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Encinitas’ newest council member discusses city goals

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Kellie Shay Hinze
File Photo | Brittany Woolsey

A near-lifelong Encinitas resident is now the city’s newest council member.

Kellie Shay Hinze was unanimously appointed to the governing body Jan. 9, filling a vacancy left by Tasha Boerner Horvath when she was elected to the California Assembly in November. Hinze took her oath of office and officially took her place at the dais at the council’s Jan. 16 meeting.

Prior to her appointment, Hinze, 33, had served as the executive director of the Leucadia 101 Mainstreet Association since 2017.

She recently sat down for an interview to discuss her appointment and important issues in the community.

Q: How do you feel your service with Leucadia 101 has helped prepare you for your new role on the city council?

A: I started with Leucadia 101 as a volunteer and have worked my way up in the organization over the last six years. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. Having an office on 101 was like having a front row seat of my community. This experience I had listening to so many diverse opinions and perspectives informs the understanding I have today about the values of this city. I see it as my job now as a council member to represent those values as a decision maker.

Q: As a younger person, how do you feel your point of view and age will aid the council?

A: I see my generation with some different habits from those of the generation before us. For example, I love using rideshare and it’s a key part of my transportation. It’s a multigenerational value in Encinitas to love walking and biking to our beaches, farmers market and restaurants so I hope to just build on that shared predisposition when thinking long term about mobility in the city. Council will now reflect a broader age range of residents that I believe can lead to building consensus.

Q: More than half of the nearly 30 speakers at the appointment meeting recommended you for the position. What did that support mean to you?

A: It was a marathon meeting with a very ambitious agenda. The fact that people stuck through to stay and vouch about my character was unbelievable. I thought I would have three or four speakers and so many people turned up from my past, even teachers from high school and elementary school showed up. My mom’s speech was definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life. Even though she’s my mother, the way she articulated her support meant the world to me.

Q: What did it mean to you to have the unanimous support of the council?

A: It really meant so much. I have so much respect for each council member and their dedication to serve to this community. I am honored that they have the confidence in me to be a leader and manage complex projects.

Q: What is your history in the city of Encinitas?

A: My grandma and grandpa were educators in Long Beach who bought the house I currently live in 1970. My dad moved down here shortly after and never looked back. He met my mom who had been teaching in Los Angeles. She got a job at Ocean Knoll and when she had me, she would ride me to daycare nearby on her bike every morning. There used to be so many farm animals on the route and we would stop and feed ducks every day.

I attended Paul Ecke Central, then Pacific View and graduated from San Dieguito. I loved every teacher I ever had here. I so fondly remember going to classes at the lagoons and learning about our abundant natural environment and ecosystems. It’s still the highlight of my day to see osprey or visit the tidepools.

My mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was about five but her symptoms were minimal until I graduated from graduate school at UC Santa Barbara. I moved home to assist her with transitioning to life in a wheelchair.

Carris Rhodes hired me at Leucadia 101 when she was the ED and I was mostly caregiving for my mom. Fortunately my mom’s symptoms lessened and I was able to take on more hours and responsibility at work. I thought I would just be there for several months but Carris and I were a great team. She really mentored me and got me back into riding my bike everywhere. My perspective from then on totally changed. I was able to get rid of my car in 2014 because I my work was so close to home.

Q: Why did you decide to try for a seat on the city council?

A: Some trusted friends of mine were putting the pieces together that Tasha’s seat could be open and they encouraged me to apply as a resident of District 2. It was a very daunting decision because it would mean leaving my job with Leucadia 101. I went to a few people I respect and asked for their very candid opinion about the opportunity to apply. They supported me 100 percent.

I’ve been so passionate about mobility and access for the last several years. I felt that I had learned a lot about the public process and had the skills and insight to be a good fit for council after six years with Leucadia 101.

Q: How will you address housing in Encinitas, with the council gearing up to prepare its next housing element for 2020. Should the council make any changes to their strategy this time around?

A: I will support a diversity of housing solutions that are compatible with our city. We need to make progress so that we can be competitive for state grants and show young people that they have a future in this community. Two of my friends with kids my age encourage their fellow-boomers to, ‘Vote like your kids live here.’ We need to make sure people who grow up here can return and make a life. We will lose the connection to our heritage if we can’t provide that. To me, that would be the biggest blow to our community character.

Q: You’ve been a champion for the Leucadia Streetscape and safer roads on Coast Highway 101 for all travelers. Why has this cause been so important to you and how will you continue those discussions on the council?

A: There are so many reasons why I support the Streetscape. 1000 more trees, families being able to ride together on bikes, a 70 percent noise reduction to the surrounding neighborhoods are some of the highlights. ‘Streetscape’ is a controversial term in some circles but in its essence, it will be a beautiful linear park with recreational opportunities for all ages once its complete. Traffic studies show that fears people had in the past are not likely to manifest.

Some cities have a town square to gather. We have Highway 101. It was built to be a freeway in the 1920s and now we have the I-5. So a highspeed thoroughfare doesn’t serve a functional need. The best and highest use of this public space is to be inviting, welcoming foot traffic and safe for any transportation choice you make: transit, auto, on foot or by bike.

This cause is important to me because my mom is in a wheelchair now. My grandma is 95 and my friends are starting to have kids. None of those people are really safe on the highway. Not in their cars, not on their bikes and not on foot. We can do better.

Q: How should Encinitas combat other traffic and mobility issues, such as those on Encinitas Boulevard?

A: We need to be competitive as a city for state funding that’s targeted at alleviating pain points like auto congestion and outdated infrastructure. Once we have a legally compliant housing element we show the county and the state that we are making a good-faith effort to share the responsibility of the housing crisis and we can receive funds to update congested roads.

Q: How do you plan to tackle environmental issues?

A: Our city’s Climate Action Plan is the guiding document to address environmental issues locally. I look forward to being ambitious to implement its strategic guidelines. We have a wealth of environmental acumen in this city and the will to be stewards of this place that is rich with so much natural beauty. I plan to learn from the experts and support my city in taking the threat of climate change seriously.

Q: What will you bring to the table regarding economic development and downtown revitalization?

A: The main street model stresses the importance of creating a sense of place. Economic development in historic downtowns is based on this concept. Historic preservation is key in nurturing a sense of place and encouraging investment in the older buildings that have so much character and connection to the past.

The value of cities investing in art, and music and cultural programming goes a long way to create a sense of place and draw meaningful interest and investment in to this city.

The Streetscape project has immense economic development benefits. Downtown cores need foot traffic and a lively welcoming atmosphere to invite patrons, shoppers and clients.

Q: How should the city approach the rail corridor in Leucadia, particularly near Vulcan Avenue, between Encinitas Boulevard and La Costa Avenue? That area is currently controlled by the North County Transit District, but Mayor Blakespear has said she is hoping the city can gain control over it.

A: Yes, the city is working with NCTD to take on the liability of the corridor and make improvements that residents have been asking for such as safe rail crossings, safe routes to school and multiuse paths. I wholeheartedly support the rail corridor maintained by the city so the public can access it legally for recreation and getting around town.

Q: What other issues do you believe are important in Encinitas, overall, right now?

A: Homelessness, bike share and community choice energy

Q: Tasha Boerner Horvath said in a recent interview that she hopes her replacement ‘continues her efforts on safe routes to school, making the rail corridor a better neighbor and looking at sea level rise and its effect on the community.’ Will you continue these goals and, if so, how would you approach them?

A: Oh yes. Tasha and I are very aligned with our goals for Encinitas.

North Coast Transit District is working collaboratively with the city of Encinitas to make the rail corridor work better for their agency and for our residents. The first major agreement between the agencies is on the agenda for my first Council meeting on Wednesday night.

Safe routes to school are a top priority to me and I am looking forward to learning from PTA’s and neighborhood experts. I worked with Paul Ecke Central staff and Traffic Commissioner Brian Grover in early 2018 to find a better route for bike access during pick up and drop off.

We need to recognize the risk our infrastructure, ecosystems and economy face given anthropogenic climate change. Our city’s climate action plan sets out strategic guidelines to address issues locally.

We need to be focused on state guidelines and resources to embrace adaptation strategies that make sense for our watersheds, infrastructure and beaches.

Q: How do you feel leaving your role at Leucadia 101? What will the transition there be like? Who will take over your position?

A: I wrote my letter of resignation with tears. My time there has really shown me what it means to be part of a community and how to get things done. It was so much more than a job to me.

Zanni Miranda is currently the assistant director and she is very capable to steer a graceful transition. It will be up to the board of directors to fill the executive director position but they are cohesive, collaborative and have a clear vision forward. The community of Leucadia is in good hands even during this transition.