Happy New Year to you and your loved ones! There’s something innately exciting about the first day of a new adventure, don’t you think?
And for comparison, it’s worth remembering that at this exact time last year, things felt truly dire. We were in an indefinite lockdown with no clear end date. Vaccines were barely available. COVID rates were skyrocketing, schools were closed, and hospitals were at zero capacity.
While we’re not out of the woods yet – issues like the highly contagious Omicron variant are hindering our progress – things are undoubtedly brighter on this first day of 2022.
Before jumping into my Top 10 from the City of Encinitas for 2021, I’d like to say a sincere thank you to each of you who contributed to my campaign at the end of the year, and for sticking with me through the required fundraising emails that come in waves for any successful candidate.
Raising campaign funds is an unfortunate reality, and I try to do it with civility and class – mixing in news, facts and perspective. Regardless, I know it can be trying, so you have my gratitude for your understanding and support.
And we did it! You helped me just meet our campaign’s goal of $380,000 raised in 2021, which will position me to win this 1 million-person district in 2022. Thank you!
Now to the countdown – the Encinitas Top 10 of 2021!
Last year we…
10. Started our innovative organics recycling program
This year, our residents and businesses started recycling their food waste into green bins for processing, instead of being buried in landfills. Our forward-thinking waste hauler EDCO has spent the last three years permitting and building a digester that can turn green and yard waste into natural gas and fertilizer.
Encinitas embraced this program from the start, offering kitchen caddies and free compostable green waste bags to help with immediate adoption.
9. Adopted stronger short-term rental regulations
We updated our regulations around short-term vacation rentals (STVRs) for the more than 600 units that people rent out in the city – essentially as hotel rooms inside homes.
We approved a three-night minimum and are looking at an overall cap of the number of housing units that can be transformed into STVRs. We also strengthened the regulations to make it clearer how to enforce consequences when there are problem STVRs.
8. Switched to renewable, cleaner energy for all
Encinitas adopted 100% renewable energy as the default electricity source for all customers, and approved the county’s most ambitious building electrification ordinance to wean our future buildings off their dependence on fossil fuels. Electric energy is cleaner than gas energy, and we’re serious about reducing our city’s carbon footprint.
7. Created new, safer ways to walk and bike
The city continued to prioritize biking and walking projects, including approval of a new two-way cycle track on the west side of Highway 101 between downtown Encinitas and Cardiff, and improvements along Vulcan Ave and El Camino Real, as well as many smaller projects.
This continues our commitment to reconsider how public space is used to make it easier, safer and more pleasant to choose to go somewhere without a car.
6. Reopened businesses and public places
As rapidly and safely as possible, we reopened our city’s businesses, schools, beaches and parks. We also restored important community events like the Holiday Parade and Dia de Los Muertos and art night celebrations. Supporting our local businesses by, among other things, letting them use the city’s sidewalk right-of-way was key. Being able to personally interact with our neighbors and supporting local commerce is the core of community.
5. Memorialized Jody Hubbard and welcomed Joy Lyndes
Early last year, our beloved friend and former City Councilmember Jody Hubbard was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer, and she passed away in June. She was well known for her love of the outdoors and for improving ways to walk, bike and run in Encinitas. As I said at the time, Jody was not only a force of nature, she was a force for nature. We miss her!
Jody’s seat on the Encinitas City Council for the district that includes Cardiff was filled by the capable landscape architect Joy Lyndes, who was chosen by the Encinitas City Council to fill out the remainder of Jody’s four-year term. Perhaps it’s a good omen that Joy shares the letters of her name with Jody, along with similar community-building passions!
4. Opened Olympus Park, our new Encinitas gem
In May, we opened our new three-acre Olympus Park in Leucadia, created on a hillside east of I-5. The designers innovatively included whimsical play structures, a dog park, a zipline area, basketball and pickleball courts, a skate area, a pump track for bikes, skateboards and scooters, and a yoga stretching area.
And that’s not all – Olympus Park also has walking paths, a gazebo, a botanical garden and 76 newly planted trees! New parks don’t happen very often, and this is a wonderful and imaginative addition to our city’s many parks and trails.
3. Relocated our successful Safe Parking Program
We voted to continue and move our “Safe Parking” program for those without a home who still have a car to stay overnight in a protected and safe place while receiving counseling services. It’s operated successfully at the Leichtag Foundation property and now it is moving to the parking lot of the Encinitas Senior & Community Center. The program helps people and hurts no one. I’m proud that we’ve done the right thing, and have the political courage to host it at a city-owned site.
2. Crafted an inventive housing plan and approved an ‘agrihood’
For the first time in our city’s history, the Encinitas City Council approved an on-time Housing Plan that encourages the building of affordable homes for those who make lower incomes. Based on this successful plan, we also approved the city’s first “agrihood” in Leucadia. This exciting project consists of homes and apartments with an agricultural theme. We also approved several additional smaller housing projects that will provide homes in our high-opportunity, high quality-of-life city.
- Reinvented Highway 101 with Leucadia Streetscape
In 2021, we broke ground on the city’s largest infrastructure project, a complete overhaul of Highway 101 through Leucadia and continued construction on a new pedestrian railroad undercrossing in Old Encinitas at El Portal.
When it’s complete, it’ll be easier to get to the beaches by foot or bike, and the Coast Hwy in Leucadia will be much more walkable and family-friendly. This project with roundabouts, bike lanes, trees, parking pods, wider sidewalks and better drainage has been 15 years in the making, and we made it actually happen this year! Allocating the money, settling open questions about design and scope of the project, and actually starting construction was a very big deal.
A final thought
As we commence 2022, my heartfelt appreciation goes to our City Councilmembers, city staff, and the generous people of Encinitas for working together to improve our paradise during these many difficult months.
2021 was another tough, painful and sometimes sad year for everyone, but we all kept working through it. We should be proud of what we’ve accomplished together.
Let’s carry on, believing that our hope, energy and vision will create a safer and more fulfilling 2022!
Happy New Year to us all,