A 50-plus-year resident says now's the time for him to sit on the Encinitas City Council.
Tony Brandenburg, who unsuccessfully ran in the November 2016 council election, is aiming to unseat Joe Mosca, who was appointed to the city council in early 2017 after Catherine Blakespear was elected to the mayor's position.
Brandenburg and Mosca are vying for one, four-year term in the newly created District 4, which represents Olivenhain and New Encinitas and is one of two districts up for grabs this year.
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.
Brandenburg has served as President of the Encinitas Facilities Foundation, the Olivenhain Town Council and the San Diego County Judges Association, as well as the Secretary for the Palomar College Foundation and Vice Chair of the Encinitas Planning Commission.
In a recent interview, Brandenburg, a retired judge, has said his time in the city and his resume qualify him for a place on the council. He also spoke about his candidacy and which issues he believes are the most important in the city.
This Q&A is the third 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.
Q: You've said at past candidate forums that you're against Measure U. What is your plan for the city to tackle its housing problem?
A: I opposed Prop T, and I'm opposed to Measure U. I want to back up and say, to my knowledge, no judge has ever overturned a vote of the people. There was one exception, and that was gay marriage. I, of course, supported the Supreme Court overturning that. If people want to get married, I don't care who they want to marry. I've met Judge Frasier when I was on the bench, and I can't speak for him. In my opinion, there are alternatives to Measure U. People have asked about granny flats. Those can count against the housing measure, and there are literally a couple of thousand in Encinitas. I just know there are. The problem is, in spite of what my opponent says, the building department makes it so difficult. The state has just passed legislation that says they have to ease up on the regulations for granny flats. That's good.
Number two, we could pass a measure in this city to encourage granny flats. This isn't my idea, but it's a good one. We could encourage people to build granny flats by actually financing them, and they would pay us back with the rent they charge. At the end of 15 years or whatever it might be, the granny flat would be paid for, there would be someone living in it, it would fulfill the needs of the housing element and the party would own it.
The other thing with this is, L-7 got taken off the map by my opponent. L-7 is a lot that the city owns, that's been vacant for 20 years, and a couple of people who were very vocal wanted it off the map because it was too close to their expensive houses. Houses are always expensive in Encinitas. Who's kidding. San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and even, to my knowledge, Solana Beach are talking about building city-owned, low-cost housing. Why can't Encinitas do that? They had a lot right there, L-7, but they took it off the map because of a few vocal landowners. They put Olivenhain on the map. I'm not opposed to Olivenhain in terms of we have to do our fair share, but you have to remember that the people in Olivenhain, like the people in Cardiff, Leucadia, etc., moved there for a reason. We wanted a rural atmosphere. We wanted places where we could raise horses. With low-cost housing, it's supposed to reduce carbon footprint because they're supposed to be built close to transportation centers and close to shopping. In the middle of Olivenhain, there's nothing. There are other things that can be done. All the state wants is low-cost housing. We can do that if we use our heads and don't bring in this measure with density bonus, 30-units plus, Prop A gets thrown out the window. I couldn't support this measure in 100 years.
I didn't support Prop T, and I got penalized for it by the city council when they went to appoint Joe. It was a joke. The guy had been here, what, two years? I have an institutional history. I've been here 50 years. [Joe has] flip-flopped on issues in Sierra Madre and flip-flopped on issues here, like the Streetscape. It's gotta have some modifications. Either you support it or you don't. My opponent voted for Streetscape. Now he's backtracking, saying it needs this or that in terms of modifications. None of that was ever pointed out. I've got an issue there. I don't support Streetscape, period. It's a giveaway to a private group, essentially, and it benefits very few.
Win or lose, I want to expose what this is. This council is working for a handful of people. $20-million given to the Leucadia Street Foundation, whatever it is... a private company. Here's the joke. All these people ran on 'preserve and protect Encinitas.' And now, what are they doing with Measure U? What are they doing with Streetscape? They're changing things. Encinitas has seen enough change. I don't want to be L.A. I don't want to be Laguna Beach. I want Encinitas to be a comfortable, little beach town. Throwing Prop A out the window? Come on.
Q: How have you seen Encinitas change in your 50 years here?
A: When I was a kid, there was no life beyond Balour. I graduated from Palomar. I know Encinitas. When I moved to Olivenhain, I think there were 16, maybe 25 houses. I bought my first acre-and-a-half in Olivenhain for $5,000. I know this town, and the people of this town know me. I could go on and on. I've worked on committees that put the old schoolhouse where it is now. That was another fiasco. $20-million for [Pacific View] and then we get the Beacon's $40-million or $80-million and get a grant for the other $40-million? And they rent out a $10-million piece of property that was worth $3-million for a dollar a year. You know what's happening now? Get up in the morning and look at the homeless that live there. We could have built a great parking structure because of the crowded conditions downtown.
Number two, it could make a great little park. There are a dozen things you could have done with it. You could build senior housing. But to turn it over to somebody for $1 a year after $10-million that hasn't been paid yet — and it was valued between $3-million and $5-million — that's unnecessary. There is no balance on our city council whatsoever. There's a group that sways one way, and they want to keep it that way. They're trying to bump out Mark Muir now. They want him out because he's the odd man out at this point. This guy Joe is a joke. But who am I to bump the ride. I had no intention of running for city council. I have a great pension. I'm retired. I do work four or five days a month on my consulting business. I don't need this. My ego's not at stake here. I left my ego at the door 20 years ago when I got beat up in a courtroom for the 150th time. They're getting the truth from me. I've got nothing to lose and nothing really to gain except to protect the city that I've dedicated my life to. That's what I want to do. This is our city. It doesn't belong to the city council. It doesn't belong to Joe Mosca. It doesn't belong to the mayor. It belongs to us, and we should have a say. They've lost track of that, and that's the unfortunate part. That's really the reason I'm running.
If you look back at the record, I didn't even sign up for this thing until five, six days maybe before the nominations closed. I was amazed that this kid — who doesn't know anything about Encinitas — was running unopposed. There were some people that talked me into this. I want to travel all over the world and I want to do it again. I think the city needs balance, and I'm the person who can balance it. When you talk about experience and negotiations, I have 30 years of experience. [Joe] can't match my resume. He talks about all this stuff he's done but all of that was done before he moved to town. Look at that Sierra Madre record. No one wants to seem to want to talk about it. When the mayor takes away your committee assignments, when you cross people and they call you Traitor Joe, I'm uncomfortable with all that.
The other key thing you have to know here is I have no political aspirations. I wouldn't spend 10 cents more running for any other office. I give you my word as a gentleman. It's bizarre. If he was running opposed with a decent candidate, I would have never thrown my hat into this.
Q: What are your top three priorities for Encinitas?
A: Obviously, my top priorities are Measure U, Streetscape and traffic. Traffic is a killer. For Rancho Santa Fe Road, in particular, which is in my district, if you're coming from Rancho Santa Fe up Encinitas Boulevard. If you want to mitigate the traffic, number one, don't allow right turns. Make them go all the way up to the freeway or to El Camino Real. That will decrease the traffic tremendously.
Number two, one of the problems we have all over Olivenhain is no enforcement. I'd love to blame the sheriff, but I can't. It's not the sheriff's fault. There are just not enough deputies to go around to this city that's growing rapidly, and the traffic that's growing rapidly. What we do is instead of spending $20-million on Streetscape or $80-million on Beacons, we hire two community service officers (CSO) and give them arrest powers. They can issue tickets [now]. And we issue tickets for bikers. They run those stop signs in Olivenhain. I swear I've almost been hit 10 times walking on that road. It's insane, and there's no enforcement. As much as I love biking, they come through on the weekends, and people use that strip for their weekend exercise in droves. They don't stop at stop signs, and the law says they should. Nobody enforces it. Two CSOs. You issue $350 running stop signs tickets, and I tell you, people are going to start paying attention.
The other thing is by Calle [Santa] Catalina, they need a roundabout down there. I'm not a big roundabout fan but a roundabout down there would help because people cannot get out of their driveways. That's where they pick up speed. The other thing is, we need new thinking for old problems. Start looking at some of the European solutions. They have pop-up stop signs. You can put pop-up speed limits that work during certain times of the day. Why can't we do some of that on Rancho Santa Fe Road?
Q: How would you balance the needs for your district as well as Encinitas as a whole?
A: That's a question a lot of people have asked. I think the key benefit is that, you as a district representative can bring specific issues to the council that the council as a whole might overlook. The council as a whole will get a chance to see that and vote on that. I think that's one of the beauties of this. You can bring the special issues of the district to the whole council. I don't think you should overlook the city as a whole, which has its own issues. For instance, Measure U. You know my response there. That doesn't just affect Olivenhain; that affects our whole city. For instance, Beacon's. Spending $80-million on that? That affects the whole city. The money comes out of the city treasury. For instance, Streetscape. That affects the whole city. I think what [districts] does is balance the interests of the specific neighborhoods with the entire council getting to see those issues they might otherwise perhaps overlook.
Q: What other issues are important to you?
A: Regarding marijuana, I would like to see the city have a limited amount of dispensaries. My number would be four. I'd like to see those dispensaries located in industrial or commercial areas away from schools and churches. I don't see anything wrong with that in that you have to remember, statistically, 65 percent of Encinitas voters voted in favor of recreational marijuana. Now, I'm not a user. But I would say that if 65 percent voted for it, we should have it with a limit of four dispensaries. This is a small town. Those should be taxed, and the tax money should go toward supporting a youth program or perhaps the homeless or even a senior program, something along those lines that would be helping people. That's number one.
As far as delivery goes, I don't see how you could stop delivery. What are we going to have, the delivery police? I have no problem with delivery. The issues I have with marijuana are the manufacturing and the growing. This is a small town. We don't need that. I don't think we should have it. If we were a larger city, then it would be fine. Other people could argue that we could do it in the flower fields but, to my knowledge, there's really only one flower field left in Encinitas.
Something else that disturbs me in regards to Streetscape is years went by and the whole thing was 'Keep Leucadia funky.' Leucadia is a unique community. It has its own beauty and its own charm. All of the people that are on the city council, that I know of, ran on 'Keep and maintain community character.' Streetscape will just totally decimate the whole concept of what Leucadia is about and has been about. There's a contradiction there. I have a problem with that.
Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses?
A: I'm not going to play games here. The old game of describing your strengths and weaknesses is saying one of my weaknesses is I work too hard. Those are jokes. My strength is that I have an institutional memory and an institutional past. I know this city. My strength is that I have experience. The mediation, the understanding of our city, the way to work with the courts, the way to work with the county. I've done all that. I've done it for years, and I know what I'm doing most of the time. I bring a lot of knowledge and experience that the council doesn't have. I'll also bring balance and I also have no further political interests. My weakness is I tell the truth. I'm not trying to be funny here. I just tell it like it is. I'm a little too passionate and I tell things the way they are. No B.S.