1/26/20: Parking for Homeless Gets a ‘Yes,’ Plus City Budget Remains Strong!

After last week’s emotionally charged City Council meeting, Encinitas will have a place where 25 people who have lost their homes but still own their cars can sleep securely at night, while being provided the supportive services needed to get back into housing.

The proposal, from social service provider Jewish Family Service and Encinitas’ Leichtag Foundation as the host site on their 67-acre property, had inspired substantial energy and passion on both sides. About 175 people signed up to speak, and public testimony lasted more than five hours. 

I voted for it, along with three of my four colleagues, because it’s the right thing to do. I believe the proposal has addressed the concerns about safety and security that created the fear that underlies much of the opposition. 

Any one of us could suffer the misfortune that some of our neighbors have faced when they lost their homes and found themselves needing to sleep inside their cars. Let’s help them get back under a roof before they lose their cars and find themselves sleeping on the street. This parking lot is not for the chronically homeless, or those with alcohol or drug abuse problems or severe mental illness.  

After the marathon meeting ended after midnight, I caught some brief shut-eye from 1:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. before volunteering at 3:30 a.m. for the annual Point-in-Time count.

Your exhausted (but motivated!) mayor shows the precinct she covered along with one of her two early morning partners, Derek Wiback, early last Thursday morning, looking for people experiencing homelessness.

This annual census of people who are sleeping in places not fit for habitation led me to document 10 people in and around our downtown and Moonlight Beach. Four of them were sleeping outside unsheltered, and two people inside cars seemed great candidates for our Safe Parking lot.

One woman I spoke with has an MBA and a full-time job and said no one in her life knows she’s spending her nights inside of her car. She said she’s close to having saved up the money she needs for first and last-month’s rent.
 
I’m looking forward to volunteering at the Safe Parking lot once it’s open by the end of the month as I continue to pursue further insight into this increasingly troubling issue. 

If you want more details about who will stay in the Safe Parking lot and how it operates, this great Frequently Asked Questions from Jewish Family Service is worth reading. 

You’ll find coverage of the epic City Council meeting from these news sources: Fox5 News10NewsCBS News 8Voice of San Diego, the Coast NewsEncinitas Advocate, and a North Coast Current editorial titled “Encinitas effort to help homeless is not a ‘big city’ issue.”

Encinitas city finances are solid!We received some good Encinitas financial news that may have been eclipsed by other recent issues. The city reported the fiscal results for 2018/19 and our finances remain strong. Here are some stats that reflect our sound money management and the ongoing prosperity of our city. 

Here’s our income improvement between Fiscal Year 2017/18 and Fiscal Year 2018/19:

  • Property tax revenue jumped from $44.6 million to $47.4 million. Property tax comprises 61 percent of our general fund revenue. The median sales price for an Encinitas home is $1.1 million (!).
     
  • Sales tax revenue went from $13.2 to $13.6 million. The city receives one percent of the state 7.75% sales tax rate for sales that occur in Encinitas.
     
  • Our TOT (hotel rooms tax) rose from $2 to $2.2 million. The city’s rate is 10 percent of the room charges for stays of under 30 days and is collected by hotels, motels and vacation rentals.  
     
  • Overall revenue increased from $73.8 to $79.1 million.

Here’s the expenditure side, compared between Fiscal Year 2017/18 and Fiscal Year 2018/19:

  • Our law enforcement contract with the Sheriff’s department went from $14.2 million to $15 million.
     
  • Fire and marine safety expenses jumped from $15.1 to $16.2 million.
     
  • Our Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts expenses increased from $6.7 to $7 million.
     
  • Overall expenditures rose from $60.9 million to $65.1 million. 

We continued our six-year-old practice (proposed by former Encinitas City Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer) of taking a lump-sum payment for our unfunded pension liabilities from the unassigned general fund balance at the end of each fiscal year. For each of the last three years we’ve put aside $500,000, and before that we dedicated five percent of the year-end carryover, which was always less than $500,000. 

So our total is now $2.3 million allotted toward unfunded pension liability. And we’ve instituted new policies to eliminate the creation of any new unfunded pension liability. 

These budget numbers don’t include our capital improvement projects (CIP), with expenditures totaling $67 million. 

Would you like to dive deeper into our budgetary business? Here’s the staff reportwith charts and information on the budget and the CIP projects.  

And if you’ve been following the unpopular proposal for an apartment complex in Olivenhain, the developer has withdrawn the application. The story from The San Diego Union-Tribune and the Encinitas Advocate is here: “Developer Pulls 4-story Apartment Complex.” 

I’ll leave you with a proverb, thought to be from the 16th century, that has run through my mind many times in the last month as we strive to help our neighbors in need:

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

I hope you have an excellent and meaningful week!

In service,

P.S. Cyclovia was a blast!

(Photos by Jim Wang.)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t celebrate the glory that was Encinitas’ first Cyclovia event, held downtown on Coast Highway 101 two weeks ago. For several hours, cars were barred from the asphalt, and bikes, scooters, skates and pedestrians ruled the road – an exhilarating experience. Thanks to everyone who participated and those whose vision made this boundary-bending event possible!