5/29/20: More Beach Freedom, Money for Businesses, COVID Updates and More

For many of us, reading the morning newspaper and watching the news is a heartbreaking reminder of the deep and troubling problems we are facing in this country. The killing of yet another person of color at the hands of the police, and the resulting unrest, have reinforced the sickening reality of the racial injustice that continues to plague our nation.

I spoke with a city councilmember from Sacramento today who has family living near Minneapolis, the epicenter of the current strife. His aunt who lives there shared this pearl that I find useful – “We can’t change 400 years of world history in one day, but we can fight to do the best we can today.”

At times like this, I remind myself that while there are many things we can’t control, there are things we can. I emphatically encourage each of us to deeply reflect on how we can work toward a complete recovery that ensures a just future for every one of us – economically, socially, physically and spiritually.

Throughout the world there seems to be a slow but inconsistent decline in coronavirus cases, as shown in the chart above from John Hopkins. The top line is the United States and the other lines are other countries.  

Here at home, the number of cases in the City of Encinitas continues to slowly increase. We are now at 50 cumulative positive cases over the last 10 weeks. For a while it increased by one a day, then we saw no new cases for about three weeks, then we started inching up day-by-day again and now we’ve been at 50 for a few days. 

I’m routinely asked for more information about these cases – where did they catch it, are we tracking and tracing who they interacted with, are they hospitalized or at home? As I’ve mentioned before, I really wish I knew these answers. The county health department isn’t releasing that type of public health information, so I know only what the public knows.

As things open up, we must be more mindful

Just another day at the office! 

You may know that my husband Jeremy (seen above) is a medical provider who tests people for coronavirus, and the results of his testing are routinely positive. He has shared that patients with coronavirus symptoms who come in for testing report innocuous contacts, such as an innocent family visit to see a relative and spend time with her inside her home. He said patients by and large don’t think they’ve done anything particularly risky, but by the time the symptoms arise, it’s too late to change that decision and reverse the results. 
 
As the health guidelines change, many of us are going into more public places, including restaurants, beaches, places of worship, our relatives’ homes, and shops. As we begin to re-emerge, we need to protect ourselves and others with barriers that reduce the virus’ spread, such as facial coverings. This is a relatively minor inconvenience for the sake of everyone’s health and our collective future.
 
Here’s another way of looking at it – somebody walking around barefoot and shirtless might feel indignant when encountering a “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” sign in a restaurant. But it’s a standard most of us have learned to accept. 
 
More good news on re-openings


Here are some very welcome public space updates:

  • Household groups can sit, lie down and passively enjoy the beach starting this Tuesday, June 2. Still no team sports, and the beach parking lots remain closed for now, by county order.
  • Parking along Highway 101 is now open, which should help reduce crowding in neighborhoods.
  • Beacon’s Beach is now open! Emergency repairs to the stability of the trail and bluff have been completed ahead of schedule, and one of Leucadia’s popular beach access points is back in business.
  • Dog parks and off leash areas are all open, and our skate parks will reopen soon.

Here’s more detailed information about our many fantastic parks.

Planning an exciting Encinitas future

You might have a hard time believing that budgeting and planning can be exhilarating, but I’m delighted to report that your City Council had a successful three-and-a-half-hour goal-setting session last Wednesday.

I have such a feeling of gratitude toward my four elected colleagues, our highly competent and hard-working professional staff, and the engaged public who participated with submitted comments. Together, we’re a highly functioning team, working through differences of opinion and suggestions with a strong commitment to positive problem-solving. 

We tackled various budgetary questions about our largest capital projects. All of them had to be reviewed and prioritized because of reduced revenue caused by the pandemic, uncertainty about the future, and the predicted financial costs.

The projects above were funded in previous budget cycles and didn’t require decision-making at our goal-setting session.

The projects above were funded in previous budget cycles and didn’t require decision-making at our goal-setting session.

Olympus Park in Leucadia is a long-awaited community amenity, and the first park we’ve built since 2015 when we officially opened the Encinitas Community Park. 

We’re improving the rail corridor in Leucadia for better drainage and safer parking (right photo) and we funded extending the project further north. 

The city’s largest capital project is the Leucadia Streetscape improvement along 2.5 miles of Highway 101. The rendering of the roundabout above shows the railroad pedestrian undercrossing at El Portal in Old Encinitas. The red box in the lower graphic shows the length of the the project we’re funding in Stage 1. 
 
Months ago, we had begun talking about financing and constructing the Leucadia Streetscape project in a single stage because it would be finished faster. But now, with the economic future so unsettled, we all felt it was wise to pursue a more cautious strategy by completing Streetscape in stages. The city is on solid financial footing, but we don’t want to risk getting overextended. 
 
Considering our existing budget and the fact that new, smaller projects always arise throughout the year that must also be funded, we settled on a $7.7 million Stage 1 Leucadia Streetscape project on Coast Hwy 101 that extends from Marcheta Street north to Basil Street, with the new El Portal pedestrian undercrossing smack in the middle. In addition, Stage 1 includes a roundabout and parking pods for better parking in the rail corridor. 
 
Here are some other significant decisions from our Wednesday planning session:

  • We funded $500,000 from the CARES Act money coming through the county for $2,500 grants for Encinitas businesses under 25 employees. This amount will fund 200 grants.  
  • Because countywide sales tax revenue from Transnet is tanking, the city is designating $510,000 from the general fund to continue our $3 million annual funding into maintaining our high pavement quality on city streets. This money funds the slurry seals, pothole filling and re-paving projects that we do every year. Street quality is one of the most visible indicators of a city’s health, something too important to defer for even a year, and worth the investment.
  • We asked staff for a pavement improvement plan for Birmingham Drive, given that the daunting $8-$10 million estimates for the complete road rebuilding project that involves undergrounding utilities, ADA improvements and a roundabout will require grants.
  • We asked for a dedicated line item, even though it’s currently unfunded, for a railroad crossing in northern Leucadia to connect the neighborhood on the eastern side of the tracks with the businesses on west Highway 101. 

At our June 10 City Council meeting, we’ll introduce the entire city budget for the next fiscal year and then vote on it two weeks later. The work we did at this week’s planning session was very useful, because it allowed us to prepare for the big budget picture by focusing on the city’s largest capital projects in advance.

The acting city manager has asked each department to reduce its expenses by 5%. I’m not expecting the proposed budget to include any cuts to law enforcement, fire or marine safety, the parks department or programming or hours at the senior and community center. The core of the city’s finances will remain stable, with a bit of trimming.

Here’s an Encinitas Advocate article about our budget decisions.
 
Our schools should safely re-open


As I’ve mentioned before, I remain deeply worried about public education in this pandemic. The current trajectory seems headed toward a Fall for K-12 students where students are expected to “learn from home” for half the week under a “hybrid” learning model. I think this is the wrong direction. Learning for students will suffer, working parents will be expected to take on an unreasonable burden of education management, women’s participation in the overall workforce will inevitably be affected, and those with less privilege will suffer the most from the digital divide.

I strongly advocate that a full time, on-campus school option should be offered to families (barring a severe second COVID-19 wave), and families will make the choices that best suit their circumstances. I understand that some families will opt for home schooling, private schools, charter schools or a hybrid model. But many families with two working parents don’t have that luxury.
 
There was an outcry for beaches and businesses to open. If you’re a parent with an opinion about the school situation I suggest that you email or call your school board and school administration, as well as state-level and county-level leaders now. The school districts’ decisions are not final, but the groundwork is currently being laid for what happens this fall. You can still affect this decision-making.

In order for schools to open full time, six feet of distance at all times should be advised, but not required. And schools shouldn’t be required to reduce capacity. Day care centers have opened successfully, apparently without any outbreaks in those settings. There is no way to eliminate all risk, but for campuses where teachers and students remain healthy, parents deserve an on-campus full time option. 

See you on Facebook Live Saturday!

I’ll do another Facebook Live this Saturday at 4 p.m. Please join me to hear about the city investments in major projects, and the latest coronovirus-related news. One of my favorite elements of our Facebook Live sessions is responding to your questions and comments – feel free to reply to this newsletter with yours, and I’ll try to get to as many as I can on Saturday.

At the end of last week’s Facebook Live our daughter showed you our newest family pets in a segment I’m calling “P.S.” This week’s P.S. will be something similarly personal.

Here’s hoping that you and your family are staying sane, centered, and able to recognize and enjoy the more pleasant aspects of our current circumstances!

In service,