3/29/15: Deciding What to Build

March 29, 2015

This week the Encinitas City Council considered what projects to build and repair over the next six years. This is called the CIP (Capital Improvement Program), and doesn’t include budgeting or analysis of city staff costs, personnel or public safety employees.
A roomful of passionate people came out to lobby for artificial turf and permanent lights at Leo Mullen Sports Park. We unanimously directed staff to include that project in the next round of the proposed budget, and provide details on how much it will cost. Thank you to Encinitas Soccer, which is 1700 players strong, for volunteering to donate $200,000 over the next 10 years toward the likely $1 million price tag. That commitment shows the importance of the project to those who directly benefit from this large capital expenditure.

Leo Mullen field (seen above on March 16, 2015) near Target in New Encinitas, is currently open only about nine months of the year because of the downtime associated with re-seeding and maintenance. It’s a heavily used field that’s typically in pretty crummy condition. Trying to provide better facilities for our sports teams means evaluating all potential sites, and this site is a much better option for permanent lights than the new Encinitas Community Park, which abuts a large Cardiff neighborhood.
Although many compared Encinitas’ poor field conditions with Carlsbad’s excellent fields, the reality is that Encinitas will never be able to provide the large array of sports amenities available to our neighbor. Why? Because we don’t have Carlsbad’s large land mass, much larger budget and impressive revenue-generating facilities (i.e. LEGOLAND, the La Costa Resort & Spa and Aviara, Car Country Carlsbad, an airport and a 500-acre research park for technology companies). The history and personality of our two cities is entirely different. Nonetheless, I agree that Leo Mullen should be turf — to provide higher-quality fields available year around and with reduced water consumption.
Last week Council Member Lisa Shaffer and I attended a conference in Yosemite entitled “Building Livable Communities” (along with my family, we’re enjoying the sights in the photo) and one of the clear messages I took home is that providing the right infrastructure for biking and walking helps everyone, including those in cars. The more people walking and biking, the fewer cars on the road, which results in less traffic and congestion, less greenhouse gas emission, a smaller carbon footprint and a happier, healthier community all around. I walk my kids to school every day and it’s one of the best parts of my day. We have to build the infrastructure to make this possible for more Encinitas families.
For example, it should be safe and easy for high school students to walk from San Dieguito Academy on Santa Fe Drive to the new Encinitas Community Park. This short, several-block distance shouldn’t feel so unsafe that students opt to drive. We recently heard from many impassioned people at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School who were begging for traffic-calming and road improvements. These are important projects to me.
Other important infrastructure projects to me include:

  1. The Leucadia Streetscape project along Highway 101. This will produce a direct return on investment (ROI), by helping local businesses be even more successful in that corridor.
  2. Beacon’s Beach stabilization. This project seems tied up in negotiating approvals from the Coastal Commission, and figuring out cost-sharing approaches with the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
  3. Technology updates. We need to have a website that allows for searching the entire Encinitas Municipal Code, which is not easily done right now, as well as allowing residents to apply for permits online instead of having to drive down to City Hall. The city’s website also needs to be more intuitive and easier to navigate.
  4. Pacific View Activation. I’m very impressed with the quick action taken by Council Members Lisa Shaffer and Tony Kranz in getting this art facility going. Many projects go through extensive studying and visioning, while the land sits empty and run-down. In the last several months, the activation subcommittee quickly laid out a plan to keep the original school buildings for the short term, involved the public, and is now moving forward with finding an operating partner to renovate the existing buildings for use in the arts. The subcommittee has requested that some money be set aside for the activation plan, if it’s needed. I agree with the need to do this.
  5. Speaking for myself only, I’d be willing to delay non-essential repairs, such as replacing the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system at City Hall and repairing a cracked driveway at a fire station, in order to fund other high priority projects that benefit the entire community, and not primarily the city employees or public safety staff.

We have to ask the right questions about the future of our city at the moments of choice.  The moments of choice are when we decide how to prioritize our money. Our next round of decision making is next month.
Subcommittee Update
I’m on two subcommittees with Council Member Tony Kranz – the Urban Agriculture (neighborhood food) Subcommittee, and the Mediation Policy Subcommittee. The way it works is that Council Member Kranz and I have meetings with city staff to discuss our big-picture ideas. The staff then drafts the new ordinances, which takes them several weeks, incorporating their existing knowledge, perspective and the relevant regulations and laws. The draft comes back to us for review and then it goes back to other departments for their review, i.e. the draft goes from planning to engineering, or from legal to planning. The slow pace of government involves all of these various review layers. As a City Council Member, I help steer the ship but I don’t row the ship. And the rowing is what takes most of the effort and time. Both of these subcommittees will be presenting to the public in the next month.
Here is the entire City Council at the State of the City address, which took place this week.
Finally, here’s a shot of our entire City Council at this week’s State of the City address. The event included a fun youth video contest asking local students what they love about Encinitas. My daughter’s class was one of the winners! You can see the video here.
Enjoy the lovely springtime in Encinitas!
“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
– St. Francis de Assisi

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