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North County Report: Going Up, Water Rates Edition

One arts center is in the works as another struggles to stay open, a reader’s guide to the farm fight in Encinitas and more in our weekly roundup of North County news.

It’s a common refrain: Raise rates to offset declining revenue due to lower consumption. This week, two North County water districts approved increases in their water rate structures.

On Nov. 24, the Encinitas City Council, operating as the San Dieguito Water District board, gave preliminary approval to a five-year rate structure. Customers would see their rates go up 5.9 percent in February, and again in 2017, with larger increases in the final three years. Notices of a rate hike will go out to voters in December, and final vote will come in January.

Oceanside approved its own one-time rate increase of 18.9 percent starting Jan. 1 (remember: that’s not what residents’ rate increase notice said). The interim water utilities director said it was a “raise rates or go bankrupt” situation, and only an increase of 7.5 percent is needed to make up for declining revenue – the rest is the pass through charges coming from San Diego County Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District.

In October, the Carlsbad City Council gave its approval to restructuring water rates. A public hearing will be held on Dec. 1 to determine whether to increase rates by 6.8 percent for single-family homes.

Encinitas’ Farm Fight

The coastal North County city of Encinitas is struggling to make the city more agriculturally friendly, while preserving its suburban values for residents.

Because the city doesn’t have an updated ordinance, businesses and community groups have faced uphill battles when trying to start new agricultural projects, like planting fruit trees and community gardens.

In our guide to Encinitas’ farming fight, we explore where the suburban farmers want to ease restrictions, and why opponents are saying, “Whoa there, cowboy.”

Arts Centers Opening — and Struggling to Stay Open

Construction on a $17.7 million performing arts center at Oceanside High School is scheduled to begin in January, the Union-Tribune reports. The center will include a 500-seat theater, black-box theater, a recording studio, and a classroom and workspace to build scenery.

Meanwhile, the city of Poway is struggling to keep the doors open on its Center for the Performing Arts. The City Council anticipates subsidizing a revenue shortfall to the tune of $700,000 this year, saying they want to take time to adjust cost-sharing agreements with partners, rather than harm the ability of smaller groups to afford the space. (Pomerado News)

Also in the News

 Escondido Mayor Sam Abed used the city’s website to link to his campaign for county supervisor. The link has since been removed, despite being cleared by the city attorney, according to Abed. (Union-Tribune)

 A new civic center in Del Mar is going to cost $1.4 million more than previously estimated. (Del Mar Times)

 Carlsbad’s Planning Commission OK’d a zoning amendment to allow indoor shooting ranges. (Union-Tribune)

 Solana Beach and the North County Transit District revealed plans for the Solana Beach transit center, which could clear a path for similar development at the transit center in Oceanside. (Union-Tribune)

 The controversial luxury mall in Carlsbad is headed to a special – and expensive – election in February. (Coast News)

 Ramona will decide whether to replace its three ambulances in the coming years, or outsource its ambulance services. (Ramona Sentinel)

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