When residents of unincorporated areas square off in a battle over cityhood, the rhetoric could lead a voter to believe that approval will mean either utopia or fiscal disaster. But anyone who has looked at cities knows that neither is likely.
Two incorporation proposals are on the June 3 ballot in the coastal areas of North County. The larger one would form a new city of 44,000 people from the communities of Encinitas, Leucadia, Olivenhain and Cardiff. Voters there will also select a name--the choices are Encinitas, San Dieguito and Rancho Elijo--to be used if cityhood passes. In the other referendum, voters will decide whether to incorporate Solana Beach.
The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), the government agency charged with determining the viability of potential cities, says both proposals are fiscally sound and entirely warranted. We agree. These two areas have become urbanized to the point that county government can no longer adequately provide the services they need.
Particularly when it comes to planning, these communities would benefit from having decisions made closer to home than the Board of Supervisors. Police protection, traffic enforcement, and road construction and repair also would be improved with cityhood.
There is also a question of fairness. In the base year LAFCO studied, Solana Beach residents contributed $9.5 million to the county coffers. Of that, $5.1 million went toward their share of countywide services, such as public health, and $1.2 million came back into the community in direct services. The other $3.2 million is money that the backers of incorporation would like to keep in Solana Beach.
Residents of the four communities to the north of Solana Beach also pay more than they receive. LAFCO estimates that, if they incorporate, the new city will generate enough revenue in its first year to have a 30% surplus.
One argument that has been used by opponents of the incorporation drives is the difficulty many cities are having in obtaining and paying for liability insurance. But LAFCO says the revenue base of both cities would be strong enough that they could comfortably afford to buy insurance.
Underlying the arguments of those who oppose incorporation seems to be a desire for things to remain as they are. But in a growing county like San Diego, things won't remain the same. The question for the residents of Solana Beach and the four communities of San Dieguito is who can best manage the change. The answer would seem to be the people who live there.