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North County Report: A More Inclusive Affordable Housing Discussion

Two North County school districts have been ordered to turn over sexual misconduct records, Democrats fault Assemblyman Rocky Chavez for working with Democrats and more in our weekly roundup of North County news. 

An apartment complex building in Encinitas. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

For the past several years, Encinitas officials have talked a lot about housing — dwelling units per acre, lot coverage, density bonuses. But missing from these technical conversations haves been the people who actually need affordable housing, their stories and perspectives.

A new group, Keys4Homes, has sought to change that by organizing seniors, artists, workers and others in need of affordable housing to share their stories at public meetings.

“Affordable residents are never there,” said Lois Sunrich, who founded the group with Bob Kent. “People who are busy trying to make ends meet — who wants to step up and tell their story? It’s hard to take that pressure.”

Sunrich and Kents believe that housing discussions are often framed as a way to appeal to homeowners, the City Council and the state, and are dominated by people who are passionate about not building housing in their neighborhoods.

One of the major barriers to construction is the city’s delayed updating of its housing element, which would articulate long-term affordable housing plans. Then there’s the slow-growth measure, Proposition A, which gave voters more control over zoning changes.

Because the city is largely built out already, areas for new affordable housing will need to be changed to allow more density. But first, voters would need to approve it.

The City Council has only gotten one such plan on the ballot, in 2016, which voters roundly defeated.

Kent and Sunrich see theirs as a mission to change hearts and minds by shifting the conversation to the needs of the people who would be served most by building more affordable homes in Encinitas.

Kent’s background is in finance, and he said he was never much of a public speaker, but the barrage of negativity toward affordable housing made him want to become one. Lost in the process, he said, has been people’s dignity.

Sunrich said she went to Oregon to consider places to retire but decided to stay rather than uproot her life at 70 years old.

Their goal is modest: to see 80 affordable units built in the next two years. That may not sound like much in other places, but a recent report to the City Council showed that only 66 affordable units had been built in the previous six years.

The Fight to Make School Misconduct Records Public

Voice of San Diego’s Ashly McGlone has been detailing sexual misconduct at schools around the county for months, and the responses by staff and investigators. This week, she sheds more light on the process of trying to get records on substantiated instances of sexual misconduct. The resulting legal cases raise an important question: How much does the public deserve to know about the people who educate children?

McGlone requested records from all 43 school districts in the county. Many responded and produced records, about half claimed to have no such records, and a few are being sued by teachers to keep their names private.

Two of those cases are at San Marcos Unified School District and Vista Unified School District, which have been fighting in the courts to release the records, but were blocked by teachers who did not want their records released, McGlone writes. A judge ruled earlier this month that both districts must turn over their records.

National Dems Throw Chavez Under Bus for Bipartisan Work

Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez has been the subject of TV ads slamming him for “broken promises” and “wasteful spending” tied to recent bipartisan votes. Those ads were put out by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Chavez, who is running for Congress, has faced a lot of backlash in his own party for supporting, among other items, last year’s cap-and-trade bill, which was backed by most Democrats in the state Legislature. Now, national Democrats are piling on.

In defending his decision to work with Democrats, though, Chavez may have given his closest Republican contender, Diane Harkey, more fodder in her effort to play-up Chavez’s support for gas-tax increases.

Hours after VOSD published a conversation with Chavez about the ads, Harkey sent out an email blasting Chavez, who said he worked on the cap-and-trade bill “for the industries.”

“Somebody forgot to tell Chavez that Legislators are supposed to represent the people, not the special interests,” Harkey said.

Graham Accused of Battery

Phil Graham, the leading Republican candidate for the 76th Assembly District, is under investigation by the Sheriff’s Department for battery.

The Coast News’ Aaron Burgin broke the story, outlining an alleged encounter at an Encinitas bar between Graham and Niki Burgan, in which Burgan says Graham forcibly kissed her.

Graham’s campaign dismissed the investigation as “dirty politics.”

Did Abed Say County Law Enforcement Peddle Fake News?

Last week, at a White House gathering alongside County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar and others, Escondido Mayor Sam Abed said the idea that California’s sanctuary policies are good for public safety was fake news.

Voice’s Andy Keatts dove into that claim and concluded that Abed’s claim flies in the face of statements by county law enforcement.

“I don’t want my deputies and officers to enforce immigration law,” Sheriff Bill Gore told Voice of San Diego earlier this year. “I want people in the county, be they undocumented or not, to feel comfortable reporting crimes. There are 200,000 to 300,000 undocumented people in the county. If they are scared to cooperate with law enforcement and report crimes, that makes us all less safe.”

And this week, Carlsbad joined the list of cities backing the federal lawsuit against the state over its so-called sanctuary policies.

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