Pacific View cultural arts vision gets a reboot!

February 23, 2022

If you’ve lived in Encinitas for more than a few years, you’re probably aware of the Pacific View saga – a years-long effort by the city and many of its residents to convert our historic bluffside former elementary school near downtown into a first-class public asset that will serve generations to come.

Well, I’m happy to report that last week the Encinitas City Council took a big step toward transforming the Pacific View site into a public-facing arts center!

The Encinitas City Council gave unanimous direction for a timeline and proposal to get our former elementary school site open as a Cultural Arts Center. This is exciting news for a long-delayed investment in a city-owned coastal property with a 139-year local history – and deep significance to many Encinitas residents. Above, longtime Encinitas arts advocate Danny Salzhandler (at left) addresses City Councilmembers and attendees. (Photo by Scott Chatfield.)

It’s an interesting phenomena to observe how even projects with clear support of decision-makers can end up bogged down in the myriad details of execution. It’s like a cat chasing its own tail – going around in circles, trying to catch something that seems so tantalizingly close. 

I have felt the Pacific View conversation was like that. The property was purchased eight years ago with the idea of it being an arts center. A large number of residents came together to form the “Encinitas Arts, Cultural, Ecology Alliance” as a non-profit to actualize the vision for the 2.8-acre property.

Over the years, there were many passionate voices who were deeply inspired by the possibilities of this beloved Encinitas site. In the end, what remained on the table were lots of different options. along with the realities of litigation risk and permitting responsibilities.

What became clear was that we needed a defined project scope, a financing approach, and the city to take the lead as the prime mover of the project.

Last week our City Council wisely and unanimously decided to focus on the core vision of creating a “Cultural Arts Center.” That was the original vision for the site in 2014, when the Council decided to purchase the property from the Encinitas Union School District. 

The City Council also decided that, instead of continuing to hope that a benefactor or non-profit group would shepherd the Pacific View project all the way to completion, the city needed to take responsibility for the process and the outcome.

Asking the city staff to come back to us with a timeline and a financing approach was a major step forward. After the final vote was tallied, applause erupted among those in attendance, many of whom are enthusiastically anticipating an opportunity to help make our newly defined Pacific View dream come true. The city’s leadership will be critical in making that happen.

This recent Google Earth shot shows the Pacific View campus from above. In 2014, the city bought it from the Encinitas Union School District – 11 years after its closure. The site’s history and proximity to the ocean have inspired many Encinitans to work for its transition to a place the public can enjoy. There are almost no remaining public schools west of Highway 101 in Southern California, according to a former board member of the Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance (EACEA).
The Pacific View site as seen from its northeast corner at 3rd and E Streets in 2014. Thanks to hundreds of hours of volunteer labor, the campus is better off than it would have been. (Photo courtesy of SavePacificView.org.)
In 2016, Councilmember Tony Kranz and I enjoyed volunteering to improve the Pacific View property during one of the many cleanup and restoration projects undertaken by volunteers and the Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance.(Photo courtesy of SavePacificView.org.)
I’m grateful to (left to right) Teresa Barth, Lisa Shaffer and Tony Kranz, the three courageous City Councilmembers who voted “yes” to purchase the land in 2014 after years of failed attempts by earlier councils. (Photo courtesy of SavePacificView.org.)

I think we can agree that the current state of our abandoned school from the 1950s is not ideal. But we’re tremendously thankful for the many volunteers who put lots of time, talent and treasure into efforts to revive it. The Encinitas Friends of the Arts and specifically Naimeh Woodward have been notable arts advocates for this project, along with many others.

We’re looking forward to hearing the city staff’s ideas and working together to jump-start Pacific View!

If you’d like to dig a bit deeper, more details can be found in this Encinitas Advocate article. The history of Pacific View and the efforts to revive it is at SavePacificView.org.
 
Exploring Black History

At our City Council meeting this week we’ll be presenting a proclamation honoring Black History Month for the second year in a row. It’s worth remembering that Black History is American History. 

I’m halfway through The 1619 Project book, which was published in 2019 recognizing the 400 year anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. The year 1619 is the year that the first ship carrying enslaved Black people arrived in what would become the United States of America. 

The struggle for emancipation and freedom for some of our earliest settlers began 150 years before our Declaration of Independence stated that “All Men are Created Equal…” It’s a riveting series of essays, brief historic notes and poetry about American history that I highly recommend.

One of the central questions asked is who can claim the American story as their own and who has the right to be a citizen and a participant in America. The book reframes American history by placing slavery and its legacy at the center. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of the project and the author of the section entitled Democracy, writes:

“No one cherishes freedom more than those who have not had it. And to this day, Black Americans, more than any other group, embrace democratic ideals of a common good. We are the most likely to support programs like universal healthcare and a higher minimum wage and to oppose programs that harm the most vulnerable… The truth is that as much democracy as this nation has today, it has been borne on the back of Black resistance and visions for equality.”

I’ll leave you with a quote from Black writer and activist James Baldwin that I think is relevant to the question of why it’s important to read and understand our own histories:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed unless it is faced.”

With appreciation,

Sorry, you are not in the 38th Senate District.
You are in the 38th Senate district!