Wednesday, July 6, 2022

VOSD Has a Habit of Getting Encinitas Housing Wrong

On March 30, 2022, VOSD North County Reporter Tigist Layne wrote, “Encinitas has consistently gone to great lengths to avoid making it possible to build more homes there, arguing it would change the city’s character, and once again, the state is taking notice.”

On April 27, Layne wrote, “Encinitas has reached a settlement with the developer of the Encinitas Boulevard Apartments, a housing project that the city rejected last year. Encinitas has a history of denying housing projects . . .”

That same day, I posted to Layne and asked her to provide proof of the city’s history of denying housing projects. She didn’t reply.

On May 16, I sent a public records request to the city. My question was, “Has the Encinitas City Council ever denied a housing project other than the Encinitas Blvd. Apartments project, the adjusted version of which it later approved to settle a lawsuit by the developer?”

Development Services Director Roy Sapa’u replied, “The answer would be no.”

Encinitas became an incorporated city in 1986. In the 36 years since, it has never denied a housing project.

VOSD’s extremely biased and often inaccurate reporting on Encinitas housing began with an article by Maya Srikrishnan on March 9, 2016. VOSD has been on a roll since.

On February 14, 2019, Lisa Halverstat, then a VOSD staff writer, now the senior investigative reporter, was one of a “panel of experts” who spoke at a Building Industry Association (BIA)-hosted breakfast meeting at the La Jolla Marriott hotel. The introduction was, “Today, the NIMBYs have a very loud voice and are halting projects around the county. Learn from a panel of experts to see what builders/developers are doing to get projects approved and how our industry must help.”

The speculation among Encinitas activists is that BIA funds VOSD. Consequently, VOSD violates journalism’s principle of objectivity to avoid jeopardizing the funding.
                                                                                                — Doug Fiske 

Saturday, February 19, 2022

The Other Plague Infecting America

In November 2020, 74 million people voted for the Orange Menace. Today, Trump’s favorability rating hovers around 43 percent according to the Real Clear Politics average of eight national polls. That’s 110.4 million people when applied to the estimated US voting-age population in 2020. 

There has always been a wacko fringe. But now that extreme wing is huge.

How is it that so many millions of people support a self-interested, pathological liar? How is it that so many millions don’t recognize the treason Trump committed on January 6, 2021?

The reason runs deep, but there are little indicator flags everywhere. They’re the canaries in the coal mine.

A magazine editor was once asked the qualifications for his job. His reply was, “You have to know the difference between there, their and they’re.”

When many millions of Americans think that people lay down, not lie down, say “I could have went” instead of “I could have gone,” say “aks” rather than “ask,” and don’t know the difference between its and it’s or your and you’re, that indicates there’s something seriously lacking in primary and secondary education.

Not knowing simple, standard English is like not knowing basic arithmetic.

If American education has failed at teaching the fundamentals, it cannot have succeeded at teaching critical thinking. That’s shown in the support for Trump. More than 110 million people cannot distinguish fact from falsehood, reality from fantasy.

That disconnect has always infected a small percentage of the population. But now the infection has been amplified and hurried along by the internet and right-wing media. 

The infection has become a plague, and it’s threatening American democracy.                                
                                                                                                                                            — Doug Fiske                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Diversity for Its Own Sake Is Not a Virtue

Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.                            — H. L. Mencken

Years back, a New Yorker cartoon showed the exterior of a disco. A sign in the window said: 

Closed Until the Next Big Thing Comes Along

Topics of public conversation come and go too. Some stay in vogue longer than others.

Remember the furor over bullying a few years ago? Heard anything about it lately? Critical race theory also fizzled out quickly. #MeToo has staying power because people like Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump and Andrew Cuomo keep it alive.

BLM waned because the George Floyd murder and other killings and abuses of black people faded in the public memory. LGBTQ’s prominence also dimmed. Same with the diversity imperative but, with qualifiers, it especially warrants keeping.

Racial, ethnic and gender diversity is a worthy pursuit, but diversity for its own sake yields no benefits. For benefits to accrue, the bottom line has to be merit. For success in business, government, sports, teaching, science, entertainment, the military, etc., the people involved must be qualified; they must be competent regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. Otherwise, everything declines.

Suppose you were tasked with recruiting an NBA team from scratch. If you looked at the other teams, you’d see a lot of tall black guys. Would you recruit short white and Asian guys for your team for the sake of diversity? If you did, your team would lose a lot of games. The principle applies generally.

Discrimination is an infection that damages the whole society. Education and training are the remedies. They create competence. Competence breeds success.                                                                                                                                                                                                      — Doug Fiske

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Encinitas Mayor Blakespear Doesn’t Represent the Majority of Her Constituents

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear doesn’t believe in or practice representative democracy. She has a personal agenda that conforms with the ultra-progressive views of her party’s left wing. Presumably, she follows that agenda because she’s politically ambitious and wants to grease the wheels.

Blakespear behaves more like a dictator than an elected mayor in a democracy. She gets away with it in many people’s eyes because she has good PR. She has a smiley, outwardly pleasant demeanor. It masks what’s really a destructive agenda that doesn’t reflect the majority view.

Blakespear has an adversarial relationship with most Encinitas residents. She ignores input from residents who disagree with her. She disdains them, speaks to them in a condescending manner and even went so far as to include them as defendants in a city lawsuit.

The sequence that led to the Housing Element Update illustrates Blakespear’s disingenuous behavior. Prop A passed by a narrow margin in a special election on June 18, 2013. Asked for her position on Prop A, Blakespear’s responses varied: She didn’t vote, she couldn’t remember how she voted.

Every Encinitan who was paying attention knew that Measure T would fail the upzone vote required by Prop A. They knew the majority was against mega-development that would violate Prop A’s provisions. Blakespear and the council put Measure T on the ballot anyway. Of course, the voters defeated it.

Despite residents’ showing how the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) affordable housing figures could be met without violating Prop A, Blakespear and the council devised the excessive Measure U and put it on the ballot. It had originally included city-owned site L7, which could have provided 100 percent affordable housing units. In an underhanded move that a more alert Blakespear could have derailed, the council struck site L7 by a 3-2 vote. Blakespear voted against it but later flipped and approved it.

Voters saw Measure U as worse than Measure T and defeated it. The lawsuit against voters with an interest in Prop A — every voter for or against — followed. The purpose was to gut Prop A, which no City Council member past or present has supported. It gets in the way of councils doing whatever they want regarding land use. It puts the power to govern development in the public’s hands rather than the council’s. Since councils have consistently permitted proposed developments and haven’t sought to control heights, they haven’t liked Prop A.

A judge declared that the city’s attempts at a Housing Element were at an impasse. He suspended Prop A for only one housing cycle and let it stand for other land-use proposals. The state Housing and Community Development Department (HCD) eventually approved the Housing Element, which was the defeated Measure U with two minor updates. That and new state laws meant to facilitate and accelerate development opened the door for projects like the 283-unit, 69-foot-tall monstrosity apartment house proposed for Olivenhain. Ironically, when the city raised environmental and traffic study requirements for that project, HCD threatened to withdraw its Housing Element approval.

With one exception noted below, Blakespear has never stood up to fight for residents. For example, she hasn’t challenged the RHNA figures that excessively burden our city while other cities have much smaller numbers, absolutely and proportionally. She has voted to deny every appeal brought before the council by residents opposed to developments that negatively affected their neighborhoods. That includes density bonus projects that cram too many units in too little space. Some blatantly violated reason. One produced more and worse floods than existed before the project. Another had no sidewalks, making it inconsistent with Blakespear’s cherished walkability. Another will surely worsen floods if the lawsuit brought against it fails.

When SANDAG’s Cardiff Coastal Rail Trail was in the offing, Blakespear supported the San Elijo Avenue alignment. The uproar by Cardiff residents was so loud that politician Blakespear saw it wasn’t viable for an elected official to oppose the voters. She switched her support to the Highway 101 alignment and testified well for it. SANDAG began to revise its plan, but then the Coastal Commission mandated the San Elijo alignment. Blakespear switched back and has been celebrating that location for the rail trail since.

Nobody wants bicyclists to crash with cars or trucks. But Blakespear’s actions to grossly inhibit drivers in favor of the tiny percentage of residents who ride bikes are out of balance. To have any effect on climate change, thousands upon thousands of Encinitans would have to switch from cars to bikes for transportation every day. That hasn’t happened and won’t, so imposing on and shaming drivers makes no sense. Incentivizing driving electric cars is more rational and more likely to slow climate change.

Blakespear doesn’t know much about the monumentally stupid Leucadia 101 Streetscape project. That explains the false claims she’s made about it. The project is reliably calculated to cost $55 million. That’s not counting whatever it will cost via eminent domain to buy private property from eight owners to make room for sidewalks and roundabouts. Like other city projects, the cost is bound to rise significantly.

Early on, Streetscape was projected to cost $19 million to be paid principally by SANDAG Transnet taxes. That funding vanished and the cost tripled. The city has applied for a $30 million loan and a $20 million grant. The city can’t issue lease revenue bonds to pay for the project because there’s no revenue that would make that route legitimate. The city can’t issue general obligation bonds because they require an affirmative public vote. The city knows such a vote would fail. Blakespear, her council colleagues and their predecessors have supported and funded the project so far despite the majority of residents’ opposition. If the council didn’t know that, they would do a survey and prove it wrong.

The claim that Blakespear won the 2018 election because 83 percent of the voters support her direction and positions is silly. She won because she didn’t have a serious opponent. In 2020, she does. Let’s see what happens before and in November.
— Doug Fiske

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Facts About Leucadia 101 Streetscape

• One lane in each direction for 85 percent of the 2.4-mile corridor.

• Four one-lane roundabouts: Sea Bluff, Grandview, Jupiter, El Portal. The first is a private driveway. The first three are in a half-mile stretch at the north end. The fourth is 1.2 miles from the third.

• Of the 22 intersections where left turns from the west onto 101 are allowed, 15 will remain as they are now.

• 176 parking spaces in 10 pods in the railroad right-of-way. That’s fewer than now.

• At least 90 mature trees will be removed; 839 saplings will be planted; NCTD will not let any trees in the right-of-way get big enough to form a canopy over 101.

• No new crossings between east and west of tracks.

• Per the 2008-9 traffic study, up to 7,100 car trips will be diverted from 101 to the freeway, Vulcan and Neptune. Yet the city and the Main Street merchants’ association say business will increase.

• The city gives the merchants’ association $30,000 of taxpayer funds per year. Fewer than 20 percent of the merchants with corridor addresses are members of the association.

• Two Leucadia women independently calculated the total cost of the project will be $55 million.

Letter to Coastal Commission Objecting to Latest Streetscape Amendments

December 15, 2019

Dear CCC Personnel,

In late July 2018, the San Diego district CCC staff issued its analysis of the Leucadia 101 Streetscape project and stated conditions the city of Encinitas would have to meet to comply with the California Coastal Act of 1976. Two commissioners and several residents submitted appeals. The appeals essentially agreed with the staff report. A fundamental point was that the proposed project would restrict access to the Leucadia coastal corridor and the beaches west of it. That judgment was unquestionably correct.

In late September 2018, the staff reversed its July position. The full commission unanimously approved the project in October. The various appeals were ignored. 

As approved, the project violates the Coastal Act. The amendments now proposed continue that violation.

The staff has not revealed what justified the reversal of its position between late July and late September 2018. The position went from legal to illegal. The commission went along with the illegality.

The staff and commission have failed to fulfill their mandate. The public demands and deserves an explanation.

Doug Fiske

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Bicycling for Transportation in Suburbia

The city of Encinitas and even the Main Street associations have been telling people to “get out of your cars” for several years. They’ve shamed people for driving and pitted bicyclists against drivers. They’ve put a lot of focus and money into bicycling infrastructure. They’ve claimed big health benefits and significant greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions from bicycling instead of driving.

In recent weeks, I’ve driven Highway 101 between Leucadia and Genesee Avenue in La Jolla daily at various times of day, including morning and evening commutes. I’ve used those opportunities to observe how many people are out and about on bikes. I combined those observations with what I’ve seen during regular jaunts around Encinitas.

Depending on time of day, I’ve seen anywhere from a few to dozens of recreational bike riders. The greatest number of transportation bicyclists I’ve seen is four. I’ve seen hundreds of cars on every trip.

For measurable GHG reductions to result from people switching from cars to bikes for transportation, huge numbers would have to do it every day. That’s not happening.

It’s not that people aren’t concerned about GHG emissions and don’t want to do what they can to reduce them. It’s just that riding bikes for transportation isn’t an effective means. Here in America, people get around in cars. It’s been that way since Henry Ford popularized the Model T in the early 1900s. It will be that way for the foreseeable future. Nearly the entire US infrastructure is built around cars for personal transportation. Cars are an important part of American industry and culture.

Bicycling for transportation is not convenient or practical, especially in suburbia. It’s just too hard. You can’t go far or carry much. You can’t do it in bad weather. It will never be popular enough to make a difference in GHG emissions.

Nobody wants bicycling to be unsafe. But the city’s insistence on bicycling for transportation is a misappropriation of staff time and taxpayer money. It would make a lot more sense to incentivize driving electric cars.

Now, just in case anybody is tempted to accuse me of being anti-bike on a local social media site: I rode various 10- and 12-speed bikes between La Jolla and San Clemente for 28 years. That chain broke with my umpteenth knee injury in 1998.
— Doug Fiske