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North County Report: Cities Step Up Homelessness Efforts Amid Hep A Outbreak

Poway Unified officials might have uncovered new financial crimes, the plan for the Escondido Country Club might finally be decided soon and more in our weekly roundup of news from North County.

As the hepatitis A crisis continues to unfold, five people in North County have died from the virus and about 35 people have been diagnosed in North County, prompting a few cities to react.

On Oct. 18, the Oceanside City Council asked Bread of Life Rescue Mission to open its seasonal shelter on Nov 1, one month earlier than it normally does.

In Oceanside, churches are prohibited from providing temporary shelter to people, unless the city declares a temporary shelter crisis and lifts the zoning restriction against the use.

For several years, the city has declared shelter crises between December and April, but this year, the City Council will allow shelters to open one month early. The declaration also includes $56,000 to help fund operations, nearly double what the city spent each year until 2015.

In neighboring Carlsbad, the City Council adopted a homeless response plan this week, which includes partnering with local service providers to coordinate its response to homelessness.

The plan also directs city departments to evaluate their services as part of a broader strategy. For example, the library is tasked with getting a catalog of providers together and providing insight into the needs of the homeless, since homeless people often go to the library. The Parks Department will evaluate and provide facilities at public parks for the homeless, while Public Works will clean up encampments – which might not be particularly helpful for homeless people. The city also recently established its own Homeless Outreach Team within the Police Department.

The city’s plan also includes a few curious statements about “not simply relocating the problem to another city,” perhaps in response to criticism that the city has ignored its homeless population.

Encinitas meanwhile, will spend about $400 per week on four portable bathrooms and hand-washing stations at four locations, including Swami’s, City Hall and Moonlight Beach.

The Coast News reports that the city is also looking into how to provide 24-hour bathroom and washing facilities, which the city currently lacks.

New Problems at Poway Unified

The Poway Unified School District might have fresh problems on its hands now that it has discovered nearly $150,000 – possibly more – paid to a special retirement fund for a handful of employees, including former Superintendent John Collins.

Ashly McGlone reports that the payments were made between 1998 and 2014, though there is no paperwork for about seven years, making it unclear whether the total could actually be higher. This fund is now being scrutinized by the district’s attorneys, and the district attorney’s office.

The payments were apparently made without the approval of the school board, which could be another case of misappropriation of public funds.

Escondido Country Club Plan Enters Final Round

After years of battling neighbors over a proposed development at the Escondido Country Club, Michael Schlesinger was granted approval to build 380 homes by the city’s Planning Commission, clearing the way for the City Council to decide the matter.

The Union-Tribune reports about 40 people spoke at the meeting, and 120 people filled out slips to register their support or opposition, and the result was a nearly even split in the crowd.

On one side are those who say the project would impact their neighborhood and was already decided when voters defeated Proposition H, Schlesinger’s 2014 measure to get approval for a similarly sized project.

Supporters of the project say the country club has become an eyesore, and even a danger to the community.

“Currently, the clubhouse is an attraction for the undesirable in our community. There is graffiti gang signs and severe vandalism,” one supporter said, according to CBS 8.

The project is set to go before the City Council in November, and the U-T also writes that at least two members of the City Council have said they could not support the proposal: Mayor Sam Abed, who said he wanted to see the number of homes reduced, and Councilman John Masson, whose district includes the country club.

Councilwoman Olga Diaz has previously supported Schlesinger’s plan, although the other two Council members haven’t taken a public stance, according to the U-T. (Disclosure: Diaz is a member of Voice of San Diego’s board of directors.)

Also in the News

• Oceanside is slated to get a 10,000-seat soccer stadium at El Corazon Park. (Fox 5)

• The former mayor of Poway, Don Higginson, is seeking an injunction that would halt the city’s switch to by-district elections. (Union-Tribune)

• San Marcos is looking to ban commercial marijuana operations. (The Coast News)

• A $5.3 million contract between the Army Corps of Engineers and a private contractor to excavate a half-mile section of the San Luis Rey River is now years behind schedule, which puts homes in the San Luis Rey Valley at risk. (Union-Tribune)

• The arts is a billion-dollar industry in San Diego County, and an artist network wants to make sure North County gets a piece of the market. (KPBS)

• The Coastal Commission signed off on the concert venue and beer-tasting exhibit at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. (The Coast News)

• It’ll take your breath away: The Oceanside City Council has just about consolidated its zoning rules, rolling back to its ordinance from 1986. That was also the year the city briefly appeared in “Top Gun.” (The Coast News)

• Cook Political Report says Rep. Darrell Issa is in a “very vulnerable” district, while Rep. Duncan Hunter is a little more safe. (Union-Tribune)

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