business in,” Gaspar said. “I’d like to change that.”

As an example, Gaspar said city sign rules should be relaxed for businesses.

“We’ve heard from multiple property owners that signs are an issue,” Gaspar said.

“That’s where you see signs start to clutter our city, from sign spinners to pop-up signs for nail salons and everything else, because I know these businesses feel like they don’t have ample monument signage or some way to be visible.”

She added Encinitas should do an exit survey for businesses leaving the community. That way, the city could better understand employers’ needs and respond accordingly.

When it comes to pensions, Gaspar said she’s pleased the city passed reforms in 2012. Going forward, she added the city needs to ensure it’s adequately funding pension liabilities.

“At the same time, we need to have a continued conversation about whether we should be doing more than just funding at the recommended level,” Gaspar said.

Proposition K passed in 2012, so voters will directly elect a two-year mayor for the first time in November. Previously, a council majority selected the position.

If elected, would she run again in 2016?

“Let’s clear this hurdle first,” Gaspar said.