Where I Stand

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear

During these uncertain times, Encinitas deserves a reliable, thoughtful, and proven steward. Since you elected me as your mayor in 2016, we’ve successfully worked together to protect what is special about Encinitas, while also tackling the challenges that confront us.

The City of Encinitas is financially stable, one of the safest places to live in the county and deeply committed to environmental stewardship. In the four years that I’ve been your mayor, we’ve made substantial investments in our community’s public spaces, including the creation of a Coastal Rail Trail, a quiet railroad crossing, more sand and dunes on the beaches, and road connectivity improvements throughout the city.

I have the unanimous support of my Encinitas City Council colleagues, and have been recognized by elected officials throughout the county as a regional leader.

With a multi-generation family whose roots in Encinitas go back nearly a century, I deeply understand the heartbeat of our community. My professional background as a practicing attorney helped guide the city to resolving most of our housing-related litigation, and we are now in compliance with state housing laws for the first time since 1992.

Working together with you, we will continue to proactively manage growth, support our local businesses, help those in need, and improve the coastal environment that is the foundation for our high quality of life.

I hope you’ll join me in continuing our work to preserve our paradise by voting to re-elect me as your Encinitas Mayor in November.

Your contributionvolunteer help, and displaying a free yard sign would also be much appreciated!

I've been honored to receive recognition from the community at large, which allows me to better serve the people of Encinitas when working with the county and state:

  • Awarded the 2020 Climate Courage Award from the Climate Action Campaign. "Mayor Blakespear has demonstrated her commitment to bold climate action by tackling some of our region’s largest sources of emissions: transportation, energy, and housing."
  • Awarded the 2020 “Chair’s Award” at the 40th annual Roosevelt Honors from the San Diego County Democratic Party for “bravery in doing the right thing on homelessness, housing, and transit, even when it’s unpopular.”
  • Designated by the San Diego Housing Federation for their 2020 Ruby Award for “Outstanding Government Agency or Elected Official” – “Her newsletters and thoughtful, nuanced approach to explaining the importance of housing… to residents should be a model for leaders across the region.”
  • Received the 2019 “Walk the Walk Momentum Award” from Circulate San Diego for being “a leader in creating protected safe bicycle facilities in her city, and for pushing to bring Encinitas into compliance with state housing laws.
  • Chosen by my elected peers on SANDAG to serve as Vice-Chair in 2019 and 2020 on the county’s largest regional agency.
  • Appointed by the coastal North County mayors to represent our region on the county’s Airport Authority.

I’m also grateful for the support of many important community organizations. These include:

  • The Sierra Club
  • The League of Conservation Voters
  • The Encinitas Firefighters Association
  • The Democratic Party
  • All elected members of the Encinitas City Council
  • Encinitas congressional representative Mike Levin, 49th District
  • Encinitas Assemblymember representative Tasha Boerner Horvath, 76th district
  • More than 350 individual community members

Social distancing at one of the last City Council meetings before they moved online.

It’s my honor to have the unanimous support of all the City Council members on the Encinitas City Council for my re-election as Encinitas mayor. Together we make a great team!

In Encinitas, the mayor is elected by all the voters in our city of 63,000 residents, while the four City Council members are elected exclusively by the voters in their districts. Every city decision is made by majority vote of the five elected officials, including the mayor.

Larger cities, like the City of San Diego, elect a “strong mayor” who runs the bureaucracy of city hall. Encinitas, like the 17 smaller cities in the county, hires a professional city manager who runs the city government. Encinitas currently has a highly functioning board of elected officials who successfully work together to make decisions in citizens’ best interest. The mayor’s vote is no more powerful than each City Councilmember’s vote.

We each bring different perspectives and experiences to the table, but we work together to find consensus, avoiding unnecessary political theatre and effectively accomplishing the city’s business.

Our dedicated and immensely capable city staff, who literally do all the work, deserve particular recognition.

Our Encinitas city budget is the blueprint of our priorities. My fiscal track record is one of responsible spending, saving for a rainy day and planning for the future. We ended last year with a budget surplus of $6.5 million. Our budget picture shows our commitment to maintaining Encinitas as a safe city, with a very high quality of life.

Last year with general fund revenue of about $70 million, our largest line item was public safety, with $33 million dedicated toward our Fire Department, Sheriff’s contract and marine safety. We allocated $8.5 million for capital improvement projects, expenditures that many cities have to borrow to finance. Since I’ve been in elected office, we have been pre-paying pension debt, and established a policy to prohibit accumulating new unpaid pension debt.

I know that all our revenue comes from you, the taxpayer. I take this sacred responsibility seriously and consciously prioritize in the best interest of all citizens.

Encinitas is in a better position that it was when I was elected mayor four years ago. Top awards include:

  • Encinitas named Safest City in San Diego County by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) at mid-year 2019 and in close second to Poway at year end.
  • Our Encinitas Climate Action Plan was awarded 2019 Distinguished Award for “Outstanding Planning Document of the Year” statewide for its exceptional clarity, accessibility, and environmentally sound design.
  • In 2018, Cardiff State Beach named one of the Top 5 Best Restored Beaches in the USA by the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association – the only west coast beach to receive this honor.
  • Our new Marine Safety Center at Moonlight Beach received the American Public Works Association’s Public Works Project of the Year Award in 2018. The employees in our Safety Center provide ocean and beach safety for the one million visitors at our city’s beaches every year.
  • We won the “Connectivity Award” from Circulate San Diego for the 1.3 mile Cardiff Rail Trail, for providing a safe biking and walking connection to several destinations in the city.
  • The San Diego County Bike Coalition named Encinitas its 2019 "Public Partner of the Year" for the city's commitment to improving safety and mobility for cyclists.
  • Encinitas’ pre-approved accessory dwelling unit program, “Housing for Generations,” garnered the 2018 Helen Putnam Award from the League of California Cities. The program has more than tripled our accessory dwelling unit applications and permits.
  • The city received a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for our 2017-2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) – the highest form of recognition for governmental accounting and financial reporting.
  • In 2019, our vintage Encinitas Boat Houses and the classic Bumann Ranch were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Residents trust a process they can see. I’m committed to the highest standards of accountability, transparency and engagement at the city. In addition to doing all of the city’s business in public, we hold public outreach meetings on a wide range of community topics and we’re always soliciting feedback on how to improve.

Since I’ve been your mayor, we’ve developed a “one stop shop” and online portal to make it simpler for the public to get needed business accomplished at city hall. We have also established cross-functional city staff teams to more efficiently manage residents’ needs.

To keep our citizens informed, I write a widely read newsletter on my own time and my own dime that explores multiple issues and my thought process in making decisions.

During the pandemic, I’ve been doing live online Q&A sessions with residents. I also meet frequently with residents and community groups, and respond to dozens of emails each week.

To keep up with your city’s progress, you can sign up here to get my newsletter delivered direct to your inbox.

Concerns about public health and the economic hardships resulting from business closures are a main focus during this unstable period. The city is doing everything possible to help businesses, specifically aiding them in moving outside, including the public right of way, parking areas and parks. The job and housing instability that many are experiencing is deeply troubling.

Every day I talk with residents, employees, business owners and tenants and I’m always striving to do more. Right now, the city is focused on getting better compliance with wearing facial coverings in public places.

I’m very concerned about public education during the current pandemic. Schooling from home is difficult for all students and parents, and the educational and scholastic achievement for students is sub-par.

As soon as it can be done safely for students and teachers, our kids need to be back in school.

I’m proud to say that last year SANDAG rated Encinitas the #1 safest community in San Diego County at mid-year and in a very close #2 spot behind Poway at year end. Encinitas contracts with the county Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement, as do nine other cities and the unincorporated area of the county. With a general fund budget of about $70 million, Encinitas spent $33 million on public safety last year.

I fully support our law enforcement agencies, including the Sheriff’s Department and our Fire and Marine Safety departments. I simultaneously respect and understand the community’s desire to be more involved in policy-making during this time of scrutiny around policing. It’s critical that law enforcement officers are just, unbiased, non-violent and impartial.

With the many questions being asked about policing after the killing of George Floyd by law enforcement officers, I requested and helped organize a community forum for Encinitas residents to directly engage the Sheriff’s Captain about policing in Encinitas. I also helped organize a summit with elected officials from the Sheriff’s nine contract cities to hear directly from the elected Sheriff himself and to allow representatives from all cities to hear one another’s comments and questions.

Both events were helpful in improving an already good relationship between the Sheriff’s Department and the people of Encinitas. Policy changes may result from the increased community dialogue around racial justice issues.

In 2018, the 86th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in Boston honored the City of Encinitas with an award for our “Gold Standard Climate Action Plan." What an accomplishment to have our program highlighted in front of such an esteemed group – 250 mayors from across the country!

Along with many Encinitas residents, protection of our coastal environment is among my highest commitments. The city has been recognized locally, regionally and nationally for our many accomplishments. We’re continually working on multiple fronts to make the city and its operation greener in every way possible.

I just received the 2020 Climate Courage Award from the Climate Action Campaign. "Mayor Blakespear has demonstrated her commitment to bold climate action by tackling some of our region’s largest sources of emissions: transportation, energy, and housing."

And since I’ve been your mayor, we’ve:

    • adopted a “gold standard” Climate Action Plan (see photo above)
    • created an “urban forest advisory committee” to include residents in decisions about trees, and we’ve planted more than 1,000 new trees
    • formed a Joint Powers Authority with other cities to allow Community Choice Energy to provide clean electricity for residents and businesses
    • created a new park in Leucadia called Olympus Park that is currently under construction
    • started a food waste program with our waste hauler, EDCO, to avoid landfilling food and yard waste that will begin in 2021
    • made it easier, safer and more pleasant to walk and bike, and reduced dependence on driving
    • permitted a soon-to-be-opened electric vehicle rapid recharging station at City Hall
    • purchased electric instead of gas vehicles for city and water district use
    • promoted recycled water for common space at HOAs and in government-managed road medians
    • placed more sand and sand dunes on the city’s beaches
    • reduced and eliminated single-use plastics and Styrofoam
    • prohibited the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in favor of non-polluting battery-operated leaf blowers
    • promoted water conservation and hosted graywater workshops
    • begun managing all our parks organically

    “Change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged and come together to demand it.”
    – President Barack Obama

    The impacts of the global health pandemic, the economic collapse and excessive use of force by law enforcement fall disproportionately on communities of color. Minorities are dying at higher rates from coronavirus. They are more likely to lose their jobs and work in jobs that expose them to the risk of infection. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people.

    There are other substantial burdens that fall disproportionally on people of color – the effects of environmental pollution, disinvestment in public urban spaces, reduced access to healthcare, lack of housing, etc.

    But change is happening, often rapidly. Recently, every law enforcement agency in San Diego County, including the Sheriff’s Department that serves Encinitas, announced that they will discontinue using the carotid chokehold, which constricts blood flow through the neck. I joined many community leaders and citizens in publicly calling for this change.

    We need to think about what change we’ll be demanding in the months ahead, especially when we vote in November. I’d like to offer my heartfelt thank-you to everyone who cares about these important issues and is fighting to build more justice into all of our lives.

    I’m committed to building infrastructure that makes it easier and safer to walk and bike around your Encinitas neighborhood. Residents frequently express a desire for increased comfort and safety getting to the beach, taking their children to school or sports, out to eat, exercising or socializing. I’m tremendously proud of the many projects I’ve championed that further these environmental, public health and mobility goals, including:

    • Cardiff Coastal Rail Trail, 1.3 miles long
    • Barrier-protected bike lanes on Highway 101
    • Green paint and bollards along Leucadia Blvd.
    • Dedicated biking and walking lanes under the I-5 freeway at Santa Fe Drive and Encinitas Blvd., soon to be decorated with local mosaics
    • Leucadia Streetscape project, starting early 2021
    • Trail on Rancho Santa Fe Road, in design
    • Pedestrian railroad undercrossing at El Portal St., breaking ground this fall
    • Planned pedestrian railroad undercrossing in northern Leucadia, unfunded but high priority
    • Paved bike path between Manchester Ave. and Birmingham Dr. through the San Elijo Water Reclamation Facility property in Cardiff, under construction
    • Dozens of other road improvements, curb cuts, sidewalk extensions, speed cushions, repaving, striping and traffic flow enhancing projects

    Looking around California, it’s clear that every city is struggling with a rising homeless population. My priority is to maintain our cherished high-quality public spaces and provide more help to people who need it.

    In order to avoid a rising homeless population here from larger economic and societal factors, I am committed to finding more solutions around homelessness, not fewer. A law enforcement-only approach will not reduce or eliminate homelessness. It just moves the problem around. Here are some resources the city has in place.

    To comprehensively tackle the problem, we are currently developing a Homeless Action Plan to narrow in on actionable solutions. We also have established a HOPE (Homeless Outreach Program for Empowerment) program with a county-funded social worker.

    Last year I was proud to support creating a Safe Parking Program for people to stay overnight who have lost their homes but still have a car. The 25-car lot is surrounded by 24-hour security and participants are drug, alcohol and smoke-free. There has been no increase in crime or other negative community effect since the city approved the parking lot and many people have been helped.

    I am committed to working with dedication and political courage to tackle this multi-faceted reality.

    Thank you to the Encinitas4Equality group for recently inviting me to speak and answer questions in their excellent Zoom session, “The perils, pitfalls and opportunities of housing in Encinitas.” Housing is *the* hot-button issue in Encinitas, and its layers of complexity, combined with passionate opinions and the social justice ramifications, make it a very daunting topic to tackle. We gave it our best shot; I hope you find it useful!

    I talk to Encinitas residents every week who live and work here but are facing the uncertainties surrounding a lack of alternate affordable housing in our city. I routinely hear from former residents forced to move to other cities because of high rents and low availability. Many want to continue to live here, or their adult children do, but they see no clear path to accomplishing that.

    State law requires that Encinitas, like all California cities, accommodate some new housing at higher densities. Any candidate who tells you we can stop development or avoid high density housing altogether is not operating in the real world.

    Encinitas residents have the right to vote on city up-zoning based on a 2013 ballot initiative called Prop. A.

    Residents have not approved any increases in density since Prop. A went into effect.

    Some people are accusing the city of “suing its residents” to overturn their right to vote as allowed by Prop. A. Nothing could be further from the truth. After a series of legal twists and turns over several months, the city is standing up for the right to vote under Prop. A in a suit against the State of California.

    It bears repeating: the City of Encinitas is not suing our residents. We are protecting our residents' right to vote. You can read more details in my July 12, 2020 newsletter.

    After Encinitas voters rejected housing plans in 2016 and 2018, a San Diego Superior Court judge put the city under a court order to adopt a housing plan within 120 days. In 2019, for the first time in 27 years, we had a state-certified housing plan. This plan is a comprehensive strategy to promote the production of safe, decent and affordable housing in Encinitas. In a city with a median home price of $1 million, we have a need for less expensive housing.

    The approved housing plan increased the allowed zoning on 15 sites spread around the city. The community of Olivenhain has one site designated for higher density housing, known as the Goodson property. A completed application for this project hasn’t been submitted to the city, and no decision has been made yet on this project.

    It would be improper for me to state a position on a proposed project, but I support new housing that fits into existing neighborhoods, complies with all regulations and mitigates the effects of traffic and other community impacts.

    To ensure a better future for all in Encinitas, I believe it’s not only possible, but vital, that we provide more affordable housing – both deed-restricted and affordable by design. I remain committed, along with all my City Council colleagues, to retaining the character of our existing Encinitas neighborhoods.

    Many Encinitas residents are closely following the status of the Encinitas Boulevard Apartments, otherwise known as the Goodson Project, a proposed residential development near the corner of Rancho Santa Fe Road and Encinitas Blvd.

    This project submission isn't complete, and I’m restricted from stating an opinion as it could come before the City Council on appeal. Additionally, I'm very careful what I say about any specific project because the state’s housing regulators read this newsletter and have quoted from it in official correspondence, attempting to demonstrate the city’s supposed anti-housing bias.

    But this I can say – the project wasn't my idea, nor something I pursued in any way. The developer originally told the city this would be senior housing, and as you may recall, the city was under a court order last year to adopt a housing plan that allowed for the possibility of higher density development to provide a greater range of housing options in the city.

    This location is the only site in Olivenhain, and the access driveway is on Encinitas Blvd. The other 14 sites are in other Encinitas communities.

    Here's an update on Goodson’s recent city-required Community Participation Program (CPP) meeting. The developer claimed that he held the required CPP meeting online July 23, but our city staff determined that it didn't fulfill the requirements for remote meetings. For instance, there was no public participation during that meeting.

    The city is working to ensure that all aspects of the developer’s proposed project follow the city requirements, so the city told the developer that another meeting must be held. The developer is welcome to wait until the restrictions on gatherings are lifted and hold the CPP meeting in person, or conduct another remote CPP meeting that meets our requirements.

    An Encinitas Advocate article about the July 23 CPP meeting is here.

    As of this writing, a new CPP meeting has been scheduled by the developer for September 25 at 6 p.m. If you want to sign up for the CPP you can do that here. In the last several weeks, there have been other dates scheduled and cancelled, and threats challenging the city on our requirement that another meeting be held that complies with the rules.

    As a reminder, this will not be an official city meeting or a “public hearing.” The city sets standards but does not attend or play any role at a CPP meeting.

    Are you confused about what to believe when it comes to rumors about Prop. A and a lawsuit? If so, you’re not alone. The truth doesn’t lie in a simple false accusation, as in “my city sued me.” It’s a complex saga with a few surprises, just like real life.

    But when you know what’s actually happening, you won’t be misled by simplistic slogans like this one:

    It’s not surprising that opponents are trying to create a negative controversy over this false accusation. The city’s mayoral and city council races this year are embroiled in allegations over housing and the citizens’ right to vote on housing. Growth has been the single most controversial issue in Encinitas for years.

    Your current elected leadership is navigating a difficult morass of lawsuits and state regulatory requirements, with a sincere desire to do what’s right by the community.

    We don’t want out-of-scale development, and we don’t want to silence our residents.

    We’re working to protect what’s special about Encinitas, allow the opportunity for affordable housing and get right with the law. It’s the ethical thing to do.

    Here is where things stand: the city has named the State of California in a legal action to determine the boundaries of Prop. A’s applicability, and a resident group called “Preserve Prop. A” (PPA) has filed a motion to intervene in the litigation.  For the second time.

    1) How did we get here?

    In most cities, the elected City Council approves housing plans as part of their legislative function. In Encinitas, Prop. A, passed in 2013, requires an affirmative vote of the residents to approve a housing plan. (I was first elected in 2014).

    In 2016, the city presented a housing plan to voters that would have put us in compliance with state housing laws. When the voters rejected that plan, the city was sued for being out of compliance with state housing laws. Before making any final ruling, the court wanted to see what the voters would decide on a second housing plan put before them in 2018.

    When the majority of voters rejected that 2018 housing plan, the court ordered the city to suspend the Prop. A vote requirement and adopt a housing plan that was acceptable to the state.

    2) Preserve Prop. A tries to join the litigation

    In 2019, the group called Preserve Prop. A formed to attempt to intervene in the lawsuit.

    (Click on the picture to enlarge it, or click here to see a PDF of the entire document.)

    3) The judge denies Preserve Prop. A’s intervention request

    The court rejected their effort as untimely, as shown in the document below. The judge stated: “PPA (Preserve Prop. A) and its counsel have been aware of this litigation since its inception. They elected to sit on the sidelines and watch as the lawsuit has unfolded. Now, after the merits of the lawsuit have been fully adjudicated, PPA wants to jump into the fray and re-litigate the case all over again.”

    (Click on the picture to enlarge it, or click here to see a PDF of the entire document.)

    4) Encinitas agrees to second lawsuit clarifying the limits of Prop. A

    When the court ordered the city to suspend the vote requirement and adopt a housing plan within 120 days, the judge said that the city needed the state to sign off on the plan. In order for the state to agree to the plan, the state required that the city include a promise that the city would pursue city-initiated litigation to determine the limits of Prop. A’s validity.

    The state had great leverage over Encinitas because the city had not had a state-approved housing plan for the previous 27 years, two plans had been rejected at the ballot box and the court had mandated compliance. The city was essentially in the penalty box with no room to move.

    Below are two excerpts from the fifth cycle housing element outlining actions that the state required of Encinitas.

    (Click on the picture to enlarge it, or click here to see a PDF of the entire document.)

    5) The city names Preserve Prop. A in its court-mandated filing

    The city, in good faith, believed that Preserve Prop. A wanted to participate in this compulsory litigation. The city believed this because Preserve Prop. A had requested to intervene in the previous litigation (see the document in point 2 above) and because informal conversations had indicated as much.

    When the city filed the court-ordered Motion for Declaratory Relief (shown below), Preserve Prop. A was named based on the interest they had previously expressed.

    (Click on the picture to enlarge it, or click here to see a PDF of the entire document.)

    The above document is the single event in this saga that the “suing our residents” allegation comes from, and it relies on the notion that you’ll ignore everything that’s happened before and since, including the fact that Preserve Prop A was never served with this lawsuit.

    6) Preserve Prop. A litigation never started, so state threatens Encinitas

    The city filed the document shown above, but it was never served on the group, i.e. the litigating never started. We did not serve the document because Preserve Prop. A decided they actually didn’t want to be involved. This blindsided the city, as we thought they wanted to participate.

    The litigation was so far from starting that the state actually sent Encinitas a threatening letter saying that if we didn’t prosecute a lawsuit as promised in Program 3C, they would revoke our state housing compliance, as seen below.

    (Click on the picture to enlarge it, or click here to see a PDF of the entire document.)

    7) Encinitas dismisses Preserve Prop. A and names the state instead

    In light of Preserve Prop. A’s about-face and accusation of “suing our residents” and the state’s letter, the city dismissed Preserve Prop. A from the lawsuit, as seen below…

    (Click on the picture to enlarge it, or click here to see a PDF of the entire document.)

    …and on the same day, the city named the State of California (California Department of Housing and Community Development), which had ordered the lawsuit in the first place, as seen below.

    (Click on the picture to enlarge it, or click here to see a PDF of the entire document.)

    8) But hold on! Now Preserve Prop. A wants back in the game!

    In a bizarre twist, six months after they were dismissed, Preserve Prop. A filed a new motion to “intervene,” essentially saying they again want to be involved (see below).

    (Click on the picture to enlarge it, or click here to see a PDF of the entire document.)

    As you can see from this document filed by Preserve Prop. A, they now want to position themselves as co-defendants with the state – in other words, asking to re-assume the role they so strenuously objected to previously.

    It’s head-scratching time.

    9) Meanwhile, time and money’s a-wastin’ in this bizarre saga

    The city is trying its best to move forward and resolve this.

    Let’s get all the arguments out there and put this question to rest.

    The city’s interest is in complying with state laws, providing more affordable housing, protecting citizens’ right to vote to the extent it isn’t preempted by state law and ending costly housing lawsuits.

    10) So now you know the actual complicated, but true, story about Prop. A and the lawsuits.

    I’ve been an early and outspoken leader in promoting accessory dwelling units (ADUs), sometimes known as granny flats. Given the suburban nature of most of Encinitas, granny flats are a great way to seamlessly integrate housing that is naturally more affordable into existing neighborhoods, reducing sprawl and the number of higher density developments that are needed to meet state law.

    I championed the creation of a permit-ready program, now called “Housing for Generations.” Encinitas developed pre-approved ADU plans that can be downloaded from the city’s website for free. I’m very proud of this program, which has more than tripled the number of ADU applications and permits – we received 156 ADU applications last year. In 2018, the governor signed into law the first bill that Encinitas has sponsored in at least the last 20 years, making it easier to permit existing granny flats statewide.

    Along with all my City Council colleagues, I support this project as a needed investment in a roadway that has not been substantially improved for nearly 70 years. The Leucadia Streetscape project is a decade-long infrastructure improvement project along Highway 101 through Leucadia and Old Encinitas.  It includes roundabouts, organized parking in the rail corridor, dedicated bike lanes, continuous sidewalks, space for sidewalk dining, effective drainage and the planting of 1,000 trees.

    This project grew out of dozens of community meetings. It was a top priority for the Leucadia community when I was first elected to the City Council in 2014, and remains so today. Over the last four years we have received all the regulatory approvals needed. Construction for phase one is slated to begin around El Portal on Highway 101 in 2021, in conjunction with a pedestrian railroad undercrossing and a roundabout at the same location.

    On August 12, 2020, the Encinitas City Council unanimously allocated the money to build the El Portal railroad undercrossing. This transformational infrastructure will function very much like the Santa Fe Drive/Swami's undercrossing, connecting the east and west side of the railroad tracks in an area that currently has no safe and legal way to cross the tracks. The proximity to Paul Ecke Elementary School and the popular Sunday farmers market hosted there will make this crossing particularly beneficial.

    The total construction cost is $12.1 million, plus about $1.2 million already spent on engineering and design, for a total project cost of $13.3 million. We received a grant of $3.8 million to cover part of the project cost.

    You may wonder why we’re building an undercrossing here instead of a less expensive at-grade crossing. The answer is that the state and federal regulatory agencies will not permit an at-grade crossing if it’s feasible for the municipality to build an under-crossing. Legal liability is what drives this policy decision.

    Construction costs are high and they continue rising every year. They substantially outpace inflation. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit about five months ago, there has been no noticeable decline in construction costs, because demand for construction projects in both the private and public sector remains high.

    The El Portal project’s costs are also affected by the fact that the construction is taking place beneath an operating railroad, which adds complexity and the need for technical railroad expertise.

    The image above shows a plan view and cross section of the project, which includes ramps and pathways to a Vulcan Avenue crossing at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School to the east, the bridge under the rail corridor, and ramp and stair connections to North Coast Highway 101 to the west.

    Here are some more details that are especially intriguing:

    Construction on the railroad track itself can only happen during what’s called an “Absolute Work Window” (AWW) when all trains are stopped, including the 50 or so trains that rumble through Encinitas every day. These AWWs are set a year in advance and they last 27.5 hours, from 12:30 a.m. on one day to 4 a.m. the following day.

    During the AWW, the rails can be removed, site work can happen and then the rails need to be replaced. And of course, it all has to be meticulously planned and executed so that this complex work is completed on time.

    This photo shows the construction site for the now-completed Santa Fe Drive/Swami's undercrossing, and its substantial impact on the railroad tracks.

    The El Portal undercrossing construction is slated to start this fall and continue for two years.

    It’s exciting when a regulatory body gets to the official, final “Yes” vote. I’ve seen projects that have been discussed and never designed, and projects that have been designed and never built. This project has been discussed, designed, and now will be built. It’s worth taking a moment to recognize that when all those factors align, something great will markedly improve the community.

    The day the El Portal undercrossing opens will be an exciting one for Encinitas!

    This Coast News article includes more details on the El Portal project, as well as covering other items that we discussed at our City Council meeting.

    Both of my children attended Cardiff School and we have fond memories of an idyllic education there.

    The Cardiff School rebuilding project continues to generate controversy, as the school district faces litigation in a dispute related to the location of the multi-purpose room for the school, and the boundaries of George Berkich Park.

    Both a state and a federal court have ordered the school district to stop construction, most recently requiring that the multi-purpose room construction be halted, while the classroom construction can proceed.

    There’s a lot of heated opinion, and several false rumors about this project and the plaintiffs. Contrary to one rumor, no one in my family, including my mother, is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

    The project received unanimous City Council approval when it came up for a required permit in 2019. Because I live within 500 feet of the school, I was legally required to recuse myself from that vote.

    There’s been a call for me to get personally involved in this legal dispute, but I have no influence over the plaintiffs or the defendants in the lawsuit, and the city has no role in this litigation, as prescribed by the Cardiff School district.

    I hope that the conflict will be resolved soon. I want the school district to provide a safe, inspiring place for the next generation of students, similar to what my mom and her siblings experienced when my grandpa built what was then the state-of-the-art Cardiff School campus 70 years ago in 1950.

    You'll find more details in my June 30, 2020 newsletter, and here's a good article about the situation in the North Coast Current.

    Encinitas purchased the former Pacific View Elementary School site in 2014, narrowly preventing it from being auctioned off to developers. Just yards from the ocean bluff between D and E Streets, the now-closed school’s mid-century modern buildings have tremendous potential and are part of the historic fabric of our city. Our first schoolhouse from 1883 is on the property as well.

    It needs an investment of capital and an ongoing operational and funding plan. We’re currently involved in a community outreach process to determine its best use. I support the city’s continued ownership of the site and using the property to provide public space that supports our vibrant and vital arts community.

    Documents pertaining to Pacific View can be found on the city's website, the PacificViewAcademyArts.org site shows progress to date, and SavePacificView.org has more background information.

    The Surfing Madonna mosaic in its original location under the Encinitas Blvd. railroad undercrossing. (Photo by Charlie Neuman.)

    The story of the Surfing Madonna is a uniquely Encinitas legend that has taken an unfortunate turn. In 2011, artist Mark Patterson created and secretly installed a colorful mosaic of the Virgin of Guadalupe riding a surfboard under the Encinitas Blvd. railroad overpass, with a “Save the Ocean” message.

    Elected officials and Caltrans officials at the time decried the unauthorized installation, but it immediately became a beloved part of Encinitas lore. It changed locations a couple of times and now resides just west of that same bridge, behind Leucadia Pizzeria.

    After the mosaic was installed, the non-profit Surfing Madonna Oceans Project (SMOP) was created with the aim of furthering Patterson’s “Save the Ocean” goal. Beach runs and other events were held for years in Encinitas, raising thousands of dollars for charitable causes.

    But there were difficulties behind the scenes. In February 2020, Encinitas city staff recommended that the City Council cancel SMOP events due to the SMOP organizer’s abusive conduct toward city employees over multiple years.

    The city staff report stated, “Since 2014 through the present, staff has been routinely subjected to [the organizer’s] uncooperative, demanding, harassing, and aggressive conduct during the permitting process, event planning meetings, and during events. The relationship with SMOP and multiple City departments including public safety has become unworkable.”

    In response to this city staff report, the organizer withdrew his request to host future races in the City of Encinitas and filed a lawsuit against the city.

    The organizer also filed four complaints against me with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, alleging wrongdoing related to his races. After I provided documentation of proper reporting and produced paid receipts for my family’s race passes, each complaint was rejected by the FPPC.

    Our admired former Encinitas Mayor Teresa Barth said something the other day that really resonated with me: "Anyone can find fault. Leaders find solutions."

    I have an opponent in this mayoral race with no governing experience, who declared her candidacy against me when the City Council voted to approve a "Safe Parking Lot" for those who are temporarily without a home to stay safely overnight. At a raucous, pre-pandemic meeting, she stood up and dramatically announced she was running for mayor, surrounded by others opposed to this effort to help the unsheltered population.

    I perceive her platform to be anti-progress and grievance-oriented. In 2016, she was a main organizer for the group called “No Rail Trail,” who were staunch opponents of the now very popular Cardiff Rail Trail.

    In contrast, my platform offers experienced, positive and compassionate leadership with a focus on local residents and businesses, the environment, improving community spaces and transportation projects, and providing help to those in need.

    Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who has been serving as mayor since 2016, has family roots that go back nearly a century in Encinitas. Her great-grandparents moved to Encinitas in the 1920s to grow flowers.

    Catherine was elected to the Encinitas City Council in 2014 and won her mayoral election in 2018 with 83% of the vote.

    She grew up in Del Mar and Encinitas, moved away for college and career reasons, and returned to Encinitas with her husband and two children in 2009.

    Graduating from Torrey Pines High School in 1994, she played varsity basketball for four years, earning the MVP award for her last three years. She attended college at Northwestern University in Chicago, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.

    As her first professional job, Catherine was hired to work as a reporter at the Los Angeles Times in its Ventura County bureau. Her beat was transportation, which sparked an interest in urban planning that still inspires her today. Before the 2002 Winter Olympics, Catherine became a reporter with the Associated Press and moved to Utah to work in their Salt Lake City bureau.

    After several years in journalism, Catherine decided to follow the path of both of her parents and earned a law degree. She attended the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, graduating in 2006. She served as editor-in-chief of one of the law school’s three law journals, The Journal of Law and Family Studies. She subsequently clerked for the Honorable Pamela Greenwood on the Utah Court of Appeals and worked for the highly regarded law firm of Ray, Quinney & Nebeker in Salt Lake City.

    Catherine met her husband Jeremy on a competitive co-ed Ultimate Frisbee team. Jeremy is a Physician Assistant, working at North County Health Services as a primary care provider. He hails from Knoxville, Tennessee, and has worked as a Park Ranger for the National Park Service in Yellowstone, Joshua Tree National Park and other national parks.

    After marrying in 2006 and having two children, Catherine and Jeremy moved back to Encinitas in 2009 because they wanted to live in the best city in America and raise their young family closer to Catherine’s multi-generational family that included her mother, father, aunt and grandma.

    Catherine co-founded her own estate planning law firm in 2009, helping clients transition their values and assets from one generation to the next. In addition to serving as the mayor, she maintains her license to practice law.

    As mayor and a representative of the City of Encinitas, she serves on several outside boards, including as Vice-Chair of the SANDAG Board of Directors, and as a board member on San Diego’s Airport Authority, the Encina Wastewater Authority, and the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority, as well as the San Dieguito Water District.

    Catherine is passionate about our American democracy and all elements of the governmental structure that support the equality, liberty, freedom and happiness that Americans enjoy. She also loves to run and play with her family on the beach and in the ocean, follow politics and policy issues, read books, watch musicals and theatre (Hamilton is a recent fascination), and mountain bike with her husband.

    Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

    When I turned in my campaign paperwork, I signed and submitted  a Code of Fair Campaign Practices, pledging:

    “I shall not use or permit the use of character defamation, whispering campaigns, libel, slander, or scurrilous attacks on any candidate or his or her personal or family life.”

    In addition, I promise that I will encourage my supporters not to deface or steal the campaign signs and materials of other candidates.

    I urge our other Encinitas candidates to take this vow as well. I also encourage our community members to absorb its meaning, channel civility and aim for our highest ideals – or as Lincoln said, the “better angels of our nature.”

    I know that the vast majority of us remain civil and reject meanness. But I suggest that we all should work to guide the collective, so that more folks experience our good example and follow suit.

    There’s a raw edge to some of the political messaging that’s coming out right now. Outrageous accusations and conspiracy theories are common. The civility and truthfulness that our campaign advocates and strives to embody doesn't seem to be catching on in some quarters.

    I try to keep a steady course in my campaign, communicating about the many positives we’ve accomplished in the four years I’ve been your mayor in Encinitas.  To that end, I’ve covered over 25 topics and issues that affect us in this Where I Stand section.

    This election, in Encinitas and all the way up to the top of the ballot, we each have crucial decisions to make. I humbly suggest that you choose the candidates who best embody your values by weighing these choices:

      • Hope or fear
      • Unity or division
      • Competence or complaints
      • Progress or nostalgia
      • Honesty or falsehoods

      Here's a very informative Zoom event with Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear and five of her all-star friends: U.S Representative Mike Levin; State Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath; County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher; Encinitas District 1 City Councilmember Tony Kranz; and Encinitas District 2 City Councilmember (and Deputy Mayor) Kellie Hinze.

      The conversation and questions from the audience touch on critical issues that concern the City of Encinitas, the State of California, our country, and our planet. Recorded August 11, 2020.

      In the midst of the current coronavirus pandemic, the city’s elected officials and professional staff are heavily involved in managing the resulting health, financial and public space challenges.

      It’s a difficult time but I remain focused on our priorities – to preserve and enhance our high quality of life, champion active transportation improvements, protect our treasured coastal environment, and provide more ways to be helpful to those in need.

      I believe that we will get through this and continue to create a better Encinitas together.