2/17/19: Artistic New Underpasses Coming, plus Lots of Encinitas News

Last Wednesday evening at our City Council meeting, we were “Taking Care of Business,” as the classic rock song goes.

Welcome to our new Commissioners

We appointed five new Encinitas City Commissioners, and once again we were blessed with an outstanding candidate pool, making for some tough decision-making. All of the accomplished and dedicated applicants who want to give back to their city deserve our recognition and thanks.

Congratulations to Planning Commissioner Brett Farrow; Traffic and Public Safety Commissioners Michael von Neumann, Marty Benson, and Brian Grover (who was re-appointed); and Arts Commissioner Jeffrey Redlitz. All will serve three year terms.

I look forward to the contributions of our highly qualified and motivated new members!

Orpheus Chevron remodel approved

We also supported our city Planning Commission’s recommended approval of a project to remodel a gas station, and add a market (with no alcohol sales allowed) and a take-out restaurant at the corner of Leucadia Blvd. and Orpheus Ave, just west of Interstate 5. The station is pictured above in its current state.

I was on the City Council in 2016 when we rejected the proposed expansion of this gas station into a car wash with two additional gas pumps, and a larger market. This scaled-back plan is a better fit that is more responsive to the community.

We heard from many speakers opposed to the proposal because of fears of future alcohol sales, opposition to more traffic at an intersection already impacted by the Starbucks and concerns about the configuration and parking. While we empathized with the concerns, the proposed project was consistent with the municipal code, general plan, local coastal program and design guidelines, and so the council unanimously approved it. 

Here’s the San Diego Union-Tribune story. And here’s yet another San Diego Union-Tribune story.

Work continues on new pedestrian underpasses 

You’ve probably seen the progress on the new pedestrian and bicycle freeway underpasses at Encinitas Blvd. and Santa Fe Dr. Above are artist renderings of the finished product, which should be ready by late summer. Not only will the new undercrossings make Encinitas bike, pedestrian and car travel safer, you’ll be able to enjoy mosaics made by Encinitas students! Rumor has it that I might be working with students from a San Dieguito Academy art class on a panel, as well.

Here’s the Coast News story.

Focus on Encinitas housing

In the photo above are (l. to r.) State Senator Brian Jones, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones, Matt Awbrey from San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Office, me, and La Mesa Vice Mayor Colin Parent. 

Last week I presented on the above panel to 500 people at an event organized by the San Diego Association of Realtors called “New Laws and Industry Outlook Breakfast.” 

I focused my remarks on explaining how the City of Encinitas became the only city in the county without a state-approved housing plan. I also talked about the many benefits of our innovative and forward-looking pre-approved accessory dwelling unit (ADU) program called “Housing for Generations.” Our embrace of ADUs shows that we are taking immediate steps to add housing in our community. The pre-approved plans we’re offering to the public can be accessed here on the city’s website.

This article – State Bill Sponsored by Encinitas Starts to Produce Housing Results – on the front page of the Coast News this week, highlights the city’s efforts to create and count every housing unit through actions at both the local and state level. The article highlights the early success of SB1226, which has only been state law for six weeks, and is the first bill sponsored by Encinitas in at least 20 years.

The profiled resident’s Cardiff home was built in 1946, with two accessory units built on the property in 1983. The owner couldn’t legally permit the units in 2019 without tearing down and rebuilding internal walls. After SB1226, the building inspector is now able to use the 1983 code to determine that safety and health requirements of habitability have been met. The inspector has approved a retroactive permit that allows the owner to legally rent the units.

This is a really exciting development that shows the success of our action and advocacy at the state level. I want to thank state Senator Pat Bates for helping Encinitas by carrying the bill last year.           

Other Encinitas-specific housing issues that I raised in last week’s newsletter remain unresolved as of this week. There will likely be more clarity next week about how we comply with a state demand that we “amend or invalidate” Proposition A.

I also received the invitation I’d been dreading, to attend the “Governor’s Mayoral Meeting on Housing Element Compliance” in Long Beach next Tuesday, sent to the 47 mayors of cities that are out of compliance with state housing laws. At the risk of sounding somewhat flippant, this event feels a bit like, “Hello! We might sue you. But now let’s have lunch!” I’ll let you know how it goes.

And finally at SANDAG, we held the first meeting of the subcommittee that will determine how we distribute the next round of housing units to each jurisdiction in the county. Every eight years, the state allocates a certain number of homes to the county and the SANDAG Board has to determine where they go. There are 171,000 homes required to be planned for San Diego County, starting in the year 2021. This is 10,000 more homes than were mandated the last time around.    

Bicycle safety updates

I’m thrilled with the new vertical bollards we’ve installed on Leucadia Blvd. to protect cyclists from cars.  Another example of improved road safety in Encinitas. 

Longtime Cardiff resident Susan Willhoit recently made an appointment to talk with me about about bicycle safety issues, specifically the need for cyclists to do everything possible to call attention to themselves while riding. She brought in examples and pictures that made the point really clearly. Here we are modeling the safety gear!

An inspiring letter

Finally, last week we received a wonderful letter from a native Encinitan, and I wanted to share it with you. It embodies aspects that are so important to us as we strive to serve our city in the best way possible. And it’s inspiring that a resident took it upon himself to dig in and learn more about our local government, then offered to pitch in. Mr. Schaller is one of the reasons I love Encinitas!

Mayor Blakespear & the Encinitas City Council,

Greetings my name is Craig Schaller. I have been a lifelong fan of Encinitas, and have lived in Leucadia for the last five years. I have spent my career working in healthcare (EMT, Paramedic, etc.) and now work as a Commercial Operations Director for a medical device company in San Diego. 

Last year I made a goal to better understand local government, and take on projects to improve the Encinitas community. Last night I attended my 15th city council meeting (I usually sit in the overflow area, and take notes on topics of interest). After 15 meetings, I wanted to share some takeaways I convey to my friends and family:

  • I am extremely impressed and inspired by the Encinitas City Council and Encinitas government employees.
  • You all do a great job representing Encinitas residents; and are taking the city in the right direction (great infrastructure improvements, and preserving Encinitas’ unique culture)
  • Meetings are efficient, fair, and balanced – even when I don’t agree with the decision made, I respect the process. I have tried to emulate Mayor Blakespear’s style with frustrated/passionate employees at my own job.
  • The majority of residents who attend /participate in city council meetings are retired homeowners. Few residents regularly attend city council, most attend as a group, to voice concern / support for a particular topic. Most speakers don’t represent my demographic (30-40-something, work full-time, rent, have small children)
  • The online webcasts are EXTREMELY helpful for the majority of my friends who can’t attend in-person
  • The agendas published on the city council website are great to review prior to city council meetings.

If there is an opportunity to get involved in a task-force, or if you need any small project completed, please let me know. I work full-time but am free on the evenings and weekend. I was top of my class in business school and bring an analytical, data-driven approach to projects. 

Kind regards & keep up the good work!

Craig Schaller

Nice, huh? Enjoy your week and I’ll see you next Sunday,