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Lawsuit Filed Amidst Major Concerns with Oceanside Referendum

Lawsuit Cites Violations of California Elections Code and California Political Reform Act

Oceanside CA—  Integral Communities, citing egregious violations of California Elections Code and the California Political Reform Act,  announced a lawsuit was filed last week against the referendum proponents, the City of Oceanside’s City Clerk and San Diego County Registrar of Voters. Filed on behalf of a concerned Oceanside voter with the support of the targeted housing project, North River Farms, the lawsuit alleges the signature gatherers engaged in fraud, forgery and misrepresentation in the signature gathering process, withheld important information from the petition signers, and illegally conducted political fundraising for the petition.

“I am a mother, grandmother, Oceanside resident and active volunteer in my community, who watched the SOAR initiative proponents try to sideline North River Farms, lie to voters and try to set property owners and farmers back,” said Barbara Hazlett, the lawsuit’s petitioner. “After that measure was defeated soundly at the polls last year, I actively supported North River Farms as a worthwhile, planned development that participated in a lengthy public review process and was approved by a majority of the Oceanside City Council.”

“I’m pursuing legal action today because I believe the groups responsible for preparing, funding and circulating the referendum petition violated the law. In light of the alleged fraudulent petition, I choose to defend and continue to advocate for the citizens and voters of Oceanside and for North River Farms, who went through all the legal routes to be able to provide for our City for generations to come,” Hazlett said.

On December 19, 2019, Integral Communities, the North River Farms project owner, filed a formal submission with the Oceanside City Clerk regarding 14 alleged violations of state and municipal law alleged to have been committed during the election referendum process.  A verification and count of the signatures is currently underway with the voter registrar but this call to action is for an investigation of the means by which the respondents obtained those signatures.

“We respect the right to seek voter consideration of government decisions, however, these efforts must be conducted lawfully and properly,” said Ninia Hammond, Integral Communities’ project manager for North River Farms. “We seek judicial review of activities that may have violated California’s referendum rules by the organizers of this effort against North River Farms.  As a result, we feel we have no other course of action but to support pursuing prompt judicial review in order to ensure a fair and transparent process for the residents of Oceanside.”

“At a time when housing starts are plummeting and population growth continues, these ballot box tactics have become a popular effort to stop housing entirely, regardless of the merits of the planning of a project and threaten the future of the region, as evidenced by the two County-wide measures on the March ballot,” Hammond said.

The following is a partial summary of the allegations of egregious fraudulent activity purportedly conducted by the anti-growth petition circulators. The lawsuit alleges, among other things, unethical means and methods of gathering signatures, such as making false statements about the project to mislead potential signers, including, for example, statements that the project lies in a high fire severity zone when it does not. Other asserted misrepresentations noted in the lawsuit include statements that a referendum would preserve farming when in fact the area is already zoned for estate style residential subdivision, and the apparent misconception that a project would be a burden on utilities when the project proposes extraordinary infrastructure and utility upgrades that are beyond the ordinary requirements.

“For more than five years, we listened to the community and made major modifications to North River Farms, significantly reducing the number of homes, substantially improving roadways, increasing public safety and preserving cherished farmland. We are passionate about this opportunity to build a transformative and sustainable housing project in the City of Oceanside, and we will not stand by idly and allow what we believe is clearly a tainted referendum process to deny Oceanside a fair opportunity to bring it to fruition.”

Since 2014, Integral Communities’ North River Farms project has followed a thorough public review process engaging in hundreds of public meetings resulting in major modifications, adhering to CEQA law and gaining City Council approval last year. The company is investing millions of dollars in infrastructure and public benefit and preserving 40 percent of the existing 214-acres in farmland and open space including 68 acres of community farming, 16 acres of parks, 10 miles of trails, a mountain bike trail and Oceanside’s first public dog park. North River Farms’ publicly accessible space creates new opportunities for Oceanside residents and visitors to enjoy a state of the art farmers market, farm-to-table dinners, concerts on the river at the outdoor amphitheater, parks and public bike trails, artisanal creativity in the makers’ building while sustainably preserving farming in an age of decline.

North River Farms is a 214-acre agriculturally based community that serves to address the region’s critical housing shortage while also preserving the region’s rich agriculture heritage. Offering 585 sustainable and eco-friendly houses, North River Farms will be centered around 68 acres of permanently preserved rich farmland and located within walking distance to popular retail stores and restaurants as well as a winery and tasting room, creating an active social hub bringing visitors and residents together around agriculture and natural resources for future generations.