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North County: A Landfill, Mobile Homes, & A Madonna On A Surfboard

There's been a surprising about-face on the 20-year old effort to build a landfill in Gregory Canyon; Mobile-home owners in Oceanside are predicting the worst about a move to eliminate rent control; and we have more on the Surfing Madonna.

Right now an update on three big stories out of San Diego's North county. There's been a surprising about-face on the 20-year old effort to build a landfill in Gregory Canyon. Mobile-home owners in Oceanside are predicting the worst about a move to eliminate rent control. And we have more about that new North County landmark, the Surfing Madonna.

Guests: Logan Jenkins, columnist, San Diego Union Tribune

Kent Davy, Editor, North County Times

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right now an update on three big stories out of San Diego's North County. There's been a surprising about-face on the 20-year-old effort to build a landfill and Gregory Canyon. Mobile home owners in Oceanside are predicting the worst about a move to eliminate rent control and we have more about the new North County landmark that surfing Madonna. Joining me is Logan Jenkins, columnist for the San Diego Union Tribune.


LOGAN JENKINS: Hi, Maureen, welcome back to North County.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you and Kent Davy is the editor of the North County Times. Hi Kent.

KENT DAVY: Hi, Maureen. How are you?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Great, thank you for joining us. Our discussion goes to the Gregory Canyon landfill. The proposed landfill has been in the works for many years now. Kent, can you give us some background, sort of a Gregory Canyon landfill 101?

KENT DAVY: What we don't have time to do it justice but (inaudible) and other private investors have been trying to locate a landfill at Gregory Canyon which is roughly in Fallbrook near the Pala band of Indian reservation and is a beautiful setting that is off the (inaudible) casino on a small country road and the investors have spent about $40 million trying to get this landfill up and running but it's been a tough go. There have been two countywide elections and numerable permitting processes and now that they seem to be on the verge of getting this thing done Juan Vargas, the state senator from down south who was a supporter of the landfill in previous countywide elections apparently went out there and had an epiphany up in the bucolic country and now he has carried legislation that would make it, that would basically kill Gregory Canyon and it went through the Senate like a greased pig. It was a 32 to 3 vote in favor and how it is in on its way to the assembly.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Logan lets break this down a little bit if you would, who are the primary opponents, the people against the proposed landfill?

LOGAN JENKINS: The Pala Indians for sure and the environmental community of the North County are also opposed. They think that is too close to the San Luis Ray River, that it will leak and eventually become polluted creek local water districts, the city of Oceanside which gets water from the San Luis Rey. That is the broad coalition that opposes it. But in countywide votes, I think the argument, the economic argument has been made that North County needs a landfill. It doesn't have one currently. And that it is North County's duty in effect to site a landfill.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But the Indian tribes say that there is a holy site in Gregory Mountain if I remember correctly isn't that right?

LOGAN JENKINS: That's right. They consider the area to be sacred and that has been their argument from the beginning. Of course in the original in its original incarnation, the Pala Indians were not all that influential. But since gambling has enriched their tribe they've become real players and many people would say that Juan Vargas has been, is looking for casino dollars to support him in the future. So that is the kind of political matrix we are dealing with.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Kent Davy, as Logan is describing there have been some steadfast opponents and he also mentioned environmentalists. What environmental harm do they say might come from locating a landfill in Gregory Canyon?

KENT DAVY: Here's the problem with Gregory Canyon. It is first of all as Logan describes a bucolic setting but nonetheless a setting in which the footprint of the landfill is on top of the San Luis Rey River aquifer. And within a stone's throw of the river itself. Most people recognize that given enough time any landfill will leak notwithstanding the technology of the clay liners and all that goes into trying to engineer a relatively safe landfill. So that the environmental community here and the water people in North County has steadfastly opposed to a siting at this location because it is a potential threat to this aquifer and the River.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Logan as you pointed out the legislation blocking the construction of the Gregory Canyon landfill has been spearheaded by State Sen. Juan Vargas who is in the curious position of having been for the landfill before he was against it. You say he got some sort of epiphany. What is his description as to why he changed his mind?

LOGAN JENKINS: Well he actually took a tour, so his eyes were opened. I imagine he talked to some Indian representatives who explained how much the mountain meant to them. And I'm sure that he talked to some environmentalist who told him about the possibility of leakage. So he got religion late. He's carrying water as it were for the Pala band and he's been extremely effective up in Sacramento. Now, people down south in our area are kind of been reached, the Board of Supervisors had a vote of four to one condemning the legislation. The only supervisor to side with him was Pam Slater Price. Interestingly, State Sen. Chris Kehoe was one of three votes against the bill and she's normally a staunch environmentalist to County has had to vote on it and it should go through the permitting process.

KENT DAVY: A point of clarification?


KENT DAVY: One of the votes that the county had 94/93 that timeframe was basically allowed the Gregory Canyon developers to sidestep the normal planning process in the county and take it out of the DPL use site, in other words to avoid normal permitting.

LOGAN JENKINS: Kent is right. We basically had sidestepping in 1994, now we have a sidestepping in 2011.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It seems that the Gregory Canyon landfill proposal is blocked permanently, is that correct?

LOGAN JENKINS: Well it has got to go through the assembly and Gov. Brown would have to sign it. It's possible Gov. Brown has been on the mountain meditating or something and has a real strong feel for it so you never know how it is going to play out.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Last question about this one is that it was approved twice by voters in San Diego County, was the idea that we need another landfill we need a landfill in North County? I would like to get both of your takes on that, Kent?

KENT DAVY: I've talked to a number of solid waste people at least who work up here who are dubious that we have to have a landfill up here. That there is the capacity to take care of it already in the county.


LOGAN JENKINS: I agree with that. I just agree as a general principle you don't put a landfill on top of an aquifer.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay we can move on to another topic that is Oceanside rent de-control. I want to start with you, Kent. Remind me about this and Oceanside residents are up in arms about a measure that would affect 18 mobile home parks. Can you tell us about it?

KENT DAVY: Oceanside like some other California cities has back in the 80s enacted a rent control for mobile home parks that puts a lid statutorily on the increase that a mobile home park owner could impose on my renter of the land for the mobile home park residents. With Oceanside, the changing of the guard politically and the current 3 to 2 Council majority all pretty conservative Republicans, they moved recently to do away with that or modify that rent control. The rules that they have moved to would protect the homeowner as long as the homeowner was alive or if upon their passing if the property, the home itself went to an heir or the spouse who was living in at the time, it would freeze, it would keep the control there. Once she moves away from there the property would be decontrolled, a subsequent owner would face a potential or almost certain rent increase in income and property.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Kent, why do supporters want to do this?

KENT DAVY: There's mobile Park homeowners who have said we have been artificially, our ability to get a return on our investment of the property is artificially minimized by a rent control ordinance because obviously our rents are controlled. There is theoretically an economic argument that says that prices generally would adjust in an entire neighborhood if none of the, if there were no rent control on any piece of it but that's a theoretical kind of economic argument.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Logan if that rent control keeps the rents low for current residents and their heirs what are the concerns for mobile home owners?

LOGAN JENKINS: The real problem is equity. The problem of rent control is a profound effect on the value of a coach so it's estimated that as much as half of the value of the coaches rest on the value on the principle or the time-honored principle of rent control. So it is all about equity. It's all about the value of an individual's, the value of the coach. It should be mentioned that there is an initiative drive right at the moment to get this on the ballot and have it overturned. And right now I think there's about two more weeks in the signature gathering period to force to the Council to reverse a decision or put it on the ballot.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is this a move Kent to get rid of mobile home rent control all together?

KENT DAVY: I think eventually that is exactly what happens. I think over time it would if you get farther out into the future that there would be enough turnover over 20 years over some period of time that currently most owners would find themselves in a position, window position where they need to sell the coach and move along. That effectively de-controls the mobile home park.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's move to the surfing madonna. We had the artist on yesterday, Mark Patterson. He described the surfing mosaic as a gift to the city of Encinitas. I would like you both to describe what you think the reaction to the gift has been by the city of Encinitas. Let me start with you, Logan.

LOGAN JENKINS: I think the reaction has been pretty rude, actually. In my review it should've gone to the arts commission and they should've analyzed it and come to some determination of the city wanted to accept the anonymous gift. And reach out to the artist and really kind of embrace the piece because people just love it. Have you seen it, Maureen?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: No, pictures and videos but I have been there to see it

LOGAN JENKINS: You ought to take a drive-up Encinitas Boulevard and the 101. You can't miss it on the bridge where the Amtrak and coaster trains go by but it is a gorgeous piece and I think that the threat that it was going to be damaged in the moving of it brought the artist forward and now he is quite a celebrity.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Kent, what do you think Encinitas should have done it considering it's a piece of public property.

KENT DAVY: What they should've done is ask for a whole bunch of public input on whether it should be saved or not. There is, while most people have expressed a great deal of appreciation and delight in the thing, I've heard privately from some people who said that there are some people offended by it, devout Catholics who felt that it was offensive to them.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I was wondering about that.

KENT DAVY: So I don't think it's completely open and shut case however that being said it seems to me that the city having spent as much time and effort worrying about a very interesting piece of art makes them look a little silly.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Where are we with the whole idea of where the surfing Madonna is going to go? I understand that there are negotiations going on.

KENT DAVY: As I understand the city and the artist are talking about seeing if there's a way to remove it somehow. I know that there have been various conservation experts have looked at it to try and understand whether they could detach it or not and I frankly don't know.

LOGAN JENKINS: Let me ask you this, Kent, you as an attorney, who owns a piece of art right now?

KENT DAVY: I would guess it is the city's property. It is attached to city property and I'm not speaking as an attorney, but simply

LOGAN JENKINS: Here's a cool question for you, if Mark Patterson came and stole it and put it in his own backyard, would he be prosecuted for theft?

KENT DAVY: I don't know, he might be prosecuted for vandalism the second time.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh my. What do you think Logan would be a good resolution to this effect?

LOGAN JENKINS: I think a good resolution would be to keep it right where it is pretty advocated for that from the beginning and I think they should Mark Patterson to do another side

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: To balance it out I don't think the second one would be free do you

LOGAN JENKINS: There have been offers for up to $20,000 for the piece of art.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We are going to wrap it up there. I've been speaking with Logan Jenkins columnist for the San Diego Union Tribune and Kent Davy editor for the North County Times. Thank you both.

KENT DAVY: Thank you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Pickets and protests for the San Diego fair are aimed at the elephant rides. Are the animals being treated correctly and should they be used as a fair attraction in the first place? Stay with us as KPBS Midday Edition continues.

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