Encinitas innovates to tackle homelessness and climate change

October 3, 2021

May I tell you about a couple of exciting developments that I’m very happy about?

In Encinitas, we recently made two decisions on the City Council that are in line with my policy priorities for the State of California – protecting the planet and helping people who need it. 

Action on Climate

Climate change is the existential threat of our time, threatening all of our communities and the vitality of our planet. At every level, we need to make decisions that wean us off our dependence on oil and move toward a future that’s more sustainable. 

The Encinitas City Council recently passed, by unanimous vote, the city’s trailblazing, landmark building electrification ordinance – the first in the 12 cities that make up the 36th Senate District, and the first in San Diego County. It requires new residential and commercial construction in the city, with specific, narrow exclusions, to be all electric. 

Residential and commercial buildings are responsible for about 25% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for fossil fuels consumed onsite and electricity demand. California’s goal is to generate all of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2045 or sooner.

This groundbreaking ordinance won’t cause an increase in costs, because gas and electric heat cost about the same, and the market is producing appliances like electric water heaters for comparable costs. It sets the City of Encinitas on an ambitious course to lower the emissions produced in our city, and it comes after our recent commitment with San Diego Community Power to source 100% renewable as our default energy.

More info on Encinitas’ decision can be found here and in this KPBS story “Encinitas Bans Natural Gas in New Construction.

Environmental justice and social justice go hand in hand

We are all one community. We shouldn’t be divided into haves and have-nots.

One symptom of sky-high housing costs, and a social safety net that needs improvement, is the number of people we see living unsheltered on our streets. 

I feel strongly that it’s our job to compassionately help people who are struggling, and to create programs and policies that offer a hand up. Everyone deserves access to upward mobility for themselves and their families.

Last week, the city approved the extension and relocation of our successful 25-spot Safe Parking program to the Encinitas Senior & Community Center.This program is prevention against street homelessness. More than 90% of participants have never been homelessness before, and nearly half are over age 60.

Sometimes considered the “invisible homeless,” many are working, going to school, or staying nearby their children’s school or other community draw. They’re living in their cars because they no longer have a place to live inside a home, but they still own their cars.

With assistance, people living in their cars can get back into housing, or have help reuniting with family, before they start living on the street. 

Nearly two years ago, the City of Encinitas approved the state-funded 25-spot Safe Parking program for the newly unsheltered at the Leichtag Foundation’s property so participants would have a safe place to get a good night’s sleep.

Importantly, the participants were helped in their journey back into housing by the social workers with Jewish Family Service. This isn’t just a parking lot. The social service providers who assist are the key here because they connect people with resources and help with family reunifications. 

The leaders at the Leichtag Foundation generously opened their arms to host the program at their location in January of 2020. It’s been operating there without incident since then – no increases in crime or other negative effects. The Sheriff’s captain reported that the only incidents related to the Safe Parking program came from opponents of the program who were harassing and surveilling the participants.

This 2020 article from Voice of San Diego“Encinitas Stands Behind Homeless Parking Lot,” provides more details. 

The guarded Safe Parking lot can accommodate up to 25 cars – no drugs, alcohol or smoking are allowed. Participants are carefully screened, including for warrants and the sex offender registry. At our City Council meeting, one astute public commenter noted that this population is more vetted than any of our neighbors – who can live next door to us even if they do have warrants, are on the sex offender registry, or use drugs, alcohol or smoke.  

As an agriculturally zoned property (formerly the Ecke Ranch), the Leichtag Foundation did not intend to host the site indefinitely. They were helping out the community in the short term so that the state grant wasn’t lost.

Several months ago, the City Council tasked our city staff to work with Jewish Family Service (JFS) to find an alternate site that could host this important program. They vetted multiple possible locations with JFS to find the best location in our city.

(Photo by Fox 5.)

At our City Council meeting last Wednesday, we approved moving it to the large parking lot at the Senior & Community Center (shown above). The city’s Senior Center already provides older adult services for those who are vulnerable in our community, including free and reduced-cost lunches, a cooling zone during hot weather and an “Out & About” transportation program for older adults who need rides.

These services and many other programs have been offered in our community at this location without incident for years, in close proximity to a local middle school.

Adding the Safe Parking program to the Senior Center programs, when nearly two years of data demonstrates that there has been no negative effect from the Safe Parking program at the Leichtag Foundation, is an appropriate and compassionate addition. 

The bottom line is that the Safe Parking program helps people and hurts no one – and it has demonstrably stopped the descent into street homelessness for most of those who participate.

I’m grateful for the wise words and compassionate leadership of my City Council colleagues Kellie Hinze and Joe Mosca, who voted in favor of continuing this important program at the new site. 

Details, including the Safe Parking requirements and rules, are in this Encinitas Advocate article.

With your help, I’ll be elected to the California State Senate, where I’ll continue to focus on solutions like these to avert the worst effects of climate change, and to provide help to people who need it!

In service and gratitude,

LET’S MEET AT THESE LOCAL EVENTS!

October 5, 2021
6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
GoodOnya Organic Eatery
Encinitas

RSVP here
October 9, 2021
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Barn of Paul Ecke III
Encinitas

RSVP here
October 24, 2021
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Home of Jamie Carr
Rancho Santa Fe

RSVP here
November 7, 2021
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Home of Alan and Lisa Fenning
San Juan Capistrano

RSVP here

SAN CLEMENTE: THIRD CITY ON OUR 12-CITY TOUR!

I was inspired by the hospitality and stimulating conversation at Kim and Stuart Anderson’s San Clemente home for a campaign reception last week. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful, warm fall evening together. Thanks to the Orange County residents who hosted this event – Kim Anderson, Colleen Conley, Louise Herbert, Fran Sdao, Steve Stewart, and Linda Verraster – for bringing us all together.
Also in San Clemente on our 12-City Tour, I inspected the recent bluff crack that’s destabilizing the railroad track and homes in the Cyprus Shore community. We must reckon with the profound realities of climate change endangering our built environment.
It was great to visit with Mikii Rathman, owner of Mikii’s On Del Mar in downtown San Clemente as one of my stops along the 12-City Tour. She showed me which party supplies would be great for my husband’s upcoming 50th birthday party this coming Tuesday. Can’t wait to put them to use – thanks, Mikii! Please check out the invite for that event here. We’d love to see you there!