At 33 years old, Mayor Dane White may be the youngest mayor the City of Escondido has ever elected, and the sixth youngest mayor ever elected in California, but don’t equate his youth with inexperience. As a fifth generation Escondido resident, he brings a fresh perspective to the city along with a deep understanding of the city’s history.
While most of White’s life has been lived in Escondido, he ventured beyond its borders during his formative years. He spent many of his high school days at an out-of-state boarding school, only to make his way back to Escondido at the age of 21. During a tumultuous period, he found himself without a home and a place to belong. Returning to a familiar place, he sought refuge in the city of his roots, where he remembered cherished people, temperate weather, and expansive open spaces.
Revealing New Homelessness Policies
Before taking the reins as mayor, White ran for the Escondido school board at the age of 25 and served for 6 years. This foundational position shaped his dedication to public service, but it was his concern for unaddressed issues, like homelessness and economic development, that spurred him to run for mayor.
“There is no current policy or plan to address homelessness. It’s sort of been whatever resources the city could wrangle up,” White said.
Adding to the complexity, a Supreme Court ruling mandates providing alternative shelter when asking homeless individuals to vacate public property. This legal requirement is often misconceived, and White said that incarceration isn’t a straightforward solution either, unless a violent felony is involved. This intricacy underscores the multifaceted challenge of homelessness in Escondido and beyond.
To tackle this issue, White’s establishment a dedicated homelessness subcommittee. This subcommittee is presently hard at work, crafting a comprehensive strategy to address the challenge of homelessness in Escondido. Anticipating tangible progress, they have their sights set on revealing three major new policies in the coming months.
Economic Development as the Answer to Financial Woes
White points to financial struggles as the biggest hurdle confronting the city. Escondido finds itself grappling with a considerable $10 million deficit, a weight that rests heavily on an already taut budget. Adding to this strain, the recent bid to bolster revenues through a measure to increase sales tax by ¾ cent for 15 years didn’t pass.
“We’ve always had financial difficulties, but there was so much emphasis put on raising taxes. Unfortunately, there was no contingency plan for the revenue measure failing, and there was little to no emphasis on expanding growth and economic development,” White said. “My plan of attack is growth.”
Redevelopment for multipurpose and multi-use buildings to spur on this growth is high on White’s priority list. Reimagining spaces like Grand Avenue in downtown Escondido can lead to more growth and consumer engagement, according to White.
Opportunities for Escondido’s Growth
The Grand Avenue Vision Project includes plans to beautify the area and create a more inviting atmosphere. Safe and uniform outdoor dining “parklets” will be built by the city to bring a cohesive look to the avenue. White also cited the Palomar Heights development as a great catalyst in the right direction for the city.
“When you look at other similar successful downtowns that have multi-use buildings, they go up three or four stories. It’s much more inviting, there’s much more traffic, and it’s more successful,” White said. While many would like to see Grand Avenue remain as it always has been, White’s initiative to develop the area focuses on bringing new life, and new consumer dollars, to the area.
“Stay with the times. Let go of what’s not working and focus on what is working. Don’t be afraid of change and opportunity,” White said, citing one of his significant endeavors – fostering an understanding among individuals that exploring innovative approaches yields more effective results than adhering solely to traditional methods.
Another opportunity for development in Escondido exists at the North County Mall (formerly Westfield Mall), which has found new life under fresh ownership. While Costco’s plan to move in is a well-known development, White said that two more major developments are in the pipeline for the mall. These announcements hold the potential to redefine the mall’s dynamics and inject a fresh energy into its atmosphere.
“It’s going to totally change the dynamics of the mall,” White said.
Open Spaces and Mayoral Faces
Amidst their own struggles and triumphs, Escondido supports a large portion of the healthcare and construction industries within their borders. The city also has a large footprint as the fourth largest city in San Diego County, but White said he likes that Escondido “still very much feels like a small town. Everybody says, ‘Hi,’ and we all know and love each other. There’s lots of open space still. It’s not jam packed with condos and homes.”
Serving as the “face of the city,” White’s role extends beyond policy and economics. As he engages with the community, his focus is on leaving a lasting impression that resonates positivity and progress. With every handshake, he strives to cultivate a sense of pride and assurance about Escondido. He’s committed to ensuring that the voices of the residents are acknowledged, and their needs take center stage.
Outside of his duties as mayor, White enjoys the natural beauty that surrounds Escondido. Hiking is his favorite pastime, with the Clevenger Trails topping his list of go-to spots. These trails, nestled within unincorporated Escondido, offer a rewarding journey – a roughly five-and-a-half-mile round trip that culminates in a breathtaking vista. Perched atop a boulder, White enjoys the sweeping view of the entire valley from the comfort of two metal rocking chairs, cemented firmly into the rock. Amid his outdoor pursuits, White also cherishes his role as a husband and father of two young daughters.
White’s story mirrors the city he serves – a tapestry of history, challenges, and aspirations. With his unique position as a young mayor deeply rooted in his hometown’s history, White is poised to navigate Escondido toward a promising tomorrow.
Read the story covering William Morrison, Development Director for JPI here for more content.
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About the Author
Caitlyn Canby loves to discover and share people’s stories. She has her bachelor’s degree in Communications, Print Journalism with over 8 years of journalism experience. An Escondido native, she just moved back from Catalina Island to North County with her husband and two children to the town of Fallbrook. Caitlyn enjoys collaborating on projects as Marketing and Events Coordinator at SDNEDC, traveling, and exploring new restaurants, venues, experiences, and cultures.