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Guest commentary: Top accomplishments after 6 years as Encinitas Mayor

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For the six years I’ve served as the Encinitas Mayor, every December I’ve reflected on the accomplishments and challenges of the previous year. This will be my last one, as I move on to become your state senator and Tony Kranz becomes the next Encinitas Mayor.

Catherine Blakespear
(Copyright of Catherine Blakespear)

We’ve accomplished a lot together! I’m looking forward to seeing what future leaders will bring to our beloved city.

Our successes in Encinitas have been about the projects we’ve built – and the community character we’ve retained.

Encinitas’ progress on infrastructure and housing has been impressive:

1. Getting right with state housing law. After 35 years, Encinitas is finally in compliance with state housing laws that require all cities to make room for new housing that’s affordable to lower income people. Income-diverse cities create a more vibrant and just society. Preserving our community’s character depends on the wide variety of people who can call our city home.

It wasn’t easy to lead the city through that housing element process. I hope the community desire for housing that can accommodate a range of people at different cycles in their lives continues to grow.

2) It takes leadership to re-create public spaces. We’ve become a more bikeable and walkable place to live. I began my service on the city’s Traffic Commission, where I saw our potential for major improvements in our road network.

Highlights of these investments in recreating public space include the Coastal Rail Trail in Cardiff, the physically protected bike lanes on Highway 101, new beach sand dunes, the transformative Leucadia Streetscape project, including the new pedestrian rail undercrossing at El Portal – plus roundabouts, green bike lanes, trail connections in Olivenhain, and many other projects. The numerous bike and pedestrian improvements around the San Elijo Lagoon and our border with Solana Beach that were built by SANDAG and Caltrans are similarly transformational.

The transportation improvements that have flourished in Encinitas unquestionably benefits, families, commuters, outdoor enthusiasts, and everyone else who lives, works or plays here.

3) Giving voice to the value of inclusion and diversity. During my term as mayor, we started flying the Pride flag every June, formed an Equity Committee, approved more affordable housing units than any previous council, supported women’s right to choose in Encinitas, made our city services more accessible for Spanish-speakers, opened a Safe Parking program to help those sleeping in cars get back into housing, supported artists having a city-based home to showcase their talents at Pacific View, required safe storage for gun owners, among many other justice-based actions.

Embracing our fellow humans and their many life experiences is at the core of being an Encinitan, Californian, and American. We undertook this challenge seriously – and joyously!

4) Environmental Leadership. We didn’t just talk about fighting climate change. Encinitas opted for 100% renewable energy as the default; wrote an enforceable gold star climate action plan; dramatically reduced waste and plastic at all city-hosted events; were early adopters of the green waste composting; converted an underused city hall parking lot to an electric vehicle charging station, and, as mentioned, built new infrastructure to help people move around without a car.

5) I’m happy to have helped appoint great candidates that voters then elected. One of the most satisfying aspects of my job has been “building the bench,” with dynamic and diverse future leaders. Joe Mosca was our city’s first openly LGBTQ City Council member, who filled the City Council seat I vacated when elected mayor.

We’ve also had an impressive history of female leadership in Encinitas – out of a total of 19 mayors since the city’s incorporation in 1986, 12 have been women! Tasha Boerner Horvath ran for city council – and she’s now our esteemed and successful Assemblymember.

Councilmember and passionate bicycle advocate Jody Hubbard was elected, but resigned shortly before tragically passing from cancer less than two years into her term. Her able appointed successor Joy Lyndes has proven herself a solid leader – and voters just elected her. Finally, I’m proud that we appointed the remarkable Kellie Shay Hinze, who the voters resoundingly elected (and who’s recently welcomed a delightful baby into the City Hall family).

Our new Mayor Tony Kranz preceded me in local office, and we’ve developed a deep and true friendship over our many years in office together. His governance taps into a deep knowledge and insight about the roots of our city, and he’s committed to the continuity of past, present and future. I am confident in passing the baton to Mayor Kranz and optimistic about what Encinitas will accomplish under his leadership.

6) Pacific View was saved and the art center construction is underway!

It really does take a village! It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that our entire community pitched in to reactivate Pacific View, our mid-century modern elementary school that closed in 2003. I’m so happy that before I left office we allocated $7 million to get this historical bluffside city asset up and open to the public. After hoping that local nonprofits or other philanthropists could actualize this site, it became clear that the city needed to act – and the work has now begun.

It’s been the honor of my lifetime to have served you as the mayor of the city where my great-grandparents put down roots a century ago. I look forward to working hard as your California State Senator!


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