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State of the City: Encinitas has much to celebrate, mayor says

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Encinitas Deputy Mayor Jody Hubbard, council member Joe Mosca, Mayor Catherine S. Blakespear, council member Tony Kranz, council member Kellie Shay Hinze. See more event photos at the bottom of the story below.
McKenzie Images

Encinitas can expect to celebrate everything from the opening of a rail trail segment to finally resolving its longstanding housing planning conflict with the state in the coming year, Mayor Catherine Blakespear said Tuesday, March 26, as she gave the annual “State of the City” address.

In addition to finishing several longstanding projects, the city also will make progress this year on some critical priorities, including the Leucadia Streetscape project and other roadway improvements as well as a community choice energy program and other Climate Action Plan goals, the mayor told some 250 people at the sold-out, annual Encinitas Chamber of Commerce event.

Catherine Blakespear
Encinitas Mayor Catherine S. Blakespear delivered the State of The City address to a capacity audience. McKenzie Images

“In 2019, we will gain momentum and move forward on these critical priorities,” Blakespear said. “The City Council is committed to these and we are working on these every day.”

Chamber officials said they, too, expected to be in growth mode in the coming year. Board Chairman Alex Meade told the audience that they’re planning to expand the chamber’s networking events and its ambassadors program because the monthly “Sundowner” socials and the new business, ribbon-cutting events have been so successful of late.

The mayor said that Encinitas had a fair share of good news in 2018. Among other things, the city’s new Marine Safety Center won a national public works design award, a sand replenishment project rehabilitated Cardiff State Beach, and Encinitas helped pass its first bill -- one that made it easier to permit “granny flats” and other accessory dwelling units -- in the state Legislature in at least 20 years.

“Now, we can help homeowners with unpermitted units come out of the shadows,” Blakespear said, calling it a “critical component” of the city’s housing supply.

The city didn’t resolve its longstanding conflict with the state over its lack of a currently certified housing planning document, but it’s close to doing so now, she noted.

“By this time next month, we should have a completely approved housing plan through the state and the courts; this is a monumental landmark for Encinitas that has been many decades in the making,” Blakespear said as audience members loudly applauded.

Encinitas is one of just a handful of cities in the state that doesn’t have a valid, state-mandated document known as a Housing Element, which details how it proposes to handle its future housing needs, particularly those of low-income residents. The city is currently being sued by both the Building Industry Association of San Diego and San Diego Tenants United over its lack of a plan, and now is under a court order to get the job done.

April also is the month that the city’s first portion of the regional, 44-mile coastal rail trail is set to open, Blakespear noted, adding that Encinitas is “extremely grateful” that project is being funded by the regional San Diego Association of Governments. The new 1.3-mile trail segment begins at Chesterfield Drive and continues northward to the Santa Fe Drive railroad.

Construction recently concluded on improvements to the train crossing point at Chesterfield Drive and Coast Highway, and once some safety equipment is installed there that area will become the city’s first train horn quiet zone, Blakespear said.

“This will tremendously improve the quality of life for anyone living near the train tracks,” she added, noting that 50 trains a day pass through the area.

Plans are also in the works to create pedestrian underpasses under the railroad tracks at El Portal Street and Verdi Avenue, and to conduct a major overhaul of Coast Highway 101 -- a long-discussed project known as Leucadia Streetscape.

“This stretch of Coast Highway 101 is an integral part of our city’s history, and I believe we can reclaim it as the scenic parkway and neighborhood road it was intended to be -- not the commuting shortcut it has become,” Blakespear said.

While Encinitas has much to celebrate, Blakespear said there are a few gray clouds on the horizon because construction costs for large scale projects have been soaring of late. Showing charts with projections and then actual costs for major construction activity over the last three decades, the mayor said rising construction costs may be cause for concern as the city explores future building projects.

“We are managing this new reality, but I wanted to share this information with you to give the scale and number of projects currently underway in Encinitas,” she said.

— Barbara Henry is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune

Jennifer Karen
Encinitas Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Campbell, City Manager Karen P. Brust McKenzie Images
Doug Jones
Doug Jones, 101 Artists’ Colony President Danny Salzhandler, Heritage Museum Executive Director Barb Grice, Jay Clark McKenzie Images
Paul Ecke
Paul Ecke III, Leichtag Foundation President/CEO Jim Farley Mckenzie Images
Doug Long
Doug and Karen Long, Alice Jacobson, Dr. Stuart Grauer Ken Grosse
Town Council
Leucadia Town Council and guests Michael Murphy, Russell Levan, Carolyn Cope, Rachelle Collier, Kathleen Lees, Dolores Welty (seated) McKenzie Images
Teresa Barth
Cardiff 101 Secretary Teresa Barth, Christy Mortlock, Treasurer Brenda Dizon, Vice President Susan Hays, Kathy Houser McKenzie Images
Blakespear family
Encinitas Mayor Catherine S. Blakespear and Jeremy Blakespear with Oliver and Ava McKenzie Images
Senior Commission
Encinitas Senior Citizen Commissioner Kris Powell, Ron Dodge, Joan Grosewisch, Encinitas Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Gattinella McKenzie Images
City Manager
Encinitas Assistant City Manager Mark Delin, Trish Hilder, Amber Ter-Vrugt, Matthew Rebelo McKenzie Images
Room photo
The State of the City Address was a sold-out event. McKenzie Images