Mayoral candidates split over housing, homeless, transportation projects

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On topics ranging from pursuing the Leucadia Streetscape project to installing green plastic “bollards”along city bike lanes, the two candidates for Encinitas mayor offered sharply differing views this week.

Catherine Blakespear
Catherine Blakespear

Incumbent Catherine Blakespear and challenger Julie Thunder agreed on little during a Zoom candidate forum Tuesday, Oct. 6. The hour-long pre-recorded event was hosted by the Cardiff Town Council and moderated by the League of Women Voters, and can be viewed by visiting:

Julie Thunder

In her opening statements, Thunder declared that she was running to make sure that Encinitas stays a “beach town, not a big town.” She said she wants the city to do far more to combat an increasing crime problem and declared that the incumbent is leading the city in the wrong direction, favoring out-of-town interests and high-density housing projects over existing residents’ needs.

“Those of us who are invested in Encinitas want a different future for our town,” said Thunder, who’s lived in Encinitas for 30 years and raised four daughters.

For her part, Blakespear said Thunder’s campaign is “routed in negativity and lies.”

“She is playing on nostalgia, promising a return to a mythical Encinitas that never actually existed in the first place,” said Blakespear, whose family has been in Encinitas for nearly 100 years.

Blakespear also said that Thunder is being less than candid when she describes herself as being the pro-environment candidate and Blakespear as being pro-development. Both candidates likely have campaign donors who’ve benefited from development projects in town and Thunder’s family is in the construction business, Blakespear said. She also mentioned that she’s the one who’s received endorsements from the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters, not Thunder.

For all of the 16 forum questions regarding city issues, the candidates had differing views, particularly when it came to transportation projects and housing planning.

Blakespear, an attorney who has served four years as the city’s mayor, said she supported the Streetscape project, a long-proposed overhaul of Leucadia’s portion of Coast Highway 101 that would reduce the roadway to a single vehicle lane in each direction and add bike lanes, expanded sidewalks, traffic circle roundabouts and paved parking areas. She also backed the recently opened parking lot for homeless people in the city’s mid-section; said she believes the city is doing as good a job as it can to try to meet state housing low-income housing requirements; and indicated that she would back a pre-emptive measure to ban gun stores from opening in Encinitas.

Thunder, a publisher of a monthly community newsletter and a self-described community advocate, opposed Streetscape, saying the tens of millions of dollars that it’s going to cost could be better spent on many other projects, including upgrades to Birmingham Drive. She also said the city should not have allowed a private nonprofit to run the new homeless parking lot on the Leichtag Foundation’s property; said she believes the city’s current housing plan favors developers over the city’s existing residents; and said she wouldn’t support a pre-emptive ban on gun shops.

The candidates even had opposing stances when it came to the bollards that have recently been installed on the edges of some city bike lanes. Blakespear said the plastic poles, which aim to prevent vehicles from going into the green bike lane areas, make cyclists feel safer.

“This is the problem with making people feel safer; they’re not and you invite more people, more novice users, to a facility because they feel safer, but they’re not,” Thunder responded, saying she thinks the city should remove the plastic poles.

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