Commentary: Let residents decide land-use issues

Olivier Canler

For most participants, the process of updating the housing and land-use elements of the Encinitas General Plan has been frustrating and difficult. These elements must be resolved before the City Council can consider the overall General Plan Update. To engage the public in re-drafting the housing element, the city administered a dot-mapping exercise that pitted the five Encinitas communities against each other. We have yet to see the results of that exercise.

Consequently, the General Plan Update is stalled after two years of work, and there’s still no red-line version from the current general plan. These circumstances should produce local political drama in the run-up to the November election.

Some residents who were concerned with the potential outcome of the dot-mapping exercise have formed a committee called the Encinitas Project. The committee’s goal is simple: a ballot initiative that would let registered voters in Encinitas decide on major density increases in the city.

At issue are up-zoning decisions meant to increase the density set by the present General Plan. A 4-of-5-member majority of the Encinitas City Council is required to approve certain up-zoning in the five communities — New Encinitas, Old Encinitas, Cardiff, Leucadia, Olivenhain — that make up the city.

Since the General Plan Update won’t go before the current council before November’s election, the next City Council will eventually vote on it, should the present procedure remain in place. However, if the Encinitas Right-to-Vote Initiative reaches the ballot and voters approve it, residents will decide if major density increases should be allowed in the city.

With the Encinitas Right-to-Vote Initiative in place, voters would have the opportunity to decide if proposed changes respect community character and maintain or improve their quality of life. Poorly planned projects that would increase traffic and the carbon footprint, degrade infrastructure, force density or height changes, or just fit badly with our community character would have little chance of approval.

The initiative is not no-growth, but it would mean growth most people can abide. The Encinitas Right-to-Vote Initiative would take the trickery out of land speculation. Developers would have to work within current zoning. Pushing City Council members to up-zone would stop. Similarly, city planners would have to submit proposed up-zoning to a vote of the people. The initiative would subject the General Plan Update to a voters’ referendum.

The Encinitas Right-to-Vote Initiative would govern major housing and land-use amendments.

Most Encinitas residents want to maintain our small beach-town atmosphere. We’re concerned about environmental issues, traffic, adequate resources, proper infrastructure and overall quality of life. We love our town and want to keep loving it. As Encinitas approaches built-out status, growth can only go two ways: denser and taller. A look at community history reveals that local control of growth motivated Encinitas to incorporate as a city in 1986. Passing the Encinitas Right-to-Vote Initiative is in keeping with that precedent.

Volunteers are starting to walk neighborhoods to gather the number of signatures needed to get the initiative on a future ballot. Volunteers will also be in front of stores with forms for registered voters to sign. You can also find out more about the initiative by visiting

This commentary was submitted by Olivier Canler for the Encinitas Project Committee

Community commentaries are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the North Coast Current