August MainStreet Oceanside Morning Meeting

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Louise Balma, one of the principal speakers at Tuesday’s monthly Morning Meeting of MainStreet Oceanside, said the SOAR (Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources) ballot measure wouldn’t fit with the work of the city’s AgriVision Committee.

For instance, Balma said, AgriVision believes current estate-home zoning could be maintained on a third of the 3,500 acres in South Morro Hills with the 176 current homes and a maximum of 350 other residences in small clusters with farms all around. But Proposition Y would require a vote of the electorate any time there is any land-use change.

The AgriVision proposal suggests farming could even take place on the individual home plots. For instance, Balma said, the grower of grapes on someone else’s privately held property could give the owner wine for the privilege of using his land.

Balma said the City Council is due to look at the AgriTourism proposals in October and consider changes in the General Plan, now 40 years old, to accommodate them.

At the last MainStreet meeting, in August, a representative of a developer, called North River Farms, proposing 689 homes and some commercial development in the same South Morro Hills area, spoke.

Tuesday, from the audience, that person, Ninia Hammond said her Encinitas company also disagrees with the ballot measure. “We urge you to vote ‘no’ on SOAR because of the longterm impact,” Hammond said.

Previously, Rick Wright, MainStreet Executive Director, noted the area couldn’t be farther from downtown, MainStreet’s domain, and still be within the city limits.

But, Wright said, the issues involved are important to all in Oceanside.

In Wright’s absence Tuesday, the meeting was run by Gumaro Escarcega, MainStreet Programs Manager.

The audience, immediately after the Labor Day holiday, was smaller than usual. About 30 people, including several city representatives.

“A lot of people don’t know there is an agricultural area in Oceanside,” Balma said.

She said 2,200 of 3,500 acres are farmed commercially with flowers, tomatoes, strawberries, avocados, citrus, cherimoyas and a new crop – singer Jason’s Mraz’s recent venture: coffee.

Balma grows avocados on her own property in the area. She also is a City Planning Commissioner.

Kim Murray, co-chairman of the AgriVision Committee, is co-owner of the Beach House Winery in the South Morro Hills area, which Balma called “out in the country,” roughly defined by North River Road and the communities of Bonsall and Fallbrook.

Current zoning requires two and a half acres per homesite.

AgriVision’s plans call for an extensive trails system, perhaps connecting with the Coast Trail, for “gathering places” and for agriculture-related business like artisan shops and wineries. Balma referenced the successful Trevi Hills Winery development in Lakeside.

She showed pictures of brightly painted “owl boxes” and said something like that weaving through the area could provide a “common theme” for “a sense of place.”

Balma posted a couple of sentences from a city staff report on the North River Farms: development proposal. It cited “significant and unavoidable impacts” to the entire city’s population, housing, traffic, public safety and transportation and said the impacts could not be mitigated.

Balma said AgriTourism’s plans propose housing on hilltops overlooking the farmlands, and she said townhomes could provide affordable housing.

Mary Ann Thiem, MainStreet Board Member, said it will be a difficult decision in November because the idea that farmers are millionaires is simply not true and they should not lose their property values.

Escarcega noted that the Chamber of Commerce has some good input on the SOAR initiative, and Lori Lawson who she is at the Chamber remarked that the chamber does not support it.

Balma was asked how much she is paid to push the AgriVision proposal and how it is funded. “Kim and I work for free” as unpaid volunteers, Balma said, She said some fund-raisers are in the offing.

The meeting’s other principal speaker was Kathy Kinane, director of the annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot footrace in Oceanside, with an update on plans for this year’s event.

Kinane noted her ties to Oceanside run deep because her mom ran the Harbor Deli beginning in 1981.

She showed a video of the Turkey Trot.

In its 13 years, Kinane said, the Turkey Trot has donated more than $300,000 to local charities. The event has been rated one of the top in the nation by Runners World magazine. It started, Kinane said, with 2,200 participants the first year.

“We’re excited to be back here again,” Kinane said.

She said she expects about 9,000 participants this year with 13,000 people, including spectators, in attendance.

In its existence, there have been more contestants – almost 10,000 one year, but Kinane said at that time there were only three such events in the county; now there are nine, so there’s “a little bit of competition” for participants.

Her presentation showed that last year, people came from eight countries, 46 states and 466 cities. “We do market heavily,” Kinane said.

Fliers advertising the event were sent out in April.

Kinane said 58 percent of the participants ran the five-kilometer race, 18 percent did the 10-kilometer race, and the others participated in either the children’s or the seniors’ events.

Previously, the senior race was the day before the rest of the Turkey Trot, but this year, Kinane said, it will be held on the same day. There are 10 senior participants over the age of 80 already signed up, and groups, she said, get a discount for each additional member.

A costume contest is included as well, and anywhere from two to four television stations usually show up to broadcast the event, Kinane said.

She said the city is waiving parking fees at public lots and shuttle service will be available from the parking lot at MiraCosta College’s Community Learning Center on Mission Avenue. Roads will close at 6:30 a.m., Kinane said, and the plan is to reopen Coast Highway by 9:30 a.m.

Her organization, she said, also is sponsoring a “Smiles for Miles” running program in eight local schools. “Kids are running more every day,” Kinane said.

In other business:

— Escarcega said Lou Ochoa, developer of the SALT project, a combination residential building and parking garage, wasn’t present, but he had some new construction slides to show. In answer to a question from John Daley, in the audience, Escarcega said he thinks the move-in date is next spring. Escarcega said he has contact information for the project manager, if anyone wants it.

— Patrick Young, City Special-Events Coordinator, introduced the new manager of the city’s Parks and Recreation Division, Mark Olson. Olson said he knows his popular predecessor, the now-retired Eileen Turk. Olson has worked for both the Carlsbad and Poway parks and recreation departments.

— Daley said there will be a walking historical tour of the downtown this Saturday at 9 a.m., meeting in front of the library. (It will be the last one of the summer series).

— Daley also mentioned that the road fronting the Civic Center, U.S. Highway 101, now Coast Highway, was built 93 years ago, and 20 years ago, the state Legislature designated it a historic route.

— Peter Harwood from Oceanside Friends of the Arts said its First Friday Art Walk will be held on Friday, September 7, at the Marriott SpringHill Suites hotel.

— Escarcega said the annual Taste of Oceanside will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 6 with a lot of restaurants, breweries and wineries participating. “We want the community to know what changes are happening in downtown Oceanside,” Escarcega said.

— Cathy Nykiel, Sunset Market Manager, said it has had “a great summer” and will sponsor two candidates’ nights – one Sept. 20 for City Council, Congress and City Treasurer and one Sept. 27 for Oceanside Unified School District and Tri-City Healthcare District board posts.

— Nykiel also mentioned Noche Mexicana celebration at City Hall on Sunday and the annual Day of the Dead program at Mission San Luis Rey on Oct. 28.

— Jim Dahl from the Knights of Columbus also announced the St. Mary’s blood drive from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday and said such events once were common and he hopes to return them to St. Mary’s on a regular basis. The Knights also are sponsoring a pancake breakfast in the nearby parish center at the same time. Breakfast is free for blood donors.

— Young announced a big pickleball tournament this weekend at Melba Bishop Park and a Surf for the Sea contest this same weekend at the Harbor. He said there will be an “Indie Jam” music festival this Saturday at the Junior Seau Pier Amphitheatre. And there will be a “Silkies Hike” Oct. 6 at Alamosa Park to benefit veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He said the annual Harbor Days program is scheduled Sept. 15-16.

— Lawson said there will be a free giftology program for local businesses from 9 to 10 am. Friday at the Chamber of Commerce.

— Escarcega showed part of a new video, “Oceanside, an Original at Work,” from the city’s Economic Development Department, but the sound wasn’t working. Here is a link to watch it: https://youtu.be/fuM_GjM5mWQ

— Escarcega said MainStreet is partnering with the North County Food Bank to collect jars of peanut butter for the hungry. The food can be dropped off at MainStreet offices through October or any participating business and partners.

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–Escarcega thanked Pier View Coffee and Petite Madeline Bakery for the morning’s coffee and pastries respectively.

The next MainStreet Morning Meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 2 at 701 Mission Ave.

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