Meet the candidates: Encinitas Mayor

Sign Encinitas
(Staff photo)

On Nov. 3, Encinitas residents will make decisions on the mayor. Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear will be running for re-election against candidate Julie Thunder. In alphabetical order, see their bio information and responses to three questions below.

Catherine Blakespear
Catherine Blakespear

Name: Catherine Blakespear

Occupation: City of Encinitas Mayor/Attorney

Education: Juris Doctor (law degree) from the S.J. Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah; Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University; Torrey Pines High School.

Community Service: Chair of the City of Encinitas Transportation & Public Safety Commission; Member of Encinitas General Plan Advisory Committee; Chair of Scrumptious Schoolyards at Cardiff School District; President and member of a BNI chapter (a business networking group); pro bono legal work related to estate planning and other legal needs in the community; volunteer work related to environmental causes and our children’s community service projects, i.e. the Boy Scouts.

1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the City of Encinitas?

The biggest immediate issue facing the city is ensuring that Encinitas residents and businesses remain healthy in the face of coronavirus and can weather the pandemic’s economic fallout.

Our largest protracted issue is the struggle to manage housing policy. The dynamics around state requirements, local opposition to housing, a vote requirement and the need for affordable housing make this a complex, long-standing, and highly contentious issue.

Another major issue is that infrastructure improvements favored by the community – such as quiet train horns, more rail crossings, trails and increased open spaces, improved mobility options like bike lanes and sidewalks, activation of the Pacific View site, more sand on the beaches, roundabouts, and a community pool – cost substantial sums of money that far exceed the city’s capacity.

Larger global and societal trends, namely a warming planet and a rising homeless epidemic, are already affecting Encinitas.

2. How would you propose to address those issues?

The issues mentioned above require leadership, compassion, hard work and deep engagement. My commitment to residents is to always work closely with the community to tackle our problems, and to make hard choices when needed to move us forward.

I will continue partnering with county, state and federal leaders to secure funding for infrastructure improvements, public safety needs, pandemic response funding and homelessness solutions.

We have been proactively implementing our Climate Action Plan for the four years I’ve been your Encinitas mayor, and will continue to do our part to cool the environment with everything from planting more trees to reducing plastic waste.

Adding a modest amount of state-required new, affordable housing to the city’s 25,000 existing homes while maintaining community character requires the ability to make reasoned and informed decisions, and to recognize the inevitability of difficult conversations.

3. Do you agree with the way the City of Encinitas operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made.

The City of Encinitas is routinely recognized as a high-functioning city. Our professional staff is extremely helpful and responsive, particularly now with some businesses needing to operate in public streets and parks in order to stay open. Encinitas City Councilmembers sincerely devote themselves to making the best decisions in the interest of the greater good.

No government is perfect, and we’re committed to continuous improvement. For example, we could enhance the way we collect data and opinions from residents. Our social media presence could be expanded to more quickly provide information on more issues. We need more resources and staffing to help manage the city’s response to homelessness.

Encinitas is a wonderful city, among the safest places to live in the county, with healthy reserves and fully funded programming. I’m pleased with the efficient and compassionate way we operate, and I hope to continue to lead in creating an even brighter future.

Julie Thunder
Julie Thunder

Name: Julie Thunder

Occupation: Publisher

Education: Bachelor’s of Science, Applied Mathematics, Secondary teaching credential

Community Service: Cardiff School District Bond Committee; Registrar, Cardiff Soccer League; Manager, LCC Surfteam; Asst. Registrar, National Scholastic Surfing Association

1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the City of Encinitas?

The City picked winners and losers when they improperly upzoned 15 properties. The winners are developers who will make millions, the losers are residents who will suffer with increased traffic, crowded schools, and less open spaces.

While the state is expecting us to build about 1,500 affordable housing units, we are allowing developers to build projects that only offer a small percentage of affordable units, making it impossible to get to 1,500. On the Olivenhain project alone, the City promised the state 149 affordable units, but we will only get 42. The difference will have to be made up.

A related issue is the reversal of our votes on Measure U and Prop A. Encinitans are waking up to this egregious action and they are not happy.

Also, the price tag for Leucadia Streetscape is now $20 million per mile, and will shelve several other important projects.

2. How would you propose to address those issues?

We must defend local control of our land-use decisions, this is why we became a city in 1986. Later, we passed Prop A to give residents a voice in future growth. That voice has been stifled by our mayor and council.

State-mandated housing shouldn’t be concentrated in dense projects but woven into zones throughout the city. We can demand that developers set aside a higher percentage for low-income housing. The mayor and city council members, who are supported by developers, refuse to do that.

And, while Leucadia is overdue for a massive upgrade, let’s go back to basics and improve downtown Leucadia in a more reasonable design, perhaps similar to Solana Beach’s 101. We need all four lanes of 101 kept open to accommodate traffic, emergency vehicles, and the faster cyclists. The railtrail design should be wider to allow slower walkers a path free of ebikes and skateboarders.

3. Do you agree with the way the City of Encinitas operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made.

We have good people working for our City who care about our town and do a lot of things right! But I strongly disagree with the way Council meetings are run. The consent calendar is being used improperly, agendas are too long, and residents are sometimes told to shorten their public comments by a third.

I would use the consent calendar only for its intended purpose: for items that are either routine, or are so widely supported that to make approval a separate action would bog the meeting down.

Regular agenda items that are known to be contentious are often put at the end of an already long meeting, making it difficult for residents who have to wait hours before speaking. I would shorten meetings and reduce contentious meetings to a single item. And public input should always be 3 minutes, never reduced to only 2.