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North County Report: Support for Oceanside’s Slow-Growth Measure Depends on Whether You Farm – and How Much

Oceanside City Hall
Oceanside City Hall / Photo by Jimmy James

The slow-growth initiative making its way through Oceanside would require a city-wide vote on zoning changes to agricultural land, and support for the measure seems to be a question of whether – and how much – you farm.

Lining up behind the effort are many suburban residents who like the idea of farms in the city, and the city’s “gentleman farmers” who want to preserve agriculture in Oceanside by making it difficult to sell off tracts of land for development. On the other are larger commercial farmers who want to keep that option in order to stay in business. Both sides claim they’re trying to “save” farming [1].

Planning Commission member Dennis Martinek (who has a small farm [2]), filed the Save Our Agricultural Resources initiative in response to a nearly 1,000-home development that the City Council rejected, but was told it could be considered again with some modifications.

Martinek wants to prevent such development in Morro Hills, the city’s agricultural area, by requiring a city-wide vote on zoning changes. The initiative’s supporters have often criticized the City Council for changing zoning to accommodate residential development, and one of their main talking points is that three Council members could have farmland “paved over and gone forever.” [3]

On the other side, large farmers are forming a group by the name of Keep Farming in Oceanside, and want to be able to sell off land to keep their businesses afloat.

Neil Nagata, an Oceanside farmer and president of the executive board of the County Farm Bureau, told the U-T it’s about preserving the farmer, not the land [1].

While Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery has sharply criticized the initiative [4] as a tool for people who “just want to get away” from suburbia, Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said the “vast majority” of farmers actually support it.

“I understand a handful of large farmers have a huge interest in creating high density residential, which is inconsistent with our general plan and our laws,” she wrote in an email. “However, this is against the best interests of the city and residents of Oceanside. Such urbanization efforts would unfairly require big subsidies from Oceanside taxpayers and the general fund.”

Escondido Library Outsourcing Draws Lawsuit

A lawsuit filed this week against the city of Escondido takes aim at the city’s recent decision to outsource management of the library to a private company.

The Union-Tribune reports that the lawsuit, filed on behalf of residents who oppose the move, argues that state law says that libraries will be managed by a board of trustees [5], and the City Council’s decision should be nullified.

The library’s board of trustees unanimously opposed outsourcing management to Library Systems & Services LLC, but the Council approved a 10-year contract in October.

City Manager Jeff Epp said they had looked at the question of board of trustee management before approving the contract, and called it “a silly issue.”

The plaintiffs, along with a group of their supporters, held a conference outside the library, and marched over to the Civic Center to present the lawsuit to the city clerk [6].

Specifically, they’re asking for the City Council’s decision to be rescinded, and for the court to issue an injunction temporarily barring the city from entering into the contract with LS&S.

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