10/13/19: Encinitas is the Safest City in the County!

October 13, 2019

Amidst all the anxiety-triggering daily developments we deal with, there’s still plenty of good news. And I’d love to share some with you today.

For starters, Encinitas is the safest city in the county!

SANDAG recently published the 2019 mid-year crime statistics, which show that Encinitas has the lowest amount of crime in San Diego County. We should all feel very proud and reassured about the safety of our neighborhoods. Here’s a link to the complete report.

Leucadia’s pedestrian railroad undercrossing at El Portal is coming!

This week, the City of Encinitas conquered the last administrative hurdle necessary to build a grade-separated railroad undercrossing in Leucadia by securing approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

This project will be a bike and pedestrian walkway underneath the railroad tracks between North Vulcan Avenue on the east side of the rail corridor, and the T-intersection of North Coast Highway 101 and El Portal Street.

(Artist’s rendering of the Leucadia pedestrian undercrossing.)

The undercrossing will allow safe access under the tracks to the beach and shops along Highway 101, and much better connectivity to the students, families and staff trying to access Paul Ecke Central Elementary School on the east side of the tracks.

Currently, pedestrians trespass across the railroad right-of-way in order to get across, or they choose not to cross on foot and drive instead. We’re really excited about the improved mobility options this crossing will provide. I expect the underpass to look similar to the one near Swami’s at Santa Fe Drive.

Construction is set to start next July and be completed by September 2022. The cost is close to $10 million, with about half being paid with a state grant.

Here’s the link to the CPUC decision greenlighting the project.

Encinitas Housing Element officially approved!

This week Encinitas received the final letter from Housing and Community Development (HCD) that certifies our compliance with state housing laws. 

As you’re probably aware, this is the first time Encinitas has been in compliance with the state on housing since 1992. And as a result, we now become eligible for more state grants for large infrastructure improvements and we have a state-approved guide map for adding housing at all income levels. 

One lingering issue, however, is the conflict between the state requirement for a legally compliant housing plan and the local regulation that all upzoning goes to a vote of the people, otherwise known as Prop. A. The state considers Prop. A’s vote requirement a “constraint” on our ability to have and maintain a compliant housing plan. 

To resolve this predicament, the state has required Encinitas to file a cause of action for “declaratory relief.” The purpose of a declaratory relief action is to ask for legal guidance to resolve a controversy between two tenets of law. So the city is seeking court direction to help us reconcile these conflicting policies. 

But the law says a declaratory relief action must have a defendant. So the city named a citizen group called “Preserve Prop. A” that attempted to intervene in the last housing lawsuit, arguing that Prop. A’s requirement of a public vote for upzoning should apply to the state-mandated Housing Element.

Naming this party officially gives the citizen’s group a right to speak on the question. This isn’t a case of Encinitas “suing its citizens” for damages. The reality is that we’re asking a judge to decide – as a matter of law – how we should proceed, and inviting both perspectives to officially weigh in. 

(Just to clarify, this legal issue is narrowly applied to upzoning required to meet state housing laws. All other proposed upzoning will not be affected, and will still go to a vote of the people as Prop. A stipulates.) 

Most would agree that we need to get this question resolved. If we wait until we fall out of legal compliance, then everyone under the sun will sue us (again) – the state, tenants’ rights groups, developers and low-income housing builders. Encinitas is required to plan ahead for future housing element compliance, and a legal decision will allow us to do that. 

Keeping wildfires at bay

And finally, some tentative good news, but it could all change in an instant. Encinitas has managed to make it through yet another Santa Ana without a disastrous wildfire.

I’ll admit that I worry about fire devastating our neighborhoods, particularly those in the urban-wildland interface. It’s one of the things that keeps me up at night. I was so saddened by the fire that tore through four local businesses in downtown Leucadia recently, destroying thriving and beloved local shops and restaurants. We still don’t have any updated information on what caused that fire. (Early Morning Fire Devastates Well-Known Encinitas Businesses).

And a half-acre fire in the San Elijo Lagoon last week was put out very quickly by the fire department. (Fire Crews Knock Down Brush Fire in Solana Beach)

I am grateful to our Encinitas Fire Department and firefighters throughout the state who are tremendously well-prepared and vigilant. We have invested in fire preparedness in this county, and our fire departments’ professionalism and strategic thinking about risk is outstanding.

One thing I recently learned from a presentation by our Encinitas Fire Department is that many homes burn down from the inside out. This happens because embers fly large distances on strong Santa Ana winds and get inside a home through open windows, eaves, vents or cracks under doors. In the event of a fire, make sure your home is securely shut with all windows sealed tight so embers don’t fly inside. 

It’s going to take more than good luck to keep us safe. Here’s some good basic information from the county about fire prevention, preparedness, and what to do if it does happen. You can register your phone number and email to receive notifications in the event of a fire emergency. And this is a handy downloadable Fire Action Guide that I found very informative and relevant. 

This has been an all-too-familiar sight in San Diego County over the last two decades. Can you imagine how terrified you’d be if that was your home and you saw those flames coming?

October has always been known as fire season in San Diego County, although we know we must remain diligent all year long. But I suspect that, come November, we’ll all be somewhat relieved if our combination of luck and preparedness holds. Let’s all stay safe!

In ongoing service,

Todd Gloria for San Diego Mayor

Please join me and other state and county leaders on Saturday, November 9, as we strongly support Todd Gloria’s candidacy for Mayor of San Diego. Any and all donation amounts are gratefully accepted. I hope to see you there to hear more about his vision for the city that comprises about half of the county’s 3.3 million population. You can find more information on the event here.

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