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Monday, Sep 26, 2022
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GROWTH—Fate of Escondido Development in Hands of Voters



Slow-Growth Initiative to Affect November Ballot

ESCONDIDO , This November, residents of one North County city will determine future growth in the city for the first time ever. In addition to voting for a new president and statewide initiatives, voters in Escondido will decide the fate of development projects that could increase housing density in residential areas, or would require rezoning residential land for commercial or industrial use. Sixty percent of Escondido voters approved a slow-growth initiative in 1998. At the time, supporters of Proposition S said the residents of Escondido should decide the amount of development in the city. The resulting initiative will add seven residential development projects to the ballot this year. Among them is a request by Edward Malone to increase the number of homes on 310 acres from 250 to 380 and another request by Thomas Tomlinson to rezone 5.3 acres from residential to commercial. Public voting on general plan amendments will not change the day-to-day operations of the city’s Planning Commission, said Chuck Grimm, city director of planning and building. But it could alter developers’ willingness to court Escondido, some developers said.Chuck Corum, assistant vice president of residential home builder Pardee Homes, said businesses might be hesitant to relocate to Escondido because of the restrictive housing regulations resulting from the proposition. So far, at least one company proved development in the city was possible.


Approved Project Fits General Plan Guidelines

New Urban West, a Santa Monica-based development firm, received approval from the City Council last month to build a 222-home project on 131 acres. The project fit the city’s general plan. Tom Zanic, vice president of New Urban West, said there is only one way his company can do more business in Escondido. “It’s our intent to do development in Escondido that will be within the general plan and not trigger a Proposition S vote,” he said. The Building Industry Association of San Diego County opposes the law, saying it could potentially raise land prices in adjoining communities and could ultimately create a housing shortage in North County. “Our population is increasing, our job growth is booming and with that comes inevitable growth,” said Donna Morafcik, BIA spokeswoman. “So the regional planners and the politicians, the environmentalists and the NIMBYs all want smart growth: Let’s all build up instead of building out. Prop. S is a prime example of preventing that from happening.”


Mayor Opposes Election Process

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Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler believes the process removes one of the most important mayoral duties; protecting the general plan. Pfeiler was elected in 1998 despite her staunch opposition to Proposition S, as were most of her colleagues. “I believe I was elected to do a job and that’s to review (development plans) and make sure we do a good job reviewing our general plan,” she said. “That’s why you elect a city council.” Escondido’s general plan was developed in 1990 to evolve with the city’s needs, Pfeiler said. That plan provided the flexibility to amend residentially zoned property for business uses. Pfeiler vowed to continue voicing her input on development projects regardless of who has the final say. “I’m not going to quit doing my job, but the community has taken the last step into their own hands,” she said.

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