10/20/19: Facing Homelessness Head-On in Encinitas

When I look into the future, the homeless epidemic sweeping nearly every community in California is one of my most profound concerns as your mayor. 

In Encinitas, homelessness isn’t nearly as bad as in some communities. But we need to be proactive and engaged in addressing homelessness here.

On this week’s upcoming City Council agenda, the city is proposing $75,000 to create a homeless action plan, and dedicate a Sheriff’s officer and a county-funded full-time licensed social worker to create a one-year pilot program for a Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) team with the Community Resource Center.

In March 2018, as seen in the photo above, I was part of a panel on homelessness hosted by the Community Resource Center in the Encinitas Library. Every seat was filled, a testament to the compassion and alarm many feel about people living on our streets. Last week, the City of Carlsbad organized a group of elected officials and staff from the North County cities to discuss a regional approach to homelessness. Encinitas City Councilmember Tony Kranz attended. 

The City of San Diego, with its 1.4 million people, just passed its own homeless action plan that would require a nearly $2 billion investment if fully funded. Hopefully our plan covering 63,000 people won’t require that much money!

In Encinitas, our city’s annual 4 a.m. “Point in Time” count has been relatively consistent for the last four years, with about 120 homeless people identified in Encinitas, 79 counted outdoors as “unsheltered” and 41 counted as “sheltered.” It’s believed that these numbers are low because not everyone who is homeless on any given night gets counted. But it’s a starting number. 

Our plan needs to begin with the demographics of the current Encinitas homeless population and their needs – for instance, how many are families, drug and alcohol addicted, chronically homeless, domestic violence victims, youth, LGBTQ, elderly, suffering mental illness, transitional, etc.. Each category requires a different type of intervention or approach to prevention.

Also, there will be an evaluation of our existing community efforts. Who is doing what and how effective is it? What are our goals, and who are the responsible parties? Cities don’t have health departments, but the county does, so cross-government collaboration is key.

The larger systemic causes of homelessness are beyond any individual city’s control, but all of us are affected. It’s heart-wrenching to see another human huddled outside under a dirty blanket on the street at night. We shouldn’t let our waterways and beaches become polluted with refuse and waste. And our residents and businesses deserve to feel safe, clean and welcome in our community gathering places. 

Unfortunately, when I look ahead to the next five years, I don’t see the number of people living unsheltered going down because of the larger societal trends. The larger trends include:

  • At the bottom end, a stagnant, low-wage economy that leaves some full time workers too poor to live
  • A shortage of housing affordable to low-wage workers 
  • A shortage of temporary shelter space
  • Too few mental health beds for those in crisis

It’s particularly alarming when you consider that we have record low levels of unemployment right now, the lowest in 20 years. I’m concerned that things will get worse when we see an economic downturn and more people are out of work.

Homeless issues are complex and daunting, but we are committed to facing them head-on. I’ll continue to keep you in the loop on our progress.

Walking the Walk

I’m tremendously honored to be awarded the “Walk the Walk” Momentum Award from Circulate San Diego. The awards event is Thursday, Oct. 24, at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park, where inspired speakers on mobility will all be in the same room. I highly recommend getting a ticket and attending if you’re interested in biking, walking and transit in our county. 

Gas leaf blower ban takes effect in Encinitas

Moving away from fossil fuel-based off-road equipment is one of the strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions identified in our Climate Action Plan. On September 20, an ordinance prohibiting the use of all gas-powered leaf blowers citywide became law. It becomes effective December 20 for commercial operators, and January 20 of next year for everyone else.

The ordinance also requires responsible use of blower equipment to control dust and noise. It also restricts leaf blower hours of operation to between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and between 12:00 noon and 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.

A rebate program is offered for those who purchase new electric blowers.

Several people have asked for more details on the rebate program and the effective dates. More information is here.

Celebrated Encinitas boathouses now officially historic

(Middle two photos by Paul Brencick.)

Over 200 people gathered for a dedication ceremony on October 12 as Encinitas’ 91-year-old boathouses on the 700 block of Third Street were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

If you haven’t already, now there’s an even greater incentive to visit these unique structures and share them with out-of-town friends. Here’s the Encinitas Advocate story.

Kids run a simulated city

I recently volunteered during a very fascinating field trip at Junior Achievement’s Biz Town with my son’s fifth grade class. They learned to be little adults, cashing checks, paying off business loans and creating an economy.

Unfortunately, they’ve recently lost a large sponsor for this valuable program. I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to replace it. My son Oliver worked in the bank (as seen in the photo above), which he found very engaging.

An architectural Orchid in Encinitas

Speaking of banks, local architect and our very own Planning Commissioner Brett Farrow has won a coveted Orchid award from the San Diego Architectural Foundation for his design of the new C3 Bancorp headquarters, located in the heart of our downtown, at 850 S. Coast Hwy 101. I attended the official opening and it is truly an amazing space. 

It’s not every day a local building wins such a major award – congratulations, Brett! Here’s the Coast News story.

Giving back to nature

My dad and I recently attended the AWE Gala to raise funds for The Nature Collective, formerly the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy. What great work they do connecting residents to nature!

I’d like to leave you on a personal note. Some weeks I feel like I’m running at top speed with the number of requests for the mayor’s time and speaking engagements.

I’m so grateful that my circumstances allow me to devote my life’s force and energy to this gratifying public service job. When the pace is set to a high gear, the basics get done in the rest of my life, but there’s little time and brainpower remaining to devote to personal tasks – planning and preparing meals, children’s social commitments, secret stolen time to get some exercise and be outside, plus spending unstructured time with my husband and kids. It all gets pushed to the side.

I’ll bet you can relate! Whenever I’m able to return to the surface for a breath, I try to re-establish my own personal equilibrium. I’d like to share with you this article, referenced by Sara Libby at Voice of San Diego, titled “It’s So Much More Than Cooking” by Zoe Fenson from The Week.

Her article captures the mental processes that are always running in the background to maintain a household. There aren’t any solutions here, but sometimes recognition can be a tonic! I hope we all can find that elusive balance of being stress-free, yet highly engaged.

In service,