Letters to the Editor/Opinion: November, December 2020, January, February, March 2021
Kudos to city Parks and Beach supervisor for quick response
An acknowledgment to Bob Keeley, Encinitas Parks and Beach supervisor (Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department).
A request (and there are many that cross his desk) was quickly responded to. The brush had overgrown the handrails on the stairs at Swami’s to the point that it became a safety issue, especially for the elderly. The stairs are damp most of the time with wet bare feet from the beach traffic. Thank you for those jobs you (and your department) do to keep Encinitas safe, clean and pretty.
Misinformation about the SDFA
There’s a discussion in the community driven by misinformation and misunderstanding about the San Dieguito Faculty Association (SDFA). We write to define what the SDFA actually is and how it fits into our current circumstance. Some vocal and demonstrative community members have been claiming the SDFA is preventing teachers from returning to on-site classrooms and characterizing the SDFA as an external, bully-type force that somehow solely controls the decisions of the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD).
The SDFA is not just teachers, it includes our counselors and it does not just represent the people teaching and counseling our children, it is those same people—their president is a middle school counselor and their membership is voluntary, consisting of a vast majority of our children’s teachers and counselors. To suggest that these people—our neighbors and friends—are being manipulated or are engaged in some plot to keep students off their campuses does one thing, and one thing only. It allows those who don’t believe that teachers should have the same employment rights guaranteed to other public employees to dehumanize and vilify our teachers and counselors for personal political gain. This vilification began a few years ago and has reached a fever pitch during this sensitive time. We should be especially wary of anyone in our community blaming the teachers’ association for problems caused by those in the district administration and elected leadership who sow division among us rather than try to bring us together.
Those who cast aspersions toward the SDFA might consider that teachers are not the only public employees to form associations as a way to organize themselves and speak with one voice. Our local police officers have the San Diego Police Officers Association and our local firefighters have the San Diego City Firefighters Association. Blaming or even giving sole credit to the SDFA for decisions made by the San Dieguito Union High School District would be like blaming or giving sole credit to the police and firefighters associations for decisions made by the Mayor of San Diego. It just doesn’t work that way.
Employees’ associations are just some of the many voices that leaders consider when making decisions for the public good. During this pandemic, state, county, university and public health voices are also paramount. When associations are excoriated for certain decisions, this might be a clear sign that communication and transparency have broken down at all levels. We urge all stakeholders in SDUHSD to come together to collaborate and compromise to ensure best practices in decision making—and that the education and safety of our children be the top priority, always.
Dec. 4 issue:
This holiday season: Strengthen friendships, strengthen Encinitas
I was heartened to read about the moms in Village Park who have come together during the pandemic. How can we learn from their model and come together during the holidays to strengthen our whole community? Here are three gift-giving ideas to help us do that. Each can be done alone, but work better if you drum up a half dozen to a dozen friends/neighbors/family members to partake.
1. Help your gardener replace their gas-powered equipment with electric, by buying them an electric leaf blower or a combo kit with a single battery for leaf blower, edge trimmer, and lawn mower.
Did you know that gas-powered landscape equipment generates high levels of pollutants that contribute to cardiovascular disease, asthma, lung disease, and other serious health conditions for the equipment operators*. By joining with friends, neighbors, or other clients of your gardener, you can protect the health of those who protect the beauty of your home. Another option if you don’t have a gardener --we bought an electric blower and we loan it to our neighbor’s gardeners so they can test it out.
2. Help Encinitas move towards zero waste by adopting a restaurant through The Compost Group
Did you know that Americans dispose of nearly 40 million tons of food annually and that food produces methane in our landfills, a potent greenhouse gas? You can help turn that waste into fabulous soil by adopting a local restaurant, so they can have their food waste composted.
Check out https://thecompostgroup.com/ and you will be fully equipped to convince a local eatery to join the crowd. You and your friends can sponsor the restaurant for a month, a year, or longer. After that, the restaurant will be hooked and will find they don’t need your support because they’re now saving money on waste hauling and also complying with state legislation.
3. Encinitas Community Resource Center (https://crcncc.org/) -- Host a food drive in your neighborhood
It’s been a long year for all of us – with the pandemic totally changing our routines and our life. Many are facing unprecedented financial uncertainty. The Community Resource Center offers a variety of services. They can always use help filling their food pantry. And I learned this summer, when we hosted a drive, that it’s a great way to connect – at a 6-foot distance – with neighbors I knew and neighbors I had never met before.
This has been a year of heartache and of silver linings. Let’s finish it off knowing we did all we could to strengthen the bonds of friendship and community in the midst of fear and uncertainty.
Utility of park is improved by Cardiff School District rebuild
Save the Park and Build the School believes that taking out a full page advertisement in the November 20th issue of the Encinitas Advocate will assuage the community in regard to the fact that the U.S. District Court summarily dismissed their recent lawsuit and preliminary injunction. Can you think of any other time that you’ve seen an entity take out an advertisement to announce that they lost their lawsuit, but use the opportunity to pronounce that the Cardiff School District still cannot complete its construction because they need to receive final approval from the National Park Service (NPS) in regard to the land boundary adjustment.
Some facts are pertinent. Cardiff School District did receive approval for the boundary adjustment from NPS and construction of the delayed multipurpose building was initiated. Then the opposing faction filed another lawsuit and gained success with a judgment for a preliminary injunction to stop the construction within the contested boundary confines. This injunction was issued approximately 5 weeks after the district had received approval from the NPS. In the ensuing several week period, after the injunction stopping construction, NPS in an unprecedented move reversed their previous approval for the boundary adjustment! What? NPS gave approval, the district proceeded forth, and then rescinded approval. How can this be? Something funny is going on. Now the district has a 60% complete and halted partially constructed multipurpose building that is being weather damaged.
Here’s the big issue in my mind. The Save the Park/Build the School group says they are dedicated to preserving George Berkich Park so that future generations can continue to enjoy this unique community asset. The fact of the matter is that there is nothing that is being done in the new project that diminishes the prior uses and function as a unique community asset. If anything, the utility of the park is improved with off-street parking, better drainage for the playfields, etc.
Cardiff by the Sea
Dec. 18 issue:
Forty-six years ago we moved with our family to the beautiful and peaceful town of Encinitas. Many things have changed over the years, but nothing more disruptive than the proliferation of short-term rentals that are taking over more and more of our coastline neighborhoods. Once close-knit neighbors are being replaced with visitors that may only be here for a night or two. Some of the renters are mindful and respectful that they are staying in a neighborhood, but too many are not. Beach access is a right and privilege for all, but it should not come at the expense of residents. We shouldn’t be awakened in the middle of the night by renters that are partying and the loud noise created by such.
Robert and Sharon Frickman
Cardiff School District: Misconstruing court decisions and park utility
The reasoning behind Boone Hellmann’s Dec. 4 letter proclaiming the improved utility of Berkich Park under the Cardiff School rebuild is as sound as the assertion that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in the recent election.
Mr. Hellmann’s first error is his belief that Save the Park and Build the School (STPBTS) lost its lawsuit. He appears unaware that the lawsuit was filed to require the National Park Service (NPS) to rescind its improper approval of the district’s encroachment into Berkich Park – that’s exactly what it did. Once the NPS corrected its error, there was no further basis for federal jurisdiction, hence the dismissal for procedural reasons.
Mr. Hellmann decries NPS’s “unprecedented” rescission of its approval. As he notes, “some facts are pertinent”. It is indeed pertinent that the court found NPS’s “hasty approval of the project” to be “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion”, and “inconsistent with the LWCFA regulations.” In reversing its approval, the NPS determined that the district had mispresented information material to its evaluation. Precedent for reversal of unlawful agency actions lies in countless court decisions.
Mr. Hellmann notes that the multipurpose building is 60% complete. Construction was started four weeks after NPS approval and one week after STPBTS challenged that approval. On the day that STPBTS served its federal complaint, the multipurpose building was but a cinderblock wall and framing for the foundation. When asked to delay further construction until the court considered STPBTS’s request, the district declined. Instead, they accelerated construction on the building, hoping to convince the court that they were too far along to stop. At the hearing a month later, in granting the injunction, the judge rebuffed the district’s protests: “didn’t the school district take a risk here?...they were a little bit at their peril if they went back to construction until all of that got resolved.”
Surely Mr. Hellmann can understand that reducing a four-acre field by more than an acre reduces its utility. He might also recognize that a 5,200-square-foot playground with a small climbing structure, one slide, and a merry-go-round, has less utility that a 7,200-square-foot playground with a large climbing structure, three slides, and a large swing set, and that more than 10,000 square feet of pollution filtration basins with drain gratings, culverts, and large patches of sharp-edged drainage rocks don’t belong anywhere near a children’s playground.
The order dismissing the lawsuit reads, “Of course, the District remains obligated under the law, and the Settlement Agreement, to refrain from the vast majority of its planned construction without NPS approval. Should the District fail to abide by those obligations, [STPBTS] has a remedy before the Superior Court under the Settlement Agreement.” The district agreed to restore Berkich Park to its original pre-construction condition if it does not receive NPS approval. STPBTS simply wants the community’s park restored.
Jan. 15 issue:
SDUHSD principals are irreplaceable and deserve our support
As students in San Dieguito Union High School District, we have experienced the challenges of moving to online learning. We have watched teachers adapt their curriculums to the demands of new and unfamiliar platforms. We have watched students work to acclimate to these new curriculums and the unusual structure of the school day. What has been a constant throughout these changes have been our principals, who have supported both us students and our teachers.
In my experience, principals have acted as linchpins for the community, helping bring together students, parents, and teachers in ways each of those individual groups cannot. They are trusted to fairly represent all of their constituents and, especially during these pressing times, have navigated the disparate interests extremely gracefully and effectively. Principals work to protect students and guide them through difficult decisions—decisions which are becoming more and more common as our environment becomes more and more stressful. SDUHSD principals have demonstrated their commitment to our community, inside and outside of school hours. They are irreplaceable elements. And they deserve our support as much as any of our teachers. We ask on behalf of SDUHSD students that we give them this support and praise them for all they do for us.
Joshua Charat-Collins, CCA
Irene Chung, CCA
Madeleine Moon, TPHS
Ayush Agrawal, CCA
Andrew Gao, CCA
Sebastian Charat-Collins, PTMS
Lucas Beltran, SDA
Lukas Nepomuceno, CCA
Political institutions should effectively incorporate science into policy
School reopenings have been a contentious issue, but the argument that teacher unions are the obstacle to reopening is divisive and misinformed.
The failure is that our political institutions do not effectively incorporate science into policy. While I was still board president of the Encinitas Union School District in 2020, I received a letter from respected area pediatricians calling for schools to reopen full time. They cited recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and pointed out that Dr. Fauci also thought students should be in school.
Who am I to override expert medical opinion? Politicians are not epidemiologists. As a district we are beholden to the San Diego Department of Public Health Orders, which instruct our San Diego school districts to adhere to the California state guidelines to inform our reopening strategies. The very word “guidelines” is the first mistake, because it implies recommendations, not requirements.
The California Department of Health should be issuing school reopening protocols. Doctors, epidemiologists in particular, should update protocols to reflect what scientists learn about how the virus is spread. Do not leave science up to political interpretation. When the science uncovered that the virus is likely spread by aerosol droplets, the protocols should have been updated from “consider installing” to “must install” medical-grade air filtration systems, while also clearly stating that no one method will be effective at stopping the spread and that schools need layers of preventative strategies.
Why have some private and elementary schools reopened while others did not? Because schools with fewer pupils per classroom and adequate space could do so in accordance with the guidelines. “Consider ways to establish separation of students through other means if practicable, such as, six feet between desks…” Where “practicable?” No scenario is practicable for large high school districts to reopen while maintaining any meaningful distance between the students. The guidelines need to state more explicitly what the protocols for large high school districts should be. Currently health officials cannot articulate a safe reopening scenario for large school districts where distancing, small cohorts and quarantining protocols are not feasible. If the medical community believes schools should open nonetheless, because the risks of not going to school are greater, then put it in writing.
Currently, the guidelines state that schools can reopen for in-person instruction once their county has been in the red tier for two weeks. If the medical community believes that it doesn’t matter what the case rate in the community is, they need to state so in plain language. If medical professionals cannot definitively make these determinations in the policy documents that districts are required to follow, please do not expect laypersons to make these calls when people’s lives are at stake.
Former EUSD Board President 2020
Board Member 2016-2020
SDUHSD leaders applauded for their work, support and care
I am a parent of students at both La Costa Canyon High School and San Dieguito Academy. I am writing in support of both schools’ administration and faculty. We have all been faced with an unfortunate and unusual situation this past year, COVID-19. There is no blueprint on how to deal with it but I applaud our district for all of their work, support and care. We have many wonderful leaders who truly prioritize the needs and safety of our students and teachers. They communicate with us on a regular basis and they support our students, all while keeping up with the ever-changing landscape.
My husband was an educator for 16 years so I have seen first-hand what educators do for their students. Through his eyes I have also seen what principals do for their staff and students. They create safe spaces to learn, they celebrate the successes of their staff and student body, they champion school spirit and create contingency plans (especially important this past year).
Both of my high school children have felt connected and supported since starting virtual learning last March. They are comforted in knowing how seriously our administrations are taking the known risks of COVID-19. It is unfortunate they cannot attend in-person instruction but it is imperative that our children, our families and our community remain safe and healthy. The pandemic is world-wide, it is not isolated to North San Diego County. We should not be harsh with our educators, with the administration and staff during this already stressful time. Do I miss watching my son play soccer? Yes, but I know he will be able to play when it is safe.
This past year has taught me and my family, more than ever, the meaning of community and care. We must make sacrifices to keep others safe, we must modify our lifestyles to help others. We should commend our children for their resilience and for adjusting to the changes we all have faced. Thank you to everyone at La Costa Canyon, San Dieguito and the entire school district for keeping our children safe, informed, supported and encouraged.
The infantilization of (local) politics
Well, it’s a new year and our Encinitas City Council is wasting no time in re-introducing government by virtue-signaling. Despite a lack of evidence of significant outdoor COVID transmission, our mayor shuts down local small businesses, a rule which, of course, didn’t apply to her address at the much more important and densely-attended Black Lives Matter protest.
If our City Council is truly concerned about COVID deaths, perhaps they should meet with all the retirement and long-term care facilities - where the mortality risk is actually greatest - to ensure they are following best health practices. And since the County reports zero COVID in those age 19 and under, perhaps they could also advocate for the re-opening of Encinitas schools, with reasonable safety precautions, of course.
And instead of grumbling about Encinitas’ massive pension deficit, the Council could advocate to convert our city pension plan to a much more affordable 401(k)-style plan. Don’t hold your breath. The Council did have time, however, to declare a “climate emergency”, and cited the need to act accordingly – whatever that means. Perhaps it means supporting nuclear energy, which would dramatically lower CO2 emissions and which, Hollywood movies notwithstanding, has an excellent safety profile. Perhaps it means protesting against or banning products from China – by far the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Not likely.
In none of these cases do our elected officials follow the facts or the science. In today’s Orwellian, dystopian local politics, it’s all about pious hand-wringing and political correctness. How unlike many of Encinitas’ prior city councils, which were apolitical, stayed out of issues above their scope of influence and stayed focused on the quality of life in Encinitas itself.
Cardiff by the Sea
Much gratitude to SDA’s principal and assistant principal
I consider myself fortunate to have worked as a high school teacher for half of my teaching career at San Dieguito High School Academy. SDA has always attracted good students, staff and administrators.
I had retired before Adam Camacho became the principal at SDA, so I did not have the pleasure of working with him as a teacher. However, I volunteered at the school and, before the pandemic, I would often see him on campus. Adam always greeted me by name, with warmth and a big smile on his face, making me feel welcome.
Once retired, I helped organize a group of SDA’s AVID students to read with the elementary students at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School (PEC) in the after-school program (AVID = Advancement via Individual Determination). On the drive to PEC, I enjoyed our conversations together. Most of the AVID students were Latina/o and would be the first in their families to be college bound. They spoke fondly of Mr. Camacho, happy that a Latino was their principal, someone who could “understand them better.” I remember one student saying that Mr. Camacho always looked happy. This is what a good principal does: He listens to students, and with warmth and kindness, making them feel safe and accepted. I know that during this pandemic Mr. Camacho is tirelessly working to keep his staff as safe as possible.
I also want to compliment SDA’s Assistant Principal Celeste Barnette. Her open mindedness and big heart have helped make the teachers and their students at SDA feel respected. I was part of a group of retired teachers from SDA who had been coming to SDA once a week, during the pandemic, with treats and drinks for the staff who were on campus. We set up our table near the check-in station by the Health Office. Ms. Barnette always greeted us enthusiastically. She posted our photo on SDA’s Facebook page, praising our effort effusively. Her exuberance and positivity motivated us to continue our presence up until winter break.
Amidst COVID cases surging, heated debates about reopening schools, and the attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, I felt it necessary to spotlight two excellent school leaders in SDUHSD who positively impact so many human beings. Much gratitude goes to Adam Camacho and Celeste Barnette.
Retired teacher, SDA 2014
Good cops don’t need qualified immunity -- only bad ones do
We see good cops in our neighborhood every day. They are helping us and our neighbors in our greatest times of need-- when we are scared, in danger, or simply need another pair of hands. These cops are selfless and perform an essential public service for us all. These cops also don’t need qualified immunity.
Good cops do their jobs well, it is as plain as that. They are thoughtful and follow their training even when making a split second decision. Good cops are not the ones using deadly choke holds or shooting first and asking questions later. The only members of our law enforcement agencies who would be impacted if our legislature ended the legal loophole of qualified immunity are the bad cops who use excessive force. If we want to protect our men and women in blue, we need to end qualified immunity and get bad cops off the force.
Feb. 12 issue:
Urgent need to vaccinate disabled teens and adults
I urge the Governor and the County to bypass age-based vaccination rollout to vaccinate disabled Californians, specifically to add disabled teens and adults who received Home Community Based Services to Tier 1B for COVID vaccine distribution. This urgent need – which has been championed by Aaron Carruthers, executive director, State Council on Developmental Disabilities, and other disability advocates – is being ignored.
Here’s why this group needs to prioritized:
1. These Californians are at last 3 times more likely to die from COVID as others, 10 times more if they have Down syndrome. If they go to the hospital, they cannot bring their caregivers, many of whom speak for them.
2. Their disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities, make it difficult for them to follow COVID safety protocols. They may not be able to wash their hands on their own or wear a mask, and may need their caregivers to be closer than 6 feet for their safety. This makes them more likely to become infected and thus more likely to spread the disease.
3. These are front-line students. Those aged 22 and younger are far more likely to be in school in-person now than their peers. School districts have brought back small cohorts of these most disabled learners before other students, recognizing they struggled so much during COVID restrictions. An outbreak among this cohort could derail plans to open a school. As a side note, there is no testing of these students.
4. Most urgently, many of these Californians are at ultra-high-risk for COVID and therefore are stuck in their homes and have been since the pandemic began. And many of these Californians are now at the back of the vaccination line because of their age.
There’s a way to vaccinate them without disrupting the larger, age-based rollout: set up temporary vaccination sites at the agencies that serve them, like the San Diego Regional Center. Vaccinating these San Diegans ASAP will do more than simply protect them. It will help protect the communities where they live. It will also show them that their lives matter.
March 12 issue:
Urge politicians to support carbon pricing
The U.N. recently said that promises to cut emissions are too meager to halt climate change. This confirms the climate emergency we face. Thankfully, President Biden is moving quickly on climate. Putting a price on carbon and returning those monies fairly to American households should be the backbone of any legislation proposed by the administration and Congress. Why? Economists agree that pricing carbon is the most effective way to reach climate goals. Returning revenues to Americans generated from the fee will protect the most vulnerable. Pricing pollution does not increase regulations or the size of government, and will stimulate energy innovation. It is market-based with bipartisan support. It is our best shot for stopping climate change. I thank Representatives Levin, Jacobs, Vargas, Peters and Issa for their climate advocacy in many areas.
Let’s urge them to support carbon pricing, as it resonates with Americans of all political persuasions and can work.
The supposed safe feeling of protected bike lanes is misleading— even deadly
City planners and some cycling advocates insist that protected bike lanes are the best and safest way to encourage many San Diegans to ditch their cars and join the cycling revolution.
Bordered by raised asphalt strips and plastic pylons, these protected lanes create a supposed safety bubble to protect cyclists of all ages and abilities.
In theory, those cyclists can enjoy the sunshine and scenery, while cars whiz by them in the adjacent lane.
But those rosy assurances crumble, when we confront the real dangers of protected bike lanes, and the emotional and economic cost of the injuries and deaths that plague them.
According to statistics gathered by North County cycling advocates, there were 24 accidents in just eight months on a one-mile flat protected bike lane stretch installed last year along the Cardiff 101.
Fifteen of those crashes were caused by cyclists who collided with the raised asphalt barriers designed to keep vehicles away from the bike lanes. Many of those crashes were serious (multiple fractures: bones and pelvis, concussion, neck injury) including a 10-year-old rider who flopped into the traffic lane after colliding with an asphalt barrier. (Luckily, that young cyclist survived.)
The raised asphalt barriers and pylons also give cyclists a false sense of security. Bike riders assume cars and trucks can’t jump the barriers, but in reality vehicles easily can. The barriers also pen in the cyclists, reducing the “escape routes” they need to avoid vehicles that drift into their bike lane or cut them off with a quick right turn.
That’s what happened on Leucadia Blvd., when a truck driver made a right turn in front of a rider, who was killed when he collided with the truck. The pylons designed to protect the cyclist had the opposite effect — they prevented the truck driver from slowly moving towards the curb as he prepared to make that right turn onto Moonstone Court.
Traditional buffered bike lanes with wide painted vehicle exclusion zones are a much safer design alternative. They facilitate safer right turns for vehicles, and are routinely swept and paved.
Plus, buffered bike lanes are much less expensive to build. That’s crucial, because local governments are now hobbled with huge, pandemic-induced budget deficits.
Hazardous protected bike lanes will be unnecessary, as more vehicles are equipped with standard safety software for human and bicycle crash avoidance.
Advocates for protected bike lanes downplay their dangers. “Barriers may bruise elbows, but they save lives,” they say. “Build more.”
That’s a catchy phrase, but as too many cyclists have learned the hard way that it’s bad advice, with serious — sometimes deadly — consequences.
Phillip Young, longtime North County road bicycle rider
Have you noticed how more often it’s difficult to get a straight answer from the City of Encinitas (COE)? Over two weeks ago I asked COE council rep Joe Mosca for the traffic count of the intersection of Encinitas Blvd. and Rancho Santa Fe Road. And asked the same of a COE traffic engineer. Despite the very busy notoriety of that intersection in the middle of Mosca’s district he did not know the answer but said he would get the information.
It’s a hundred yards from a proposed new signal of a new 260-unit-plus condo project.
Why is Mosca and Encinitas City hiding this simple, basic information? What else are they hiding about this and the other big projects?
Go ahead councilman Mosca, enlighten us on how in touch with your district data you are and provide the answer at your earliest convenience Sir.
March 26 issue:
To me it is a shame that people may be missing out on the experience of eating the ripened fruit of a monstera deliciosa. I would like to think that all the monstera deliciosa fruit in this area is eaten, for they are exotic and deliciosa beyond belief. To harvest ripe ones requires patience, patience, patience. We had a monstera ripen two or three different years, but now no fruit is growing. It grew at the base of a not-so-shady tree. We live in Encinitas, a mile or so up the hill from El Camino. To ripen fully, monstera requires time, time, time -- at least a year, if not more. There can be no rushing the process that I know, and to taste the fruit before it is ready is an unpleasant experience. The unripe fruit is very tart and I have heard can cause bleeding in the mouth. But it is close to ready when the surface of the fruit seems to develop into individual pieces – much the way corn develops into kernels. The term deliciosa is a term our garden friends well understand. A neighbor said her monstera fruit was eaten by some garden visitors, so break off the fruit when it looks close to ready and bring it indoors to finish ripening. The deliciosa is ready when it almost falls off the stem. It is so beyond deliciosa!
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