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Downgrading Encinitas one policy at a time

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
January 10, 2008


Once again the city of Encinitas is making news with a proposed ordinance that would weaken regulation on grading permits for most future developments in order to streamline the development process for developers.

Under the proposed ordinance, developers could obtain a so-called "minor grading permit" for certain projects that move 50 to 250 cubic yards of dirt. Currently a standard grading permit is required of those moving 50 cubic yards or more in volume of cut or fill of soil or earth materials. Minor grading permits are currently issued to those moving cubic 50 yards or less.

Claiming the change would make the development process less bureaucratic by simplifying and thereby facilitating faster processing times, Councilman Jerome Stocks and City engineer Peter Cota-Robles are on record suggesting the best way to get developers to comply with grading policy is to change grading policy so that it betters complies to their desired level of bureaucracy and public oversight.

Councilman Stocks connections to the development interests in North County have long been documented, so it is not surprising he would champion the idea of letting the foxes design the hen house. Nor is it surprising the City Engineer would approve of his work load being reduced. The real question is who will be responsible for future damages and property loss when the lack of comprehensive planning oversight is made evident by weather, water, or random earth movements.

Encinitas residents need ask themselves if they are comfortable living with the third world standards being endorsed by Councilman Jerome Stocks.

Presented as a way to simplify the bureaucratic process, the proposed policy change in all actuality is an attempt to reduce municipal oversight as it applies to developers. I'm sure restaurant owners would also appreciate reduced oversights in regards to health inspections, yet common sense and public safety dictate otherwise.

Contacted for comment about the proposed changes Councilwoman Teresa Barth made it clear her "concerns about grading, in general, are the impacts that infill development will have on the surrounding property... lot line to lot line excavations for basements and underground parking," and protecting water quality by "preventing unnecessary grading that contributes to erosion and run-off and prevent the unnecessary removal of native vegetation."

What I feel these changes in policy will accomplish, other than making the development process faster and easier for developers, is decreased environmental oversight as it applies to topography and habitat preservation. This proposed policy change also shifts oversight to residents, pitting existing property owners against new ones.

As the City of Encinitas reaches build out and infill and higher density redevelopment become the development norm, increased populations and shrinking resources should dictate that comprehensive municipal planning becomes more important, not less. By abdicating responsibility in favor "simplified" governance Jerome Stocks does so in opposition to the general welfare, putting the community at risk.

It's clear Stocks needs to upgrade his concept of public service to include the majority of Encinitas residents.

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