The first thing I noticed about tonight’s Escondido City Council meeting was the lack of printed agendas. No such agendas were available in either box for them on the left or right of the chambers. Were there that many people in the audience? No, didn’t appear to be. Is this a move to save trees by printing fewer agendas? Doubtful, considering the current council majority. No, think it’s probably one of Mayor Sam Abed’s economic measures. Well, wouldn’t want too many people to be able to follow what’s happening.
There were three short-form rent increase applications on the agenda. The first was from the owners of Green Tree Mobile Estates. After the staff’s presentation, Councilwoman Olga Diaz asked if the park’s owners had requested a postponement of the hearing for the request, would the city not have obliged? Well, yes was her response. Well then why, she asked, wasn’t the same postponement given to the resident’s representative who had requested that postponement? Abed jumped in with his comment that the request had already been postponed once, and the owner’s had made considerable concessions by not increasing the rent of those tenant’s (under Prop. K’s ordinance) who paid over $650 a month for space rent. Diaz criticized the park owner’s reference to the discrepancy of the rent payment he was receiving, and the rent he could get at “fair market value”. This is not an issue of ”fair market value” she insisted. Prop. K was a measure to ensure the rights of owners of mobile homes. She noted that her mortgage could not be arbitrarily increased, and that mobile home owners were give some security by Prop. K against increase in the rent of the ground their homes, which they owned, rested upon. All three short-form rent increases were approved.
The other agenda item of interest was number 11, a consideration of a 113 unit condominium development at the southwest corner of Brotherton and Center City Pkwy. The Planning Commission had voted three to two to recommend denial of the project, citing its increased density and height inconsistency with the surrounding neighborhood, and inevitable increase in traffic. The city staff recommended approval, noting that the 23 units per acres was consistent with not only the new General Plan approved by the voters in 2012, but also the twenty year old General Plan. And the problem to traffic? That, evidently, is a regional problem, not Escondido’s.
Three neighbor objected to the project. One of them, Sandra Tierney, observed that she was amazed by the amount of construction in San Diego County. There were several developments in her neighborhood. The traffic impact of those new developments had yet to be felt. It was out of control, why, when people were being asked to conserve water was there no limit to construction? Abed inserted that the state mandated when water scarcity was at the point where a building moratorium could be imposed.
Diaz recognized Tierney’s argument about not considering the total impact of all the approved developments rather than considering them separately. She, rather beautifully, described the problem of Southern California, everyone wanted to move here. Many cities in the Midwest stayed the same size, while Midwestern children moved to Southern California. It was the duty of government to plan for growth, and that meant more density, unless there was to be more habitat killing sprawl. But she continued, the total impact of all development needed to be addressed, the city should have a plan to address the total impact. At this point, an obviously aggrieved Abed interrupted Diaz, referring to what the agenda issue was. Diaz tried to continue her argument. Abed said she was interrupting him. She said he was interrupting her. He said she was out of order. She said he was obstructing her right to speak. She said she would not press the issue, but begged the city to take more ownership of the problem. And the development was approved.
And again, Abed has demonstrated his total lack of tolerance for dissenting opinions. Abed is quite content to let Councilman Ed Gallo take what seems like hours in his reminiscences, but no tolerance for Diaz’s vital questions about what the city is doing to coordinate and plan for all the developments it approves.