1/31/16: Leucadia Towing, Moonlight Beach Lifeguard, Coastal Rail Trail, Pacific View, San Onofre…

The City Council has heard three appeals in the last two weeks, and I’m hopeful that the planning department will soon embrace the city’s new mediation program and proactively route opposing parties into a positive, collaborative conflict resolution approach. The right to appeal is critical, but we hope to reduce the number of conflicts that require it.

Leucadia Towing and Santa Fe Drive Improvements:
Some appeals don’t involve neighbors-against-neighbors — they come from objections to decisions made by the Planning and Building Department or the Planning Commission. This week, Leucadia Towing appealed a unanimous denial by the Planning Commission to move its towing operation from the Pacific View School site to San Dieguito Water District property previously used for storage on the south side of Santa Fe Drive, east of the freeway. I voted with Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Council Member Mark Muir to deny the project, because a 24-hour towing impound yard is not compatible with the residential neighborhood.

Santa Fe Drive is increasingly congested, and is in the process of transformation. Heavier traffic is the result of several factors — San Dieguito Academy accepts more students every year (about 100 more students this coming fall compared to last year), former greenhouses have been developed into homes on Lake Drive, Scripps Hospital has expanded, and our new Encinitas Community Park is heavily used.

Recent city improvements are helping to change the driving and walking experience on Santa Fe Drive, which was in poor condition with pot holes and dirt shoulders. We’re nearing completion of a $1.3 million sidewalk and street improvement project that has already aligned sidewalks, built pop-outs (see the before and after photos below), improved storm drains, upgraded street lighting, planted trees and will conclude with the removal of overhead powerlines, re-landscaping, re-paving and re-striping the street.

I feel a lot of compassion for the longtime local business owner of Leucadia Towing and hope there’s another spot in the city for him to relocate his towing and impound business. (Here’s the San Diego Union-Tribune story.)

Encinitas Road Diagram 3

Before (top) and after improvements (bottom) at Santa Fe Drive and Nardo Road.

Transferring Spent Nuclear Fuel:
We unanimously approved a resolution supporting a federal effort to authorize the Department of Energy to transfer spent nuclear waste away from the closed San Onofre nuclear power plant to Texas or New Mexico. (More details on the specifics are here in the Encinitas Advocate story.)

Pacific View:
The city approved moving forward with drafting an agreement for volunteers to do clean-up and maintenance at the Pacific View school while a long term lease is being negotiated. The “Right of Entry” agreement would allow members of the Encinitas Arts, Culture, and Ecology Alliance to make improvements such as replacing broken windows, pulling weeds, cleaning-up trash and generally make this blighted school site cleaner and safer. The Alliance would provide insurance and indemnification and any improvements would belong to the city if the lease negotiations fall through. This proposal for immediate improvement is a good idea. (Here’s more information from SavePacificView.org.)

Catherine Blaksespear City Council

The Encinitas Arts, Culture, and Ecology Alliance accepted two $1000 checks from the Synergy Art Foundation and Encinitas Friends of the Arts, who demonstrated their commitment and enthusiasm for Pacific View’s progress at the City Council meeting.

Moonlight Beach Lifeguard Tower:
The City Council heard a report on the coming Marine Safety Center at Moonlight Beach, which will be placed where the existing lifeguard tower currently sits to maximize the lifeguards’ visibility of the beach and ocean.

This placement means the tower could be affected by sea-level rise, beach erosion and “maximum wave run-up” during storm conditions. To address that, the building will have a floodable first floor for a worst-case scenario event over the next 50 years. No electronics or other sensitive material will be stored on that level. The foundation of the building is also being designed with drilled cast-in-place concrete piers to fortify the Center against the ocean. If piers can be built in the ocean, than a lifeguard tower that can withstand ocean waves seems possible too.

The Coastal Commission has indicated initial support for this plan. Twenty-five people attended the Community Participation Program about the tower and the comments received were all positive. Construction is set to begin in April 2017.

Encinitas Beach Diagram 1

The current lifeguard tower (top) and a rendering of the planned Marine Safety Center at Moonlight Beach (bottom).

Coastal Rail Trail:
This week I attended a routine Caltrans and SANDAG meeting that also featured protesters holding signs opposed to the Cardiff Rail Trail. I continue to support the Coastal Rail Trail, feeling that it will dramatically increase many residents’ ability to move around our city on foot and bike.

The natural bluffs, beautiful environment, and ocean views will remain after the rail trail is built. It will just be far easier for people to experience that beauty by having a continuous path. I don’t believe that it’s an either/or choice between natural beauty or a pedestrian and bike path. Once the trail is built, the corridor won’t look like Orange County; and it won’t be filled with concrete. It will look like Cardiff with a bike path. The new path will be surrounded by the wildflowers in the spring, just like the non-continuous dirt path is now.

I continue to hope that the passion devoted to opposing a project that’s already been voted upon and is well underway could be channeled into helping create a rail trail that is the most environmentally sensitive and context-appropriate project for our area.

It pains me to know that some of my neighbors feel so strongly that this project will ruin the way they experience Cardiff. The authenticity and strength of their emotion is clear and it saddens me to know that our decision created those feelings. I don’t trivialize or dismiss their desire to keep a natural, non-manicured feeling, nor the necessity of maintaining and improving coastal access. I share those values.

When I reflect upon my own north star, I still think that we made the right decision last May. Most residents want and support better biking and walking infrastructure in that corridor, and believe that a continuous bike and pedestrian path is an improvement. (Here’s a Channel 8 video story about the topic, and a Coast News op-ed piece penned by Council Member Tony Kranz and me.)

That’s it for now; have a great week!

Yours in continuing service,
Catherine Blakespear Signature