A big victory for the “everything is now everybody’s business” crowd today–Encinitas Proposition A passed, pretty much violating the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Proposition A basically required any changes in the City’s General Plan (zoning) to be approved by a public ballot and restricted all buildings to a 30-feet height limit. It was the ultimate expression of “direct democracy” and renders the planning board and City Council useless in one of the most important functions of city government—protecting property rights.
I have three thoughts about this vote:
1- Astoundingly, I think people who identify themselves as “conservative” actually voted for this proposition.
2- This vote was more of a “no-confidence” vote in the Council than a vote against property rights
3- This will have a reach far beyond the borders of Encinitas. People who believe in property rights should be scared.
Conservatives Might Have Voted For Proposition A
I don’t live in Encinitas but I work and play there sometimes. Over the past two months, I was asked to explain this ballot proposition to Encinitas residents: at a Republican Club meeting, a gathering of tea party activists, at Church, and at a civic club with a decidedly conservative-lean to its membership. I calmly explained that, while citizens delegate certain police powers to local governments (zoning), this proposition was the one of the most ill-conceived initiatives I’ve read. The conservatives I spoke with weren’t buying the property rights argument.
Encinitas isn’t a small town–it’s a City comprised of four (or five) communities, each with distinctive character and needs. To impose a height limit, which was clearly aimed at the downtown dwellers, on a property in Leucadia or atop the grade in Cardiff just seems, well..ham-handed. Moreover, zoning variances and building permits could be subject to a city-wide vote. This seems like a radical departure from the idea of private property rights.
I think conservatives voted for this, despite its violation of private property rights, and I think I know why…
Encinitas Voters Don’t Trust the City Council
Look at the comments on this “Patch” article: “liberal judge”, ad hominems directed as Mayor Barth. etc. These are not the rants of the 99%, these are cries from the tea party...or maybe both. I can’t imagine any conservative, worth his or her salt, would intentionally violate property rights–envy just isn’t in the conservative psyche… but a mistrust in government is. Encinitas has always been a hotbed of activism and I think the far-left NIMBYs and the far-right, small government crowd teamed up on this one. The voters rejected the advice of every Council Member, former Mayors, and a former planning commissioner (among others).
The left wingers distributed literature which said developers would turn Downtown Encinitas into Irvine and the right wingers distributed literature about taking back City government. I read both pieces and spoke with Encinitas conservatives and liberals alike–this was a citizen rebellion.
Conservative Voters Got Tricked and It’s Conservatives’ Fault
This is going to have a profound effect on the way California is governed and I don’t think conservatives will like it. Direct democracy doesn’t work because it is mob rule. Direct democracy creates more government regulation, regulation by the mob and that can be scary. Conservatives believe in a confined, republican form of government because we know that free people are too busy to deal with the minute details of governing. We seek to delegate limited powers, to people who volunteer to serve, to make informed decisions for us about the few things we want government to do.
Traditional property rights groups blew it in Encinitas. The California Association of REALTORs, the San Diego Association of REALTORs. the North San Diego Association of REALTORs, the Republican Party of San Diego County, the Libertarian Party of San Diego, and The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association all took a back seat in this NIMBY-ism election because, well..
It wasn’t in OUR back yard. But it will be…soon. If the Solana Beach plastic bag ban is any indication, of what may come, ceding freedom in small cities can have nationwide consequences. We blew it in Encinitas because we didn’t get out and remind conservatives that the “fighting tyranny with more tyranny” solution, isn’t one conservatives should trust.
Liberty lost in Encinitas on Tuesday, just like it lost in Solana Beach last Spring. Conservatives really better wake up. The little cities matter.