A newcomer to Encinitas is looking to unseat the city's mayor to help develop plans that are "for the people" and make the area more affordable for future generations who want to move there.
John Paul Elliott, who moved back to Leucadia in July after previously living in Encinitas in the 1980s, is the lone opponent running against Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who is vying for her second term.
Elliott, 71, says his top priority is making the city friendlier for residents, rather than for developers. He believes his 40 years of experience as a real estate broker could help the city achieve a plan that would include housing owned by the city and rented out at affordable prices.
He recently spoke about his candidacy and why he believes he should be the city's next mayor.
This Q&A is the first of three in an ongoing series with candidates who are challenging incumbents for seats on the Encinitas City Council. The Encinitas Advocate published stories about the incumbents when they announced their candidacies over the summer.
This interview has been shortened for length.
Q: What attracted you to the mayor's position? Why did you decide to run?
A: I actually just became a grandfather. I got here, and my grandson was born on June 1. I suddenly realized, 'Where's he going to live as time goes on?' That's really what sort of inspired me. I saw there were some problems here that needed to be solved. ... I moved in across from Beacon's Beach. When I got here in July, there were locals that were putting up fliers about what their plans were to change Beacon's. The combination of seeing what they were trying to do to this iconic surf location and then my grandson, I realized I needed to do something. ... I was just going to run for a councilman [position] but Tony Kranz's office isn't up for another two years and the only office that was open was mayor. I thought, 'Why shouldn't I be mayor? My god, I'm talking about the whole community, not just one district.'
Q: What experience do you bring to the table for this position?
A: I have 40 years of experience as a realtor. In my past, I was a first lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers. I've always been a leader. ... I think there's a real disconnect with what's going on with most of the council, and especially the mayor, with what the people want. ... I feel really driven to be somebody that can help, and I've got the expertise to do it. I recently went to a council meeting where they were talking about real estate transactions. That's what I did for 40 years, and I worked in 37 states. I've never been sued. That's the kind of experience the city would probably enjoy. It's not coming from a developers' friendship.
Q: What are your ideas for future development in the city?
A: We should never sell any property we have. We can lease it out, but we should never sell it. ... What I want to do — and this can be done — is set up community villages. We would cut out the developer. ... Why don't we make all the housing affordable? Everything is going to be community villages built by us and for us, and we're going to rent them out. People are going to be able to get a two-bedroom, one-bath condo for $1,100 a month if they live here and want to work here. That plan would be so successful, and they would be great little places. Their rents could never go up because it's owned by the city. The city, with 1,500 units, would make $20-million every year, forever. ... I'm looking long-term, the current city council is only thinking short-term.
Q: Would your plan meet the new state law that 50 percent of new development must be on vacant land?
A: I've sold in 37 states as a real estate broker. I'm very experienced. ... These cities are too locked into, 'Oh, we have to do what we're told.' No. They're being told a bad law by people who don't give a damn about us and are trying to overdevelop everything so they can get all their money. ... If we can pull this off — and we can if I’m the mayor — we can get out of this little legal box and say, 'Hey, we have a better plan.' I bet we can get funds because we're doing more than anybody.
Q: What are your thoughts on Measure U, the city’s latest attempt at a state-mandated housing element?
A: I'm absolutely against it. They've got nine ways to Sunday not to build anything that anyone can afford. That means it's better for the developers, not for the people. I would say no to that. We should get real and take care of the people that are our core.
Q: What are your thoughts about the Leucadia Streetscape?
A: It's ridiculous. If I become mayor, I'm going to look at it and say, 'Hey, maybe we can use a roundabout here' but I think we should really think about putting in more stop signs with the lights on them that flash and maybe little gentle speed bumps. There can also be crosswalks with flags on each side so people will have the tendency to drive slower. We don't need people driving faster through our town. We don't need to spend $36-million on this. I'd rather spend that money on housing that would pay us back versus something that would be a debt.
Q: What other priorities and ideas do you have?
A: I'm going to allow all the city employees to bring their pets to work. Let's have some love in this city. It would make your quality of work better. That's the kind of mentality I have. How do we increase the consciousness of love and take care of our people first? ... I also love social media, and I want to be able to have a body camera on me, so when I'm talking to people or someone's trying to win me over with some idea, I'm going to be asking, 'How is this good for the community?' and it will be on videotape. If they don't want to be videotaped, then obviously what they're talking about is not good for the community.
For more information, visit www.johnpaulelliott.org.