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Opinion/Letters to the Editor December 2021/January 2022

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Dec. 2 issue:

Message to Solana Beach residents

As a group of Solana Beach residents, we have recently started observing and tracking the City Council’s agenda topics and decisions being made. It has come as a complete surprise that some of the decisions that are being made are made with minimal to no residents’ feedback or in some cases residents aren’t even aware of the topics and the final decisions being made. Ordinances are being changed that could impact many residents and the only speakers to date have been special interest groups, lawyers or others that do not reside nor have businesses in the area.

As seen in the article distributed in the Solana Beach/Del Mar Times on Nov. 18, “Solana Beach approves greener standards for new construction and remodels”, ordinances are being modified by our council members, we question as residents and business owners are your voices being heard. Posting of agenda items on the website 72 hours in advance of the topic does not seem to be working to draw awareness in our community. But now we see this topic will be finalized on Dec. 8. Please reach out to your council member to understand the impact and key decisions that are being made and ensure your voice is being heard.

Respectfully,

Pauline Cira

Solana Beach

Dec. 9 issue:

Plan must be made to move the tracks now

The clock now ticks down to the end of the calendar year when NCTD and SANDAG will make their determination of how to move forward. If the Surface Transportation Board decides to cut local government and environmental controls out, this will be a devastating outcome.

Man against nature! For 27 years I have observed the ongoing attempts by SANDAG and NCTD to hold back the slow erosion of the Del Mar bluff. It has, of course, been unsuccessful and what is more, it has been ruinous to the natural environment and ecology of this bluff. Each time another “stop gap” repair is made, I have witnessed the killing of massive amounts of natural vegetation.

This displaced vegetation is further weakening the bluff, assuring that its decay will only accelerate, the longer this work continues. Now, SANDAG has built an extra-wide roadway (to handle enormous earth- moving vehicles), west of the tracks along the bluff’s edge, which becomes mud with each rainfall and clearly is a direct threat to landslide along this entire fragile pathway. In all the years that SANDAG has been working on this bluff, there has never been proper remediation done after this vegetation is destroyed. The collapses keep coming, with greater frequency, more massive slides, slowly decaying, washing into the sea.

Please, take a stand, and demand a true Environmental Impact Report before any further work is conducted upon this fragile, decaying bluff. We, the concerned citizens of Del Mar (and from around the world), have offered our insights about the questionable science behind SANDAG’s plans to fortify this bluff. We have submitted to the California Coastal Commission, as well as our Del Mar City Council members (and all politically-appointed/elected officials who can potentially have an impact upon this issue), a 62-page science report which asks many essential questions about these planned actions. We believe that these questions must be answered before any final determinations are made upon this bluff. You can find this science report as well as our petition to the California Coastal Commission at this link: delmarbluff.com

Please, defend this one last hike along a natural bluff in North County San Diego. When it is gone, there will no longer be anywhere that you can walk along the majestic Pacific Ocean in Southern California and admire the natural beauty of its plants and animals along the bluff. Is this what we are going to give to our offspring? Is this yet another way we ignore man’s devious determination to fortify a freight line at the expense of the natural world? Please, take a stand and stop this destruction now. We must make a plan to move the tracks now!

Drew Cady

Del Mar resident for 27 years

Dec. 16 issue:

Guest commentary:

Solana Beach council supports creation of middle-income housing with Ordinance 521

BY SOLANA BEACH MAYOR LESA HEEBNER

On Dec. 8, the Solana Beach City Council implemented State Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) with their adoption of Ordinance 521, creating opportunities to build middle-income housing.

SB 9 allows owners to split their single-family lots and build up to two houses on each lot without Council or public review. This implementing ordinance complies with SB 9 and takes into consideration the circumstances of our City—that we are a high land value City entirely in the Coastal Zone—and honors the community priorities I have heard from the majority of our residents.

Ordinance 521 allows two 825-square-foot units up to 16 feet in height on each lot, and requires one parking space per unit. These are objective standards as required by SB 9. As mandated, SB 9 applies only to single-family residential zones, not zones that allow multi-family units.

Requiring at least one parking space per unit is essential in our coastal city. The California Coastal Act prioritizes and legally requires visitor access to the beach. Providing off-street parking leaves more parking available for visitors to access our beaches, ensuring equity, inclusion and compliance with the Coastal Act.

A few residents criticized Ordinance 521 contending that it would prevent “middle-income” individuals from living here, and that could be achieved if we allowed for larger units. This is illogical.

Would larger, taller houses without any parking be more likely to produce homes for “middle-income” households? No! As defined by the State, moderate income homes must sell for between $338,000 and $521,250, or rent for between $1,815 and $2,796 per month. Our only hope to realize housing for these households as a result of SB9 is to adopt the square footage as mentioned in SB 9 of “at least 800 square feet. This smaller size is more likely to result in a lower price tag.

Given SB 9 up-zoned every single-family lot in the State, achieving middle-income housing actually became more difficult. When a property is up-zoned—which means density is increased—the value of that lot is increased. The resulting units will be that much more expensive. Hence, the statement that dense housing lowers prices is unsupportable. If that were so, why is New York City real estate so expensive?

In fact, we have a current example in Solana Beach. A duplex was purchased for $2 million. Once the owners gained Council approval to build a fourplex, they obtained a $5.9 million loan, demonstrating that increased density increases land value. The resulting four units will sell for over $2 million each. Density does not equal moderated prices!

And let’s not overlook that Solana Beach is already the densest coastal City in North County, possibly the entire County. According to the County Assessor, we have 3,411 multi-family units and 2,981 single-family units, or 53% multi-family. Compare that to Encinitas which, according to SANDAG, is 19% multi-family. Yet our housing prices are generally higher than those in Encinitas. Density has nothing to do with moderating prices.

Detractors of Ordinance 521 also cited the need for Solana Beach to satisfy our Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) numbers. We can agree on that! Yet 73% of those units must be low to moderate income units, the hardest to achieve in Solana Beach. We’ve complied with RHNA requirements and zoned for all units near transit and along commercial corridors.

As we know, cities do not build housing. Developers do. Since housing for low- and middle-income households is a priority for our Council, we enacted an Inclusionary policy requiring developers to set aside 15% as affordable. We eliminated the “in-lieu” fee so developers must now build those units. Council has approved every affordable unit that has come before us. And we have multiple programs in our Housing Element to encourage development of more. Additionally, now that we can include Accessory Dwelling units (ADUs) in our RHNA numbers, those being built by homeowners will count toward the “moderate” or “low” income categories. I look forward to the State addressing the much-needed subsidy dollars in order to see more affordable homes built.

Besides ADUs, Solana Beach has some older naturally affordable units which provide homes for low- and moderate-income residents. While not counted toward RHNA, we need help to keep these units naturally affordable and not vulnerable to gentrification. Gentrification raises prices and leads to displacement of valued community members. Unfortunately, I fear the policies for SB9 advocated by those who want larger SB 9 homes will spur this gentrification by speculative buyers. And unfortunately, SB 9 does not provide realistic protection from speculation.

In fact, speculators are already looking for houses to redevelop with over-the-counter permits as SB9 allows, and they won’t be building low to moderate income units. They’ll sell or rent for the highest amount possible. These speculators, often private equity firms, outbid families who want to live here. Where is the evidence that these speculators have any interest in promoting the social good by making housing more affordable? Ordinance 521 allows us to comply with SB9 and create the best opportunity to provide moderately-priced homes at 825 square feet.

Residents who wish to split and redevelop their properties to build larger homes can still do so by going through the established process in Solana Beach. Additionally, properties can already add an ADU up to 1,000 square feet and a Junior ADU up to 500 square feet.

In the many conversations I’ve had with residents about housing, they tell me they want to see more moderately-priced homes, and have some say in what happens next door, down the street and in their community at large. Having a say. This is the fundamental principle of community and the basic tenet of democracy: to have a voice. While SB 9 takes that away from us, with Ordinance 521, at least we may realize some social good in the form of more moderately-priced homes.

Advocating for larger homes in Ordinance 521 when we all agree we need more moderately-priced homes in Solana Beach is illogical. To those who criticized Ordinance 521, while I hear you, I disagree with your arguments. Larger homes have no reasonable expectation of being affordable, will lead to speculators outbidding deserving families, and exacerbating our affordability problem. I, along with the vast majority of residents, support Ordinance 521.

Reasons why I support City of Solana Beach Ordinance 521

I support Ordinance 521 by the City of Solana Beach (“City”) which the City Council adopted on Dec. 8, 2021.

I strongly support providing more affordable housing. However, recently enacted California Senate Bill 9 (“SB9”) doesn’t address affordability at all. All it does is cram more density into our existing neighborhoods and reward developers.

SB9 is based on the fable that if more housing (density) is built that it will magically become cheaper. But this is absolutely false. Real estate is not the same as widgets. If you build more widgets they generally get less expensive. But, where real estate is involved, the more units that can be built on a piece of real estate, the more valuable it becomes. Just look at cities with large densities as evidence of this fact. NYC, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Vancouver, are just some examples of where there is lot of density but housing is super expensive.

So, the challenge for Solana Beach is how to maintain the essence of its community, yet still comply with the mandates of SB9 coming out of Sacramento. Ordinance 521 does exactly that in a very practical way. It is attempting to maintain our small beach town character without crowding out our neighborhoods with overwhelming buildings, lines of cars parked on our streets, and choking density.

Plus, it is a real effort, not a pretend one, to make what is built under the requirements of SB9 more affordable. The bigger the house the more expensive it is to build, and ultimately to buy or rent. A modest-sized home is far more affordable than a larger one. It’s just simple common sense. So, if the goal is really to make housing more affordable, it has to be more modest in size. You can’t build larger homes and expect them to be affordable.

Consequently, size limitations like the ones in Ordinance 521 are essential. Otherwise, developers will buy up our real estate and then maximize the size of the new units they can build to make as much money as possible. And, Solana Beach will not end up with any more affordable housing, just more over-crowded and expensive housing.

Tracy Richmond

Solana Beach

Dec. 30 issue:

Don’t trash our beautiful trails

On Dec. 18, the 9th Annual San Diego Holiday Half Marathon was held in Carmel Valley. Five days later, I rode my bike along the 56 bike path and Marvin Gerst trail and the amount of trash left behind was absolutely abhorrent. I picked up 47 empty GU energy wrappers that were left behind by racers and not cleaned up by the race organizers -- and this is five days after the race!

There were also empty water bottles, plastic bottle caps, and other trash that isn’t normally on the trail. I ride the trail several days a week and it was sad to see so much trash left behind. I can’t understand why people think it’s OK to just throw trash down in a public green space just because they’re part of an organized event. GU wrappers are non-biodegradable and I’m sure even more were eaten by animals due to their sugary content. The runners should take responsibility for their trash - carrying an empty wrapper isn’t going to slow you down and no one is qualifying for the Olympics!

The race organizers, USA Endurance Events, should have cleaned the entire trail and practiced “leave no trace” instead of allowing so much trash to be left behind. Are we just supposed to pick up the remaining trash for them? There’s no reason they couldn’t have had someone walk the course and ensure it was clean. Don’t trash our beautiful trails or find a new location for your trashy race!

Kerry Millar

Carmel Valley

Guest commentaries:

Street racing and ‘Sideshows’ endanger the public

By City Attorney Mara W. Elliott

Street racing has been around for decades, but a dangerous new variation is tearing up our city streets and putting lives in danger. Called “sideshows” or “takeovers,” they are gatherings where people show off their cars while performing perilous stunts that threaten the safety of our communities.

My office has established a special task force to prosecute these drivers with the goal of protecting public property and keeping our community members safe from harm.

Typically, these gatherings involve dozens of vehicles and sometimes hundreds of spectators. Meet-ups usually occur at night, in parking lots, cul-de-sacs, roads, and even freeways throughout the county. The spinning, speeding cars often careen close to spectators. Bystanders have been struck and even killed in San Diego County.

This newest trend originated in Oakland in the 2010s, and has since spread across the country, fueled by pandemic boredom and videos posted on social media. The drivers are usually men between the ages of 18 and 25, and the cars are typically modified for street racing so that they are faster, noisier, and spew more exhaust.

The San Diego Police Department’s ABLE (Airborne Law Enforcement) helicopter plays a crucial role in spotting these events from the air and tracking vehicles until they can be safely pulled over by patrol officers.

Our office prosecutes street racers for reckless driving, exhibition of speed, and other misdemeanors stemming from street racing to high-risk stunt driving.

Other crimes often go hand-in-hand with these activities. Law enforcement has noted a correlation between street racing and possession of illegal drugs and “ghost guns” – firearms without serial numbers that cannot be traced –across the country.

Our task force is handling more than 30 street racing cases where the defendants have allegedly:

• Taken turns doing “donuts” (speeding rapidly in circles), sometimes with passengers hanging out the windows, in the center of a crowd of bystanders.

• Performed “burnouts” (keeping their cars at a standstill while the tires spin, burning rubber) and other dangerous stunts on crowded streets and in residential neighborhoods.

• Slid out of control, endangering spectators and causing them to scramble to safety.

• Slowed down on the freeway, side by side, then took off at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour.

• Tried to evade police, either by speeding away or by abandoning their cars and running off on foot.

• Modified their cars to make the engines louder and the exhaust fumes smokier.

• Outfitted their cars with high-traction racing tires, or driven with tires worn down to the metal threads as a result of skidding across the pavement.

• Lost control and run into a parked car or a freeway divider.

• Driven without a valid driver license, insurance, or auto registration.

• Driven with open containers of alcohol in the car, despite being underage.

• Driven with a loaded concealed gun in the car.

Our office has received dozens of complaints about this concerning conduct. We will continue to take this safety hazard seriously by working closely with our law enforcement partners to send a strong message that this conduct will not be tolerated in the City of San Diego.

Your most important New Year’s resolution: Plan ahead

By Douglas Friedman

New Year’s resolutions are nothing new. Most of us grew up making New Year’s resolutions, from committing to the gym to personal, work or financial goals.

For families and individuals facing an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in the early stages, no resolution could be more important than planning ahead.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease for which there is no known cure. In the late stages, people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia are unable to make sound financial and personal care decisions. The most responsible thing that relatives, or in the absence of family close friends can do, is to work with their loved one to plan for a future they would want. A plan that allows them to retain their dignity, preserve assets, continue enjoying their hobbies and passions, while at the same time easing the burden on family caregivers who will be tasked with managing their care.

Here are some things that should be considered by people in the early stage of dementia and their loved ones:

Finances: Organize your documents, and take an inventory of all your assets and debts. Identify family members that should be included in your financial plans, including who will help with routine financial responsibilities like paying bills. Talk to a financial planner or CPA.

Living arrangements: Consider the wishes of the person with Alzheimer’s. Identify the costs of care. Consider the costs you may incur now and in the future. Look into home safety modifications and make arrangements related to prescriptions, personal care items and in-home care options including Meals on Wheels and others.

Building a care team: Family, friends, neighbors, professionals and your community are all part of your care team. Start building your team by identifying a decision-maker you trust. Consider what help may be needed now, and in the future.

Consider a clinical trial: The Alzheimer’s Association’s TrialMatch connects individuals living with Alzheimer’s, caregivers and healthy volunteers to clinical trials that may advance Alzheimer’s research. TrialMatch (alz.org/trialmatch) allows users to search for studies without creating an account, choose whether to receive email notifications of new opportunities, and directly contact research teams.

Perhaps the most important resolution you can make, if you are noticing your cognitive abilities starting to fail, or those of a close friend or family member, is to talk to your primary care provider about testing for Alzheimer’s. Early diagnosis is key, allowing the most time for lifestyle enhancement techniques and financial decisions to preserve assets. Don’t wait until it’s too late to make sound life-altering decisions. Plan ahead. The time is now.

For any questions or concerns about Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 or go to alz.org.

— Douglas Friedman is the director of communications for the Alzheimer’s Association

January 13, 2022

Let’s get back to basics

Re the story “How some San Diego County educators are learning about equity” (interview with Fabiola Bagula), Solana Beach Sun, Jan 6, 2022.

What kind of word salad is “hyperbolic discounting”? Let’s address the real elephants in the room.

First, there is no such thing as “equal”. We all have different gifts, talents, IQs, genes, athletic skills, height, weight, etc. No matter how you might ‘teach me’, I will never be an astrophysicist or Olympic Gold winner.

Not everyone can go to Harvard or be #1 in their class. We can teach respect and non-pre-judgment, but we cannot teach, legislate, or mandate “equality” via social promotion, eliminating objective assessment testing, AP classes or changing school names.

Are we putting too much on our teachers, expecting them to be everything: secondary parents, counselors, disciplinarians, psychologists etc., food service, and, oh, excellent teachers?

A “systemic” problem lies with the Teachers’ Union’s system of “seniority”. A new, but, effective teacher at Balboa Elementary, where many students arrived each day from Mexico,was asked by her principal to go with her to another school. The Union said, “No” due to “seniority”. So, a more “senior” teacher, but not necessarily the ‘best’ teacher took the spot. Seniority is nothing more than “social promotion” at the teacher level, not necessarily “best practices”.

Many public schools tend to teach down to the slower portion of students rather than “teach up” to expectations and challenge all in the name of inflating “graduation rates”. It’s one of the many reasons private, parochial and charter schools are thriving, school choice and vouchers are being demanded by parents. Why is “choice” a third rail for some issues but parents disallowed the right to “choose” what’s best for their kids’ education?

One of our sons is an elementary/middle-school principal in VT where they test for proficiency at each grade and subject level prior to “promotion”.

We need to meet kids (and their parents) where they are, no matter their names, ethnicity or culture. Evaluate each student with objective testing, writing, math and language proficiency. Then place students and design learning programs accordingly. We should not punish smart students by eliminating advanced courses, or lower standards. We should teach, provide counseling and extra remedial help to those who need it when they need it; not later. We should not artificially increase graduation rates by lowering standards, waiving exit exams or social promotion. “40% of public high school graduates fail college entrance” shouts that.

Let’s get back to basics, employ “best practices” with “best practitioners”, stop spending time eliminating school names, avoiding the “real issues” and provide an equally great education opportunity to all. That’s what our kids and parents deserve and choose.

Dave Ferguson (Former member of the San Diego Business Roundtable for Education)

Solana Beach

Jan. 27 issue:

Guest column:

Mediterranean diet is best diet – once again

US News & World Report recently weighed in on the best diets for 2022. The Mediterranean diet topped the scale as the best diet overall in the annual best diet rankings for the fifth consecutive year.

US News also ranked the Mediterranean diet No. 1 in five other categories: best diets for healthy eating, easiest diets to follow, best diets for diabetes, best heart-healthy diets and best plant-based diets.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating less red meat, sugar and saturated fat and incorporating more fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains into your daily diet.

“It’s extremely delicious and easy to follow and get started. It is very sustainable,” says David Felix, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines and a champion of the Mediterranean diet.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

Dr. Felix says he’s not surprised the Mediterranean diet ranked so high in so many categories and considers it a way of life.

“The Mediterranean diet is not a fad,” he says. “People who live in Italy, Spain, and other countries in the Mediterranean region have eaten this way for centuries. It’s just a way of life. I grew up on it. My blood pressure is fantastic.”

Based on Mediterranean-style cooking, this diet focuses on primarily eating plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and seeds. It stresses eating fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week, consuming poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation and limiting sweets and red meat for special occasions. It also gives priority to healthy fats, such as olive oil over butter and using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.

Like other diets, it also emphasizes getting plenty of exercise, especially if the goal is losing weight.

Other proven diets

In addition to the Mediterranean diet, there are many other proven diets to choose from.

The DASH diet and the Flexitarian diet tied for No. 2 in the best diets overall and best diabetes diets categories.

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or high blood pressure. It is often recommended to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It emphasizes eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy foods and limiting salt, sugary drinks, sweets and foods that are high in saturated fat.

The Flexitarian diet is mostly vegetarian, meaning you don’t have to eliminate meat completely. The focus is eating more plants and less meat. This diet also tied for No. 2 in the best plant-based diet and easiest diets to follow categories.

Choose wisely and remember the best diets are those that fit your lifestyle and that you can maintain over the long-term.

Tips for maintaining healthy habits

Diets still take some work. The following are tips to keep you on a healthy path and move the needle on your scale in the right direction:

Drink, then eat

Water can help curb an appetite. People often mistake thirst for hunger and reach for a snack when a glass of water will do.

Move around

If the goal is to lose weight, this requires burning calories through exercise. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise either. Dr. Felix recommends trying a free pedometer app, such as Stepz, and setting a goal of 10,000 steps a day, if possible.

Get a scale and use it

It’s been shown that people can benefit from weighing themselves regularly. The idea is to spot trends and make adjustments as needed.

Slow down

When one eats quickly, one tends to eat more. So, eat mindfully, chewing every bite 15 to 20 times and enjoying the taste, smell and texture of your food. Another way to slow down is to eat with your non-dominant hand. This will definitely slow you down.

Healthy Life is brought to you by the physicians and staff of Scripps. For more information, please visit www.scripps.org/CNP or call (858) 207-4317


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