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Oceanside residents turned in signatures in hopes of qualifying a referendum to overturn a development decision, officials named a culprit for the Poway water debacle and more in our roundup of news from North County.
Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara announced his support this week for Measure A, a measure on the March ballot that would require voter approval of most development projects seeking an exemption from the county’s general plan.
McNamara echoed City Councilwoman Olga Diaz’s reasoning for supporting the measure. They say a similar citywide rule in place in Escondido has worked out well.
“I support Measure A because, similar to Escondido’s Proposition S, it will help preserve the integrity of the consensus-based general plan that maps out smart land use planning for a growing region and it will encourage more entry-level, workforce housing in the county as it has in Escondido,” McNamara said in a press release.
Their agreement on such an issue shouldn’t necessarily be remarkable, given that they’re both Democrats representing Escondido. But they’ve had a rocky relationship lately: McNamara recently rescinded his endorsement of Diaz’s bid for the County Board of Supervisors, and threw his support to her Democratic opponent, after Diaz commented on McNamara’s tenure as mayor so far in this profile.
Diaz previously told VOSD that she’s in a strong position to explain to voters that it’s “not the end of the world if it passes” and that distrust in the County Board of Supervisors is what caused the measure to be placed on the ballot.
Opponents of Measure A, meanwhile, argue that Escondido is woefully behind on its housing goals.
McNamara has also endorsed Measure B, a March ballot initiative that would pave the way for a specific development that county supervisors already approved.
Before the holiday, I explained what both measures would do and who’s behind them. Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts broke down the Democratic Party’s stance on Measure A in a recent Politics Report.
Oceanside residents Arleen Hammerschmidt and Joan Bockman spent the last few weeks of 2019 collecting petition signatures in front of the town’s grocery and department stores to place a referendum on the ballot that could allow voters to reverse the City Council’s decision to approve North River Farms development.
During our Dec. 16 meeting, Hammerschmidt looked at her clock and realized more than an hour had passed. With only three days left to collect signatures, she said she needed to run.
On Dec. 20, the group turned in more than 10,000 signatures from Oceanside residents, City Clerk Zeb Navarro told the Union-Tribune.
The San Diego County Registrar of Voters has until Feb. 5 to verify those signatures to ensure the required 9,609 signatures, or 10 percent of the city’s registered voters, is met to put the measure on the ballot later this year. If the registrar’s office determines there are enough valid signatures, the Oceanside City Council could either rescind its decision, or put the referendum on the ballot.
Hammerschmidt and Bockman said the project will create sprawl and ruin the agricultural land at the development site in Morro Hills where Integral Communities, the project’s developer, proposes building 585 homes. Integral Communities, the project’s developer, says it will have also have 68 acres designated for agriculture and 17 acres for parks and open space.
“It’s 2020 and nobody should be doing sprawl,” Bockman, a former Oceanside planning commissioner, said. “That’s the bottom line. And once you’ve sprawled, there’s no backing down.”
Hammerschmidt said she’s been involved with the City Council for the last three years, and over time she’s seen it make “more and more egregious decisions in the developers’ favor and discounting the residents.” She said the North River Farms decision was “just like the final straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Integral Communities project manager Ninia Hammond wrote in a statement to the Union-Tribune that Integral looks forward to the registrar vetting the signatures, and in the meantime, “we remain focused and undeterred in preserving Oceanside’s rich agricultural heritage and long-term farming interests, while improving public safety, protecting open space and bringing much-needed jobs and attainable housing to the region, benefiting our current and future generations.”
The residents opposed to North River Farms are also attempting to recall Councilman Chris Rodriguez, who voted for the development. Proponents of the recall contend Rodriguez has a conflict of interest because he owns property nearby.