10/18/15: Sand, Styrofoam, Strategy and a Robo-Call

Lots to share with you this week!

More Sandy Beaches: The City of Encinitas, working together with the City of Solana Beach and the federal Army Corps of Engineers for more than 15 years, is moving forward with a 50-year project to put more sand on our local beaches. This week, after many questions and speakers, we voted 5-0 to certify the environmental impact report for the project, which will start in 2018. (Here’s a San Diego Union-Tribune article about the project.)

In 2012, a similar beach nourishment project sucked sand from “borrow sites” offshore and spit it onto our beaches. After walking on that excavated sand, I saw it was filled with pulverized shells and other indications that a large number of living creatures had called it home. The ecological impacts of this process concern me and others on the Council. This week, I supported the project after assurances that there will be ongoing monitoring of the borrow sites and reef health. If problems emerge, we’ll deal with them.

Allowing our sandy beaches to slowly wear away to cobblestones while our bluffs become even more destabilized by lapping waves just isn’t a legitimate option. It would negatively affect the safety and quality of life of residents, businesses and tourists. We need and want sandy beaches.

Where are We Headed and How Quickly?: Recent Strategic Planning discussions are helping us prioritize city staff time and taxpayer money. I’m really happy with our new City Manager Karen Brust’s steady administrative approach, consistently positive outlook and dedication to understanding each Council Member and our community. Her philosophy is that we can do almost anything, we just have to work at it.

One of my main interests is the mobility of our residents around the city — how we utilize our rail corridor, how many bike lanes and walking paths we provide, and the quality of our pavement and roads. With support from the Council, I think we’re moving the needle forward on this, with an increased focus and analysis on places for mobility improvement. (Here’s my recent op-ed about transportation and Strategic Planning from The Coast News.)

Here we’re cutting the ribbon on Encinitas’ first community garden! In every aspect of life, people want to do what they love communally, including gardening. Thank you to the Encinitas Union School District and the garden’s nonprofit volunteers who made this possible for Encinitas residents. If you’d like to rent a plot for $10 a month, sign up at encinitascommunitygarden.org.

It’s for the Birds!: Like many Encinitas residents, I received an anti-urban agricultural robo-call this week. The whole thing is hogwash! We’re trying to make it easier to both produce and acquire locally grown food by streamlining a regulatory process that can be so burdensome it discourages a vibrant local agriculture economy. Here’s a rough version of the robo-call:

“Hey Encinitas, wake up! Three members of our City Council want to rezone our neighborhoods to allow chickens, goats, and beehives in our backyards, and then allow them to sell their products outside in front of their homes. CLASSY! Tell Council Members Kranz, Shaffer and Blakespear that we don’t want the smells of barnyard animals in our nice upscale town we worked so hard to afford. Tell Council Members Kranz, Shaffer and Blakespear that we don’t want pigs, chickens, goat farms and beehives next to our homes. (Barnyard animal noises). Hey, get those bees out of here!”

I think this anonymous robo-call is backfiring because it’s triggered a large number of emails to me from people saying they support what we’re trying to accomplish. Some people knew nothing about it before receiving the call but like what we’re doing.

Regardless, our present draft of the urban agriculture ordinance will leave the city’s current ordinances related to small animals unchanged, and chickens and goats are already allowed in Encinitas. It’s mostly the growing of food and the excessive regulation of beehives that concerns us. It’s also important to remember that homeowners associations (HOAs) have stricter regulations than the city, which means none of the ordinance changes will affect residents in HOAs. The ordinance drafting is still in process and will return to the planning commission, then to the City Council for consideration.

Tiny Plastic Bits on our Beaches: We’ve been working for more than a year on a proposed Styrofoam ban, but because of strong opposition from local restaurants who use Styrofoam take-out containers, we pulled the item off the agenda so the city manager could provide options for implementation to ease the burden on restaurants. Ideas include a buying co-op so restaurants could get wholesale discounts on alternate biodegradable products, a grant program to offset the costs, or a phase-in period. This week our neighboring city of Solana Beach beat us to the punch and joined 90 other jurisdictions that have banned Styrofoam. (Here’s a summary from the San Diego Union-Tribune.)

I support small businesses and believe that it’s important for them to have a social conscience, even if it does cost a few extra cents per container. Many restaurants in Encinitas have already switched to compostable, biodegradable paper products, and several big restaurant chains such as McDonald’s have pulled the plug on Styrofoam. We need to make the transition as easy and economically feasible as possible, but I believe it’s an important step for the city in our commitment to be more environmentally oriented. Styrofoam is rarely recycled and is one of the most ubiquitious trash items on beaches and in the ocean. It breaks into small toxic pellets that are mistaken for food and ingested by animals. It never biodegrades, creates toxic emissions when burned and is listed as a possible carcinogen. We had vibrant restaurants before Styrofoam became ever-present and I believe restaurants still will be able to thrive using alternate, compostable products.

A New Density Bonus Ordinance: It’s been 20 years since we updated this particularly contentious section of the city’s code. This week we finally made it over that hurdle with relatively little fanfare. (Here you’ll find a good San Diego Union-Tribune article summarizing the situation.)

If you have anything you’d like to discuss, please don’t hesitate to reach out by replying to this email. I’m happy to meet with you about any subject.

Yours in Service,

 
 

The Assistance League helped local school kids and families last week by funding $70 per child toward new clothes and shoes. They raise the money through their local thrift store and all the grants are for local Encinitas school kids. I was honored to participate in this worthy volunteer effort to help the Encinitas community be well-prepared for learning.