North County Report: Ongoing Tension in Carlsbad Over Two Properties' Fate - Voice of San Diego

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North County Report: Ongoing Tension in Carlsbad Over Two Properties' Fate

San Diego is on the verge of being knocked off its avocado throne, the homeless are seeking shelter at the Oceanside Pier, Del Mar extends its vacation-rental moratorium and more in our weekly roundup of North County news.

In Carlsbad, two parcels of land have caused a number of headaches in recent months.

One is the south shore of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, which ‒ for those who somehow hadn’t heard ‒ was slated for the development of a luxury mall. The plan to fast-track that project was ultimately defeated by voters.

Less than one mile down Cannon road is the Encina Power Station, which will be demolished when a smaller “peaker” style plant is constructed nearby, starting in 2017.

In September, the city approved changes to its general plan, including the re-designation of the land use labeled “travel recreation” to “visitor commercial,” which would have allowed residential development in a commercial zone as part of a mixed-use project. Several areas were slated to receive the new title, including the lagoon and power station properties.

Residents have called the change a backdoor attempt to get the mall built at the lagoon. Some of the more organized opponents, who want to the see the two properties turned into open space, have been led by Carlsbad City Council candidate Cori Schumacher.

Changes to the general plan in the coastal zone require the city to amend its Local Coastal Program, which are subject to approval by the California Coastal Commission. Earlier this year, the commission asked the city to remove the residential uses from the new land use designation, pending further study.

On May 11, the commission approved most of the other land use changes the city requested, but also delayed a decision to reclassify the south shore of the lagoon and the Encina property, citing a need for more information and clarity.

Schumacher is riding a wave of “No on Measure A” sentiment against coastal development and the current City Council, and called the decision a “success” that stopped the land use changes.

That stoked residents’ concerns that the city was trying to pull a fast one, when the city characterized the Coastal Commission’s decision as merely a request for more information, with the changes having nothing to do with luxury mall.

Schumacher appears to have walked back a declaration of victory, qualifying more recent statements with a “for now.”

A Usurper Comes to Take the Avocado Throne

Surging water rates and falling water quality are spelling bad news for San Diego’s avocado growers, many of whom are based in Fallbrook and Valley Center, Ry Rivard writes this week.

In recent years, the Metropolitan Water District has been increasing its draw on the Colorado River, whose water tends to be saltier than water that comes from Northern California. That salty water damages the trees, however, and results in lower crop yields.

San Diego’s crop yield has been so low that Ventura is threatening to overtake San Diego as the top producer of avocados in the state.

It comes at a time when water rates are on the rise, and more and more farms are going under, creating a spiral of rising costs and fewer people to pay for it. Water experts have said that could create a broader crisis in the county’s farming industry.

In a follow-up, Rivard also explains how San Diego became an avocado king to being with. It turns out avocados aren’t all that ideal to grow here – rather, an explosion in crop growth happened thanks to a tax loophole created in the early 1970s.

Also in the News

As part of a broader effort to consolidate Oceanside’s zoning codes (they’ve got, like, three of ‘em if anybody needs one), the Planning Commission voted to include language that would require public review of digital billboards. (Union-Tribune)

Del Mar extended its moratorium on vacation rentals (The Coast News)

 Low-income residents at a Carlsbad apartment complex are being forced to move or pay up when the building’s rent restrictions run out. (Union-Tribune)

 Escondido chose a new fire chief. (Union-Tribune)

iFly, the indoor skydiving place, will open in Oceanside after surviving an appeal of a Planning Commission decision by the site’s neighbors. (Union-Tribune)

 The homeless in Oceanside are seeking overnight shelter in the restrooms on the pier. (KPBS)

The director of the Oceanside Museum of Art is out after only five months. (Union-Tribune)

North County’s first residential crisis center for mentally ill people has opened in Escondido. (KPBS)

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