3/27/16: Complete Streets, Rail Trail, Leo Mullen and more…

Several issues have come up at City Council meetings lately that will collectively have quite an impact on the future we’re all creating for Encinitas.

At this week’s joint meeting of the City Council and the Traffic and Public Safety Commission about “Complete Streets,” the Council unanimously approved asking the commission to draft an interim policy regarding designing streets for all types of users, not just for drivers, but pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and people of all ages and abilities. The California Complete Streets Act was signed into law in 2008, and went into effect in 2011. (Here’s some Caltrans information on creating Complete Streets.)

A number of studies and planning documents dealing with better mobility are currently planned or already underway in Encinitas. But we still could be doing a better, more efficient job making our streets more “complete” — a high priority for several of us on the City Council. Not every street will have bike lanes and sidewalks, and many streets can be improved just by painting a parking lane, which defines the width of a road for drivers and increases safety for pedestrians.

When streets are more “complete”, drivers don’t “lose” when pedestrians or cyclists “win,” as some claim. Recent street improvements like the undercrossing at Santa Fe Drive to access the beach at Swamis, or the walking path to the beach along La Costa Avenue, are examples of roadway improvements that have dramatically increased biking and walking mobility, and have a marginal effect on drivers. (Here is an article from the Encinitas Advocate about our decision.)

The rail corridor and San Elijo/Vulcan Avenue is an area that needs mobility improvement. I strongly support expediting our Rail Corridor Vision study to come up with a plan for the entire rail corridor. Numerous past studies on the rail corridor may exist, but the fact remains that we don’t have a plan for the entire rail corridor that has been vetted by locals. The goal of doing the study would be to establish a citywide Encinitas plan, not just for Cardiff, but downtown Encinitas and Leucadia too.

From my perspective, we could either expedite creating this citywide plan so that it helps inform our decisions, or we could take our time, miss the deadlines set by regional agencies and do a visioning plan after we’ve already decided to build one section of the rail trail. This doesn’t make sense to me at all. The city, not outside agencies such as SANDAG or NCTD, needs to take responsibility for establishing the types of bike and walking paths that we want here. The residents of Encinitas should be able to officially weigh in about what we want to see in our rail corridor for the long term.

If you’ve been wanting to express your opinion on the rail trail to the City Council, please come to our City Council meeting at 6 p.m. this Wednesday evening, March 30, at City Hall, 505 S. Vulcan Ave., Encinitas. I expect a large crowd.

The agenda item this coming week is based on my request two weeks ago that the City Council:

  1. Reconsider its support of the “east side” alignment of the Coastal Rail Trail, including reconsideration of the Highway 101 alignment
  1. Establish a Rail Trail Working Group of local residents to work together with SANDAG to come up with a community consensus plan
  1. Discuss having a plan for the entire rail corridor occur before pursuing a rail trail alignment through Cardiff

(Here is a link to the special meeting agenda, and here’s the Agenda Report, which provides a nice summary of the many rail corridor projects, and what we’ll be discussing at City Council. And here’s a link to my newsletter from last week, in which I described why I’ve reconsidered my support for the rail trail on the east side, while still strongly supporting better ways to bike and walk along San Elijo Avenue, Vulcan Avenue and Highway 101.)

Encinitas Road Diagram 4

The top photo is a rendering of a proposed trail under a new San Elijo Lagoon highway bridge, courtesy of Caltrans. I think this concept more closely reflects the sensibilities that many residents envision for the Encinitas’ trail in the rail corridor, as compared to a 10-foot, straight concrete bicycle highway similar to that shown in the bottom photo.

Related to transportation planning, we heard a proposal two weeks ago from what’s called the E3 Cluster (Encinitas Environmental Education Cluster) about traffic calming ideas for Saxony Road and Quail Gardens Drive. The E3 Cluster is a group of non-profit neighborhood organizations that consist of the Leichtag Foundation, Encinitas Union School District, Ecke YMCA, Seacrest Village, San Dieguito Heritage Museum, and San Diego Botanic Garden.

At that meeting, the City Council agreed with the city staff and the speakers from the E3 Cluster to do striping modifications on the northern portion of Saxony Road and at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens, but to hold off on roundabouts, raised speed table crosswalks and stop signs until we can look at all of our circulation elements roads together. (Here’s a Coast News story about it.)

Leo Mullen Sports Park
The City Council approved moving forward with replacing the battered grass at Leo Mullen field with a synthetic organic material made from cork, coconut husks and rice hulls. Remarkably, that infill material was less expensive than the coated crumb rubber, which would have been recycled tires shredded and coated with acrylic. The total project will cost $1.03 million, with about $172,000 in a turf rebate from the Metropolitan Water District. I think this is a good project, the installation of turf has the full support of the soccer clubs, and I’m happy that the city can use a non-toxic material for our kids to play sports on. (More information on the turf and the potential lights at the field is in the San Diego Union-Tribune story.)

Cardiff Fire Station

(Photo by Jared Whitlock/Encinitas Advocate)

Cardiff Fire Station
I’m really pleased that the City has finalized a three-year lease for the old Cardiff fire station (see photo above). I strongly advocated for the city to keep the former fire station after the new one opened next door in 2013, as an important fiscal savings plan. G.J. Trippe, the tenant, is putting $40,000 into sprucing up the property, and will pay $2,300 monthly in rent for this older and somewhat run-down space, as well as assuming all the expenses and property taxes associated with the property. The tenant is perfect for the space – a non-emergency ambulance service that takes veterans to medical facilities or the airport.

Owning real property west of I-5 is a forced savings program for the city and gives us flexibility in the future. It’s so politically and economically difficult for the city to buy property that it’s prudent to keep property we already own, especially when it produces a positive cash flow. I’m grateful to my colleagues for also seeing the wisdom in this strategy. Here’s an Encinitas Advocate article about the lease.

Catherine Blakespear City Council

The Chamber of Commerce hosted an exceptional State of the City address this year, and the Mayor gave a unifying, funny and informative overview. Pictured from left to right are Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Gattinella, Council Member Mark Muir, Mayor Kristin Gaspar, Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer, Council Member Catherine S. Blakespear, City Manager Karen Brust and Council Member Tony Kranz. (Here are articles about the event from The Coast News and the Encinitas Advocate.)

I’ll leave you with a pertinent quote repeated by California Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk who changed his position on an issue he had addressed as Attorney General from the opposite perspective:

“Wisdom too often never comes, so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.”

In continuing service,
Catherine Blakespear Signature