Ruthless Hippies Exclusive: Interview with Encinitas City Council Candidate Lisa Shaffer

Lisa chats with Ruthless Hippies at Cafe Ipe 10/812.

RH: First I just want to ask a few questions to get your background for the people who might not know you.


How long have you been living in Encinitas?

LS: I’ve lived here for about 8 years I have been in San Diego since 2000 and I met and married a guy who was a long time Encinitas resident and when we got married I moved up here to Encinitas from University City.

RH: What’s your career background in?

LS: I have a long and varied career. I’m a political scientist by original training, I have a bachelors degree from the University of Michigan in political science and international relations. I moved to Washington DC.  I spent 25 years in DC, most of the time at NASA and at NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and I worked on international environmental satellite programs. So I negotiated international agreements between NASA, NOAA and foreign space agencies for satellite programs that look at deforestation, sea level rise, climate change, weather satellites and also supported the scientists who do research using the data that comes from those satellites. I also spent five years at an aerospace company as a director of strategic planning and business development, so I have private sector experience.  I went back to school, got a PhD in public policy from George Washington University and then the guy who was the head of the Earth Science program at NASA for part of the time that I was there  became the director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography here at UCSD.  He recruited me to come out here and be the director of international relations at Scripps. That’s why I moved to San Diego. I was at Scripps for 9 years. When I left I was an assistant director of the Institution and I was working on campus-wide sustainability programs at UCSD. So we have all this knowledge, we have all these problems in society, and we weren’t using all the stuff we knew to make better decisions.  I was trying to figure out how to build those bridges — instead of ivory towers, to build ivory bridges. I decided to go back and get my MBA when UCSD built a new business school. I completed the executive MBA program at UCSD in 2009. I wanted to work on the business case for sustainability because I really believe that the way we’re going to save the planet is not because the government says you have to, or because a foundation says ‘We’ll give you a grant if you do this.”  It has to make business sense because we need jobs and we need good and services. We just need to conduct business in a sustainable way. So that was why I went back to get my MBA. While I was there, the business school asked me to develop some courses on ethics and corporate social responsibilities. So now I teach business ethics, corporate social responsibility and personal ethics, at the business school at UCSD.

RH: With your current job, do you think you would have enough time to devote to city council? How would you balance that?

LS: Yes. I’ve been working since 1974, full time basically, so I’ve put in almost 40 years of full time working. I teach 2/3’s time now.  This Fall I’m only teaching one class instead of two so I have time to campaign. Maggie Houlihan told me  she thought that a well organized person could do the city council job in 10-15 hours a week plus the council meetings. I already go to all the council meetings and so I’m not terribly concerned about that. And I also can cut back on my teaching load if I have to. I’m on the gradual slope to retirement and looking forward to it, so this is could be the next phase of my life.  I’m lucky I don’t have to do it for money.

RH: Do you have a favorite artist, restaurant and music spot in Encinitas?

LS: Well I’m sitting here by Mark Pattersen’s masterpiece [the Surfing Madonna at Café Ipe].  That’s certainly something I admire. My husband is an amateur photographer and he’s part of the Off track Gallery down at the Lumberyard so I should probably say him. My favorite artist overall, if I had to pick one without thinking a whole lot about it I’d have to say Georgia O’Keeffe.

We’re vegan-ish so we actually eat a lot at Kim’s restaurant in the Lumberyard, the Lotus Café, any place that has good vegan food. I like Native Café also. Before we became vegan I had a much wider repertoire.

These days the main place I catch music…I’m involved in the Unitarian Church in Solana Beach and we have some wonderful musical programs there. I participate in a group that sings, we get together about once a month and sing together—not professionally or anything. I don’t do a lot of the music scene around here, there’s only so much time in the day.

RH: I like your answers, I feel like I’m learning a lot more about you than I would have thought these questions would bring out.

LS: My favorite group overall that no one’s ever heard of but they came and did a fundraiser for me last May, is called Emma’s Revolution. Two women named Pat Humphrey and Sandy O and they’re fantastic. They’re singer songwriters. You should check them out:

RH: As long as we’re on the topic of the arts right now. This one I’m sort of paraphrasing from Dylan Barmmer, a friend of mine who is a poet. The way he sees it, the arts in San Diego have taken a beating in Encinitas for various reasons. One of the things he was alluding to was how the surfing Madonna was handled. What’s your vision for the arts in Encinitas should you be elected? And if you can, speak to things that have happened recently with the arts and how can we make it a better city for the arts, because we have a lot of artists.

LS: I think that art is part of what makes Encinitas a cool place, And you probably know Tony Kranz and I cosponsored the poetry slam by the Full Moon poets. And I wrote a poem myself.

RH: I missed the last one. I was out of town.

LS: Would you like me to recite my Encinitas poem? You can put it on your blog.

RH: Absolutely. That would be great!

LS: Encinitas what a home

Inspired me to write this poem

About beaches boards, bikinis, bikes

Dog parks, surfers, horses, hikes

Encinitas has it all

A property that belonged to Hall

A fellowship for self realization

Peace, love and meditation

Space and stop signs in Olivenhain

The Ranch, a community by design.

In Cardiff, people take a stand

Leucadia, funky is our brand.

Downtown Main Street 101

Lots of bars and lots of fun

New Encinitas are you awake?

How many Wal-Mart’s will it take?

I’m running for Council, am I crazy?

Not a job for one who’s lazy.

Council manages our money.

Do we think there’s something funny

Going on inside our city?

Politics is rarely pretty

I’ll bring an ethical perspective

Avoiding rudeness and invective.

Got no agenda, just wanna to serve.

I’m rising on that learning curve

Vote Shaffer on November 6th

An election you won’t want to miss.

That’s my contribution to the arts in Encintas, an originial poem that I presented on the stage at La Paloma.

I think that things like the Surfing Madonna, the kook, the other art that’s around here is really important, I think it’s what makes a community and I think we need more of it. I’m concerned about Pacific View and what’s going to happen there. I think that we need an art center and I think that’s a great place to put one. I’m not sure that the ArtPulse proposal is really credible financially in terms of the art part of it, as opposed to the developer building houses on the site part of it. So I want to make sure that whatever zoning changes are made—if any—protect us, protect the community from the possibility of that site not becoming an art center and turning into something else.

And I think also the banner issue was just a travesty this year, when they refused a permit because Maggie’s picture was on the back of the art banners. I’ve spoken at city council several times including this week and I will again next week when they try to revise the banner ordinance in crazy ways that don’t make any sense. There was never any risk to the city from the banners, the risk was from the city council trying to stifle things. I think the city should encourage the arts, it should not censor what people put on their artwork. I think that’s ridiculous and scary and not what the city should be doing. I would like to see the decoration of the Kook more regularized, in the sense that, I think it’s a shame when people put so much creativity and effort into these installations and then it gets taken down within hours of when it goes up (unless it’s something they like in which case it stays up longer.)  But I wouldn’t mind seeing a reservation system, where people could say I’d like to have this weekend’ and they might even pay a fee for the privilege of decorating the Kook and then the money would go into a fund for maintenance. The city complains that the reason it’s a problem is because of the cost for the city workers to come and then fix it up. So I think you can address all of that and allow people to enjoy it and keep the installations up longer and it doesn’t have to be a stealth thing that you do illegally. We should embrace it, and welcome it and be proud of it.

RH: Let’s move to sustainability. I know that’s an issue where you will excel. What do you have as a vision for the environment and sustainability in Encinitas. And one of our readers had a question of, why are Yurts not allowed in Encinitas.

LS: I’m pro Yurts, ha. I’m not on City Council yet and I’m not running for city Manager so I can’t claim to have all the answers and know everything in depth because it’s a huge learning curve. On the Yurts, my understanding is they don’t meet fire code. And that there were some discussions between the city and the Yurt people to see if they could find some accommodation and those discussions broke down. But I know that there are other places where Yurts are legal and are permitted. It seems to me that if the city manager and the staff were told, ‘find a way to make Yurts possible’, they would have approached Yurts differently than if they were told, ‘find a way to get rid of those crazy yoga people and their yurts’.

The City Manager reports to the City Council and the City Staff reports to him. When he came in, he was told, ‘Go build the park and go get Moonlight Beach improvements going. And that’s what he did and he’s very proud of doing that. And if  a different city council gave him a different set of priorities then he would do the different priorities. So to me, if we say, the yoga community is also a really important part of our culture, we need to make it easier for them to be who they are and do what they do, rather than make it more difficult. We don’t want to have unsafe stuff. We don’t want people to die in fires obviously, but it seems to me there must ways to deal with yurts and make them legal. So I would give different direction to the city manager about the yurts.

As far as sustainability goes, that’s a huge question that covers so many things. One thing is, we have a trail, a master plan for bike and pedestrian transportation, but we don’t implement it. We don’t allocate very much money to it. I live over by Quail Gardens. I ride my bike. To get from my house over to here riding under the freeway on Encinitas Boulevard is really scary. I would put some priority on finding ways to get people safely around Encinitas without having to drive a car. I don’t want to take away people’s cars but I want to make it easier for people to chose not to drive their cars when they don’t want to. And not everybody is as brave as the cyclists that ride through some of these streets and intersections.

We need to deal with crossings of the railroad tracks. From here all the way up to La Costa there’s nowhere to get across and everyone runs across illegally, which is crazy. And there’s also discussion about wayside horns. The Mayor says the reason we don’t have more crossings is because the trains are required to blow their horns every time they approach a crossing. But they have something called wayside horns, which are very directional, like ambulances now — you only hear the ambulance when you are right in front of it. I think we need to work on safe crossing of the railroad tracks without disturbing everybody by having horns blowing every five minutes. Eventually it would be nice to have the railroad tracks below grade and have the roads and the cross walks go over them like in Solana Beach.

The city council appoints a representative to the North County Transit District and to SANDAG. Those are the regional bodies that control all of our transportation options. It has been Jerome Stocks the Mayor, so far, who has been our representative. He’s the chairman of SANDAG. That’s where decisions about how much money goes into I-5 widening, vs. bike paths and buses and trains. That’s where those decisions get made and I don’t think he’s listening to the interests of the community in making those decisions in allocating those funds.

Part of it is transportation I’d like to see sis ome kind of shuttle that goes from El Camino Real and back to the coast very frequently so people could get around different parts of Encinitas. I’d like to see the city council be more proactive in recruiting businesses here that enrich the community, not just with their taxes, but with the kind of jobs they have, the kind of goods and services they sell.  Maybe instead of Wal Mart we can have skateboard companies or clean tech companies. And it’s not the city’s job to say, ‘OK you own a business development, you have to rent your office space to company X, Y or Z. But we could do some research and we could talk to companies that are located in Carlsbad or Solana Beach or Carmel Valley and say, ‘Why did you choose to go there and not Encinitas. Did you consider Encinitas?’  We can contact companies that have located here and ask them what was it about Encinitas that made you choose to be here and then we could try and figure out what we can do to make it more attractive, so that we don’t end up with Wal Mart as the only option for a big vacant space. Because I think that, really does not enhance our community.

What many people don’t realize is the biggest source of the general fund in Encinitas is property taxes, not sales taxes. And if we put too much emphasis on the business side, to the extent that we destroy the quality of life and property values go down, we’re not really helping our overall financial viability. And that’s an issue with the bars downtown and the drunk and disorderly stuff.

I think we need to really invest in protecting open space. I was unhappy that they took money from the budget item for open space acquisition and put it into the pot of money to build the Hall Property Park. I think it’s great to have a park there. It’s going to be a beautiful park, but nobody had a chance to vote on whether it was worth borrowing $8 million and reprogramming another $7 million from other things.  We’ve never been able to have an open discussion about contaminated soil because they’re going to bury 50 some thousand cubic yards of toxic soil to build the park, because it used to be a greenhouse property and we’ve been asking what are best practices? What about bio-remediation? We’ve got lots of greenhouse properties around here. How do we make them safe? How do we make sure they don’t all just become mega housing developments?

Finally after a lot of pressure, finally this week on the city council agenda , the county Department of Environmental Health is going to talk about that subject. But I’ve been advocating a workshop. I think we should do this a lot. Like once a month or once a quarter, have an expert panel on some topic of interest to the community. We’ve got scientists and environmental advocates and experts on all sorts of things who live in Encinitas. They would come and give a little talk about what are the latest practices on soil remediation or air pollution. What are we doing in the community? And let the people, the city staff and the city council all learn from experts, ask questions and maybe what the city is doing is great and we’re all safe and we can rest well at not, and maybe they’re not. But if the city won’t talk about it, they won’t let you ask questions, they say, ‘Don’t worry, trust us’, then that makes me uncomfortable. You didn’t want short answers, did you?

RH: No. Whatever you have to say is great. I’m learning a lot. I want to tie that into another question. I’m from Leucadia and the Streetscape is important to me. The Streetscape Project has been pushed to the backburner for a very long time now and there’s definitely fears, when we see funds being taken from other projects to fast track things like the Hall Property and Moonlight Beach that it could happen to the Streetscape. How would you as a council member, ensure that all five areas of Encinitas see their needs met with such limited funds?

LS: Well, I’m not sure that it’s possible for everyone to be happy with everything. That’s not reality. I think that it has to do with accountability and transparency. They put the budget up on the website, but it’s really hard to understand and to figure out, well, where exactly is the Streetscape money and what’s the schedule? It’s not that hard for a lot more information to be available to people and for you to be able to see the progress and to see what the milestones are and to hold the city manager accountable for milestones that the council commits to. There is a long range plan, but there ought to be a more easily accessible long range plan with deadlines.

And they shouldn’t be able to do what they just did for the Hall Property where the City Manager said, OK, we’ve just swept in money from 20 different projects and put it into this pot so that we could do the beach and the park and we have to decide it right now and nobody can ask any questions or the sky’s going to fall. That’s just wrong. And so, you know, the way it was packaged, you didn’t really have much choice but to vote yes for it, but I would have tried hard not to ever let it get to that point without people having more input.

And then once a decision’s made, there’s a lot of chatter about, ‘Well the Streetscape really isn’t a good idea and really people don’t agree with it’. I don’t live in Leucadia and so I’ve been trying to figure out what the real story is, you know, who’s for it. It is my understanding and I’d be interested to know if you agree with this, that there was a very long and extensive public process that led to the Streetscape being approved, and that there was a decision made, that this was what you were going to do. So now, if that’s true, and people had their chance to express themselves, not everybody’s going to always get their way, that’s not reality because it’s a very diverse community. But if the city has committed to do the streetscape, then they ought to have some firm deadlines and they ought to do it, and tell the people now who are saying ‘we really shouldn’t do it’, say ‘Sorry, time to move on, that decision’s done, it’s time to move forward on to the next thing’.

RH: There was a very long process and I know there is a pretty vocaI group of people who are still against certain parts of it and are still fighting against it, but there were a lot of people who were for the Streetscape and that’s the way it came out.

LS: Do you think people had a chance to…?

RH: I wasn’t involved with any of the workshops. But I at least know that it [the planning process] was public and transparent and people had the time and the opportunity to at least have their voices heard about it.

LS:  I remember coming to a Leucadia Art Fair a couple years ago and seeing a table from 101 with the design of the Streetscape and talking to people about it at the time. One of the reasons I’m running for city council is that I just think the process doesn’t work. I don’t think our city council is as honest open and accessible as I think it should be. I don’t think it really reflects what people think and it’s very hard to have your voice heard unless you’re a friend of the majority on the council. They appoint everybody to every commission by a majority vote, which means that three people control everything. I have proposed (and at the last candidate forum everybody said they agreed with me, amazingly) that each council member should be able to appoint one person to each commission. So if Teresa Barth is a minority voice, she would still get to appoint one person to each commission, and the other people could appoint the other people.  Then we should give the commission some influence, let them set their own agenda and let them decide what they think is I important and worth doing. Research shows that if people feel like they’ve been heard, like they had a chance to participate and the process was fair, they’ll usually accept a result that isn’t exactly what they wanted. But if you feel like you were shut out, and you feel like you were disrespected and you never had a chance to make any input, then you’re never going to be satisfied with the result because you don’t think it was fair. I think most people understand that they’re not going to be the winner every single time, they just want to have a shot at it.

RH: Let’s try and combine the next few questions. We had another question from a Ruthless Hippies’ Blog reader, Edie Paul. She asked, what would you do to uphold the beauty, charm and integrity of Encinitas?  And I’m a city lifeguard and I consider Moonlight Beach to be the gem of Encinitas and one of the city’s biggest assets. So what’s your vision for the beaches?

LS: On Moonlight Beach, the one thing I do feel strongly about, is that the lifeguard tower, which is rusting and ugly and inadequate, should have been included in the enhancements to the beach. We’re spending all this money, and when I ask, ‘Well why didn’t they include the lifeguard tower?’ ‘There wasn’t enough money’. That’s a choice somebody made. They could have easily included that. And the way they packaged it, I don’t really understand why they didn’t include it. Trade offs get made and choices get made. The lifeguard tower is what people see. And that’s where the action is. It seems like you could skimp a little bit on the garage and give people a better house rather than a better garage. So I think that’s important.

Tony  [Kranz] and I are both supportive of having a public safety commission that would provide some citizen oversight over the Fire Department and the Marine Safety people. We know of a lot of questionable things going on and so that would give people (the public and the public safety workers) more of a voice. The lifeguards would have a way of letting the council know through a public safety commission, ‘Hey, we need x, y or z’.

At Beacons Beach, you have a sign there that says park at your own risk because the cliffs are falling apart. That doesn’t really seem like a good sign for our community improvement, for preserving and making it safe for people to get to the beaches. So I think that needs to be addressed as well.

As far as the charm and so on, you know, we’re going to be updating the general plan for Encinitas, which is where they define land use categories. If there’s going to be different zoning, we’re supposed to provide the zoning to allow 1,300 affordable housing units to be built at a higher density. That’s a whole other discussion as to why we haven’t pushed back on that number and said that number’s not realistic. Both because we have more affordable housing than you count (for example, all the trailer parks don’t count in our affordable housing inventory) And the population projections were unrealistic. And again, Jerome Stocks is our representative on SANDAG, which is where those numbers come from and he doesn’t seem to have done anything to keep us from having what seems like an unfair allotment.

The design review process at city hall: when you get a building permit, they’re supposed to review the design of your building to see if fits into the neighborhood. Again, the staff follows the guidance they get from the City Manager and from the City Council. If the direction they get is, ‘let developers build whatever they want’, you get something different than if they say ‘It’s really important for things to fit into the community’.

RH: It sounds to me like you have a lot of great ideas for how we can change things around fundamentally so that people have a greater say in the community and in what their government is doing for them.

LS: Yes. I honestly believe that the government should work for the people especially at the local level. I mean, I’m frustrated about what’s going on nationally but I don’t feel like I have much influence there. But this is our town, it’s not Washington DC. And who else should be driving the decisions besides the people that live here? And so it seems like it ought to be possible to change things. People say ‘Well, all politics is corrupt, all politicians are unethical, blah blah blah.’ Well I say, if you believe that, then that’s what you’re going to get. If you think they’re all the same, you’re going to get the same old politicians. I’m willing to give it a shot to try and do it differently. You won’t see great big Shaffer for Council signs posted illegally around on the main streets.  I just don’t think that makes sense to do.

I think it’s OK to listen to people who don’t agree with me respectfully. I might learn something. I’ve learned a lot listening to a lot of different people. I have people who are conservative Republicans and who are very liberal all supporting me because I’m just trying to be an honest broker of decision-making. I don’t have a personal agenda, that I have to see x, y or z happen. I want the process to work for the citizens of Encinitas. We have a diverse community. There are a lot of people with a lot of different views.  Some people think 101 should be able to go as fast as possible and as easy as possible as a commuter route, and other people think it should be as slow as possible and as laid back as possible because it’s our home town. You can’t have all of those things simultaneously, but you can have a chance for that discussion to take place and for people to reach compromises. I’m a little idealistic but I’m trying to put my money where my mouth is and to use Gandhi’s phrase, to be the change I want to see in Encinitas, because I don’t want to live in a place that’s run by developers and outside interests. And I don’t think we should have to.

RH: Awesome. I think you have more than answered all of my questions really well. I wish you the best of luck.

LS: Can I make a request of you?

RH: Sure

LS: Because you’re plugged into a community in Encinitas that I’m not very well plugged into. I have a campaign Facebook Page and website [<<<click}. Marty Benson made some short videos for me that are linked up there. The more those get circulated, the more people will get a sense for who I am and what I stand for and hopefully it will appeal to them…

This entry was written by summerfunonthe101 and published on October 22, 2012 at 8:03 AM. It’s filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Ruthless Hippies Exclusive: Interview with Encinitas City Council Candidate Lisa Shaffer

  1. I think we should eliminate all city council and set up an online site for city residents/members to decide how things will be handled. A real democracy rather than a few people who we can’t even contact making decisions for us. the surfing madonna is a perfect example of how the city council did not represent the people and all this effort and cost was made and incurred , by who I wonder? probly Mark himself for something that otherwise could have been left alone …THATS what the city does. Add more unnecessary cost. If we can’t take care of ourselves on such a small level there is no hope for a real democracy.

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