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Fading flowers and the gift of mendacity

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
August 12, 2005


It would be easy to call politics in Encinitas the silly season. It would also be easy to ignore the upcoming special elections, writing them off as the usual dog and pony show of California politics. Both instincts are warranted.Special elections are always the silliest. This year instead of a clown, the November 8th election will be dressed up like drag queens in a Christmas parade. Poinsettias will abound.

Poinsettias, indigenous to Mexico and Central America, are America's best selling potted plant. Introduced to the United States by Joel Poinsett in 1828, while serving as the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Traditionally given as a sign of goodwill, poinsettias were first cultivated for commercial trade in 1829. Taking root in Encinitas Paul Ecke Sr. joined an already vibrant agricultural community in 1923. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ideal growing conditions and easily accessed rail transportation help the Paul Ecke Ranch grow with Encinitas. Hard work and savvy business decisions allowed them to adapt with the changing times. Technology and genetic manipulation brought poinsettias into green house production in 1963. With innovation, production increased. With active marketing, the Ecke operation transformed the Christmas poinsettia into an international holiday decoration.

In 1957, the Carltas Company was formed by the Paul Ecke Ranch to hold two major agricultural land holdings: Carlsbad Ranch and Encinitas Ranch. An affiliate of Carltas, Carltas Development Company (CDC) was formed in 1987 to consolidate development activities. Since 1987, the Carltas Development Company has developed over 1,300 acres of prime California coastal land and over 850,000 square feet of commercial and industrial buildings.

In 1991, the Ecke Family began developing the majority of their agricultural holdings into the 853-acre, Encinitas Ranch master planned community. With 1,064 residential units developed by merchant builders, an 18-hole championship public golf course and driving range, a 75 acre regional shopping center.Less than 58 acres of Encinitas agricultural land remain as the corporate headquarters of the Paul Ecke Poinsettia Ranch.Paul Ecke III wants to reduce that to 20 acres and a promise.

Riding the coat tails of governor Schwartzenegger's ballot initiatives Paul Ecke III and Paul Ecke Ranch have sponsored an ambiguously worded ballot initiative, that would allow for the rezoning of agricultural land promised in perpetuity as part of the Encinitas Ranch development agreement approved by voters in 1994. As part of the development agreement, the Ecke owned Carltas Development Company promised to preserve 67 acres for agriculture in perpetuity ---- the very same land they're now asking the Encinitas City Council to rezone for residential development.

Over the next three months, potential voters will debate the Ecke legacy in Encinitas. Claiming economic hardship, they will claim they are preserving history while selling it by the acre. Legacy? Yeaaah, right.

Adding a bit of muscle, Paul Ecke Ranch has assembled a group of city leaders and key members of the business establishment to further their development scheme. Consultants hired by the Paul Ecke Ranch have enlisted, among others, Encinitas Fire Department division chief Mark Muir, San Dieguito Union High School District Superintendent Bill Berrier, former City Councilwoman Anne Omsted, Encinitas Chamber of Commerce President Gary Tucker, and Del Mar Fairgrounds general manager Tim Fennell to be their "grassroots" steering committee. They've named themselves "The Keep Flowers in Encinitas Committee."

Talk about mendacity!

As far from grassroots as ideologically possible, the mendacity here is glaring. Grass roots usually signify efforts by the people, and for the people, and rarely involve paid political consultants, hired attorneys and a steering committee that resembles a board of directors. Entirely financed by Paul Ecke Ranch, the effort to rezone 38 acres, of the remaining 58 acres of agricultural land in Encinitas, for residential development. Hardly grassroots, the Ecke Proposition is of the property owner, by the property owner, and for the property owner.

It's not surprising that business leaders would come out in support of business owners modernizing to stay competitive. It's also not surprising to see them defend property rights. It is however surprising to see those same business owners endorse the breaking of recognized legal agreements. I wonder how many other Encinitas property owners have been allowed to buy their way out of agreements earlier approved by a public vote?

Isn't it odd that selling agricultural land for development is now equated with keeping flowers in Encinitas?All mendacity aside, the obvious name for the Ecke steering committee deserves to be acknowledged.

The Keep Poinsettias in Encinitas Committee has a nice ring, don't you think?

The truth will set us free.

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