Encinitas Advocate News

Mark Muir to focus on open space, housing in re-election bid

Mark Muir
Mark Muir Courtesy

If elected to a third term, Encinitas City Council member Mark Muir aims to provide outreach to the community, focus on open space and help the city find a housing plan that maintains the community’s character.

Muir, 62, said preserving the community's beach city character is one of his top priorities. He also plans to continue the same level of service that he has provided to Encinitas residents since he was first elected in 2014 as deputy mayor.

The former Encinitas fire chief is running for the district three seat, which represents Cardiff, for the Nov. 6 election. So far, Planning Commissioner Jody Hubbard has also pulled papers to run for the seat.

The City of Encinitas adopted district-based elections last October, following threats from a Malibu-based lawyer who claimed racial discrimination in the city's former at-large election policy. The mayor's seat remains based on an at-large election.

Muir vows to continue representing the city as a whole and said his core values will remain the same.

"The goals for my next term would be pretty much what my engagement has been," he said. "I want to continue outreach to the community, get their feedback on important issues and maintain more of a beach town feel. We have issues such as the housing element and traffic that impact that feel of any type of beach community."

In order to continue this city feel, Muir said Encinitas must invest in open space, maintain a balanced budget and preserve and upgrade infrastructure as needed.

In his most recent term, Muir noted the city has given the green light to projects that promote open space, including completing the Encinitas Community Park and approving new artificial turf at Leo Mullen Sports Park. He said he is also proud of the city passing its Climate Action Plan and the efforts of the sheriff's and fire departments.

But Encinitas is facing its most pressing challenge that could threaten the city's open space. Muir said the city must find a housing element — a required document that spells out how the city proposes to rework its zoning to accommodate its future housing needs, particularly those of low-income people — that prioritizes the residents, rather than the state. The city’s original plan, which it is still working off of, was created in the 1990s.

Encinitas’ last attempt at a housing element, Measure T, failed in the November 2016 election. Residents are expected to vote on the latest housing element update in November.

However, regulations from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) have further presented challenges to what can be included in the housing element, Muir said. For example, HCD mandates at least 51 percent of sites be on vacant land.

Encinitas must zone for 1,141 more homes, a 6.4 percent increase from the city's existing 25,000 homes. HCD and legal counsel have additionally recommended a buffer of about 450 homes to allow for possible changes.

In April, Muir, along with council members Tony Kranz and Joe Mosca, voted to pull off the highly contested, city-owned "L-7" property that brewed debate amongst residents. The three council members agreed with hundreds of neighbors in the Quail Gardens area that the site was not suitable for housing, even though Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Council member Tasha Boerner Horvath and the state saw it as the city's most viable option for affordable housing.

"Housing and local control of land use should be done by the cities and not by the state," Muir argued. "We wanted to push back a little bit against HCD because we want to drive this thing, not them. I think, at the end of the day, we can certify the housing element based on preliminary discussions about some of the spots we have."

The filing period for the November election closes Aug. 10. Incumbents Mayor Catherine Blakespear and council member Joe Mosca, who represents district four (Olivenhain and New Encinitas), have pulled papers to run for their respective seats. Twenty-one-year-old Zack Gaven Mair and John Paul Elliott, a 71-year-old real estate broker, are also vying for the mayor's seat.

For more information about Muir's campaign, visit www.markmuir.org.

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