8/4/19: Tragedy as Leucadia Bluff Collapses; and China Trade War Affects Encinitas

On Friday afternoon we were devastated by the deaths of three women from a single family when a heavy sandstone bluff collapsed and crushed them, just north of the Grandview beach staircase in Leucadia. The decedents, together with their families, friends and many children, were apparently enjoying a beautiful summer day at the beach. 

(Fox 5 San Diego photo.)

The idea of going to the beach with your daughter, mother and aunt on a warm July afternoon and literally and figuratively having the sky tragically fall on them is truly unfathomable. All of our hearts break for this local family, their community and the life-altering losses they are suffering. 

The last time a bluff collapsed in San Diego County and killed someone was more than a decade ago at Torrey Pines State Beach. The most recent fatal bluff collapse in Encinitas was 19 years ago, also in Leucadia, when a woman was sitting near the bluff watching her husband surf. 

Bluff sloughing is a natural process and one that the city is always closely monitoring. There are frequent smaller bluff collapses that go largely unreported because no one is injured or killed, and it’s considered part of the natural erosion process. Some of our beaches, like the one where this bluff collapsed, withstand heavy wave pummeling during higher tides. Experts have not provided a reason for this collapse but there are many ongoing natural processes that likely contributed.

One way to reduce erosion and support the bluffs is through sand nourishment projects. We have had several opportunistic sand replenishment projects recently, in both Leucadia and Cardiff.

We’ve also been pursuing a much larger and more consistent sand replenishment project through the federal government. Last year, I went to D.C. to lobby the Army Corps of Engineers and our congressional representatives for support of our proposed new sand project. And just last month, the cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach led several representatives from congressional offices on a beach tour that included this area. This sad event clearly puts additional focus on the clear need for ongoing sand replenishment. 

When you visit the beach, please remember the unpredictable instability of the bluffs. Set up beach towels as close to the tideline and far from the bluffs as practical. I know the natural shade provided by the cliffs can be enticing, but it’s obviously a risk not worth taking. Better to shlep an extra umbrella down the hill. 

This catastrophe is a reminder to kiss your loved ones and hold them tight every day. We never know how long we have together.

More news about the family so tragically affected can be found in this print story from 7 San Diego. Other articles are here from the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Encinitas Advocate, the Coast NewsFox 5 San Diego, and CBS 8.

China trade war hits Encinitas

If you thought the trade war with China hadn’t hit home yet, think again. 

This week I received some unsettling news – the exciting new bike share program that was supposed to be up and running this summer is suspended indefinitely because of tariffs on bicycle parts made in China.

The City of Encinitas had chosen Gotcha, a “micro-mobility” company that was going to provide 300-400 bikes for the cities of Encinitas, Del Mar and Solana Beach, along with virtual and actual hubs and the technology to provide rentals and keep track of every bike. We chose this company in part because of their successful focus on customer service, high quality equipment and a clutter-free approach to managing public streets in other cities.

Now because of the newly imposed tariffs and a resultant breakdown in communications between Gotcha and their suppliers in China, we’re not sure when our bike share will roll out. It certainly won’t be this summer. 

This is a major disappointment that is directly linked to the U.S. President’s trade war. I’ll keep you in the loop about further developments. An article about the trade war and its effects is here at CNN.

Learn how to run for office at Carlsbad’s Candidate Academy

Ever thought about getting involved in local government and running for office? This October, I’ll be participating in the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce’s Candidate Academy, a four-session series that will give you the lowdown on how to take that leap and what to expect.

A 2015 graduate was Cori Schumacher (below), now a Carlsbad City Counclmember, who is also participating as a panelist. This link takes you to an informative article and details about the Academy.

Councilmember Schumacher describes the experience of pursuing local office: “It’s a lot harder than it actually looks, number one. Number two, it’s worth every minute of it. The most honorable thing you can do in this life is to serve others. And even though politics and public service have a bad rap right now, at the local level, it is really up to us to rebuild that trust, that government is here to serve the people rather than to exploit the people and to exploit positions. And there are some good people who are doing that work at the local level. It’s a very honorable, valuable commitment.”

Encinitas welcomes our Japanese Sister City visitors

(Top photo by McKenzie Images)

This week six students, a chaperone and two delegates from the Japanese government, are visiting Encinitas as part of our Sister City exchange program. Last year we sent students to our sister city Amakusa, and this year we host theirstudents. The Sister City relationship between Encinitas and Amakusa was founded in 1988 to provide enriching cultural experiences and foster mutual understanding, respect and goodwill. Person-to-person diplomacy is the most effective way to experience differences in cultures and the similarities we all have in common. 

The Blakespear family is thrilled to host 14-year-old Majo Fujita in our home. This sister city exchange has provided her with her first trip outside of her country. In the photos above, she’s showing our kids how to make origami with beautiful paper that she brought from home. She also gifted them these robes traditionally worn during Taiko drumming and summer festivals. It’s been a joy to have her and to see up close the details of our Sister City program.

The students enjoyed a volleyball clinic at Moonlight Beach, rode horses in Olivenhain, took a surf lesson, climbed Double Peak in San Marcos for a view of northern San Diego, and ate at local pizza joint Best-a-Wan in Cardiff and In-N-Out in Encinitas. The Saturday conclusion was the 10th annual Japan Festival at the Encinitas Library, which is always tremendously popular with the public.  

If you are interested in knowing more about the program, either participating as a host family or involving your student in the exchange next year please call Nick Buck at 760-633-2760 or email him at nbuck@encinitasca.gov

An inspirational visit to the extraordinary Monarch School

You may not know this, but there are reportedly currently 23,000 students in San Diego County who don’t have a permanent home. Isn’t that a staggering number of homeless youth? I joined our two visiting dignitaries from the Amakusa Department of Education in Japan to take a tour of the innovative Monarch School, which serves up to 300 homeless students at a campus in Barrio Logan near downtown San Diego.

Rick Shea, a County School Board member and co-founder of the Encinitas Sister City program with Amakusa more than 30 years ago when he was on the Encinitas City Council, organized the tour for us. He’s the third from the left. Also pictured: principal of the school, Michael Paredes, on the far left; Erin Spiewak, the CEO of the non-profit, second from the left, Rick Shea, me and then the two Japanese officials, Tadashi Nagamoto and Keishi Idenage, and our interpreter, Krista Yamada, on the far right. 

The school serves exclusively homeless kids; almost 70% of them list a shelter as their dwelling type. The students also live in motels, in vehicles with their families, or doubled-up with other families. They’ve often been absent from school for long periods of time and are achieving below grade level when they arrive.

The school was remarkably similar to other schools I’ve seen, with bright-eyed kids in clean clothes answering questions and working on devices with teachers nearby. When we introduced ourselves to one class of 2nd graders, a polite boy raised his hand and asked, “Is it true that Godzilla comes from Japan?”   

One key feature of the Monarch School is that it serves families countywide. Many homeless families move around a lot, which can seriously disrupt kids’ education because they are forced to switch schools whenever the family moves out of the district. This is an issue that I hadn’t considered when thinking about homeless youth. Monarch School doesn’t care which school district the family happens to live within, allowing continued enrollment despite frequent moves. 

Monarch is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the average daily attendance rate is an impressive 90%! There are showers and a place for the kids to get clothes and shoes. While the clothes are gently used, the shoes are new. Every two-to-three months as the seasons change, students are invited into the volunteer-run “Butterfly Boutique” to pick out items according to the shopping list shown above. 

Funding for this unique school is half-private and half-public money. The non-profit partner fundraises for about $3 million a year. The largest chunk of the non-profit budget goes to mental health programs, which are time- and expertise-intensive, and expensive. 

I had to ask the two members from the Amakusa Department of Education if they have homeless youth in Amakusa, and the answer was a clear “no.” They told us the government provides a place for people to live, and money for food and medical care, so children don’t have to live on the streets or in shelters. They were very interested in the unique American problems we have here.

To learn more about the Monarch School or contribute to its worthy cause, please visit their website.

This Monarch butterfly came to greet us on our way out of the Monarch School. I’d like to imagine its appearance as a sign that the future can be brighter for struggling families with ingenious programs like this.

I’m looking forward to sharing more Encinitas news and perspectives with you on August 25.

With both appreciation for the blessings and sadness for the tragedies in our city.

P.S. Our Encinitas boathouses are now national treasures

It’s exciting that our iconic boathouses at 726 and 732 Third St. in old Encinitas are now officially approved for historic status on the National Register of Historic Places. They were built in the 1920s using wood from the demolished Moonlight Beach dance pavilion. Here’s the Coast News article and here’s the San Diego Union-Tribune piece