By Tommy Hough
If you're a resident of San Diego County, you've likely heard about Measure A at this point, in part because of non-stop TV ads trumpeting the benefits the ballot measure will allegedly have for the city of Carlsbad. While the TV ads are airing throughout the San Diego television market, from Camp Pendleton to Otay Mesa to Borrego Springs, it's a Carlsbad-only ballot measure, and it's up for a vote in the city of Carlsbad on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Mail ballots go out Monday, Jan. 25.
So far the developer behind the measure has spent upwards of $7 million to undertake the massive media and public relations campaign to ensure Measure A's passage, including the TV spots espousing the virtues of open space with an appeal to vote yes on A. But the ads go into zero detail about the massive new shopping mall that would be built alongside that open space, the increased crowding of the strawberry fields, and the resulting traffic and effect on real estate prices in neighborhoods with increased, Disneyland-style traffic.
The problem is Measure A is disguised as a ballot measure intent on protecting open space. It's not. It's about building another mall in North County.
The mall would be located on Cannon Road just east of I-5 on a hill overlooking the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, a tidal body of water and one of the last lagoons and natural wetlands remaining in San Diego County. There's a myriad of reasons as to why protecting lagoons, estuaries, wetlands and the land around them is good for our region's overall environmental health and water quality, as well as beneficial aspects of open space for wildlife in terms of habitat and room to roam – and humans in terms of a place to relax, decompress and enjoy a few minutes in a placid natural setting.
Measure A says it's about protecting the open space and tidal wetlands of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, but who ever heard of an open space proposal that was incumbent upon building a giant shopping mall alongside it? It's almost as ridiculous as the tone-deaf suggestion successfully used by a Dallas-based big game hunting club, which argued that endangered black rhinos can be preserved by bidding on the chance to track and murder an endangered black rhino. In the season of reason-free GOP standard bearers like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in which anything goes, the Measure A proposal is another ridiculous proposition dressed in pseudo-rationality.
Even if the mall takes up a small portion of the Agua Hedionda open space, it's still dividing and conquering what is already 100 percent open space – and what should remain open space. In addition, the plan put forward by the developer is avoiding California environmental law by going through a ballot measure process, and the "open space" the measure claims to save was already set aside as open space by Carlsbad voters in a ballot measure in 2002. So Carlsbad voters are essentially being invited to preserve the same land twice, and still get stuck with a new mall and traffic – with taxpayers forced to pay $500,000 to have this one single issue on a special February election ballot, instead of waiting for required statewide primary and general election ballots in June and November.
A number of these concerns were addressed this past Thursday evening at the San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action-hosted Carlsbad Community Forum on Measure A, featuring a panel of impressive area guests, including attorney Kevin Johnson, professional surfer and environmental activist Cori Schumacher and speaker Bridget Larsen Wright of Citizens for North County, who discussed how:
If you live in Carlsbad and are registered to vote there, please talk with your neighbors, friends and family about Measure A. Consider the real value of the plan to the people of Carlsbad, the effect on traffic, the effect on the rolling hills, open space and strawberry fields which make Carlsbad such a desirable, scenic locale in coastal North County. Is this mall really what's needed to enhance the quality of life of Carlsbad? Is the city's economy really going to rise or fall on the construction of this mall?
In addition, as was detailed on Thursday at the forum at the Carlsbad City Library, this is a situation in which a developer has been granted "back door" privileges and access to city officials throughout the process, in which city officials themselves have been relegated to a "ministerial" role in the development, and which the city of Carlsbad's former planning director, former city attorney and former planning commission chair have all gone on the record to criticize.
A vote among SDCDEA members is in the works, but I would urge Carlsbad voters to vote no on this project.
If a reasonable doubt is what separates a person's innocence or guilt in a court of law, then the same principle can be applied here. Measure A is no longer a discussion about whether or not the plan can be improved upon with a tweak here or a compromise there. It's about whether or not the measure itself, which is on-line at the city of Carlsbad's website for all to see, should be passed by Carlsbad voters.
If there are components about the measure you like, but other components you may have doubts about or are not sure of – then vote NO on Measure A and send it back to the drawing board, this time with greater public participation, more sunlight, and more accountability for those who have been disingenuously selling a mall proposal as a means to protect open space in order to further economic ends.
The blog component of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action is edited by club president Tommy Hough, and welcomes content from SDCDEA members, guests and leadership.