EDITORIAL: Vote ‘no’ on Carlsbad Measure A

North Coast Current

When the Carlsbad City Council and developer Caruso Affiliated used the initiative process to push for a shopping mall in 2015, they touted it as “open space the right way” through a measure they had no intention of ever seeing on a ballot. Now — as it should be — residents have the opportunity Feb. 23 to vote on Measure A. That’s democracy the right way. And the right vote in this case is “no.”

The North Coast Current urges a “no” vote on Measure A not because of the proposal itself, but because of the tactics used to mask the proposed development as a citizen movement. It’s part of a new effort in California to use the initiative process against itself.

The Current finds the tactics used in this political process so unnerving, that the project should be voted down. If you push for a public vote on a project, expect to get one.

Thanks to a California State Supreme Court decision in 2014, city councils can outright adopt a proposed initiative for a development, thereby nullifying the public’s opportunity for a direct vote and — most noteworthy — avoiding state-mandated environmental review.

Throughout 2015, Carlsbad residents were inundated with a dubious campaign to build a Nordstrom-anchored shopping mall as a way to “preserve” Agua Hedionda Lagoon and Strawberry Fields open space.

The goal was to make the shopping mall so enticing that city leaders could justify outright approval of the project in the name of public good. The theatrics played out as planned. The City Council approved the project, sidestepping state environmental review.

It was through this effort that Carlsbad leaders, developer Caruso, Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation and others branded themselves as the saviors of open space, all thanks to corporate and political mastery of the election process.

Carlsbad residents were rightfully suspicious and demanded that the proposal go to a public vote, and successfully pushed for a counter initiative. Measure A is the result.

In the debate over the state Supreme Court’s ruling allowing this situation, there were fair arguments. Some observers claimed the ruling allows city leaders to fast-track projects that truly meet community satisfaction. Others claimed that the ruling allows fast-tracking as a way to push projects that could face strong public opposition.

In the case of Carlsbad, the latter occurred. The tactics of Caruso and city leaders backfired, starting with a slick advertising campaign claiming a shopping center “in harmony with nature” before their so-called “85/15” initiative was even on a ballot. No special election had been called. There was no need for a campaign yet.

If Measure A passes, fair enough. But let that still be a notice to the Carlsbad City Council and the region’s civic leaders and big developers. If you are going to use the initiative process to evade public scrutiny and key environmental reviews with the intent of approving such projects anyway, residents are savvy.

Editorials solely represent the opinions of North Coast Current ownership