Encinitas approves permits for Santa Fe Drive improvements

Proposed improvements to Santa Fe Drive.

Three-year, two-phase project will add bike lanes, sidewalks, plus signalized, mid-block intersection at high school


Permits for a long planned overhaul of Santa Fe Drive to make the busy roadway safer for cyclists and pedestrians won enthusiastic approval Thursday, Feb. 3, from the city’s Planning Commission.

“Honestly, I love this project … Santa Fe is desperately in need of this,” Commissioner Kevin Doyle said just before the vote, later adding, “I haven’t really found anything bad to say about it.”

The proposed roadway improvement project will rework a 1.25-mile segment of Santa Fe Drive from Interstate 5 eastward to El Camino Real, adding everything from sidewalks and buffered bike lanes to angled parking and shade trees. It’s expected to be a three-year project conducted in two phases, with the western portion going first and the eastern second.

The commission voted 4-0, with Chairman Bruce Ehlers absent, to issue the project a Design Review Permit and a Coastal Development Permit. The permit decisions are final unless appealed to the state Coastal Commission — a City Council hearing isn’t required.

The Santa Fe Drive improvement project’s first phase of work — the “western section” as it’s nicknamed — will be from Interstate 5 to Blue Sky Drive. Plans call for:

  • A Class 4, separate and protected bike lane, plus improvements to the Nardo Road/Mackinnon Avenue and the Bonita Drive/ Windsor Drive intersections to make them safer for cyclists and pedestrians to navigate.
  • A new pedestrian signal, allowing people to cross mid-block at San Dieguito Academy.
  • Back-in parking spaces on both sides of the street in front of San Dieguito Academy.

Phase two, the “eastern section” from Blue Sky Drive to El Camino Real, is proposed to include:

  • A Class 2, on-roadway, buffered bike lane;
  • New sidewalk connections along the north side of Santa Fe Drive between Aloha and Balour drives, and from Monterey Vista Way to Crest Drive.
  • New sidewalk connections along the south side of Santa Fe Drive between Lake Drive and South El Camino Real.

During the public hearing Thursday, Feb. 3, planning commissioners heard from three speakers who all backed the project, but two said a proposed roundabout at Crest Drive should not have been eliminated from the draft plans last year as a cost-saving measure. Area resident Lou Lightfoot said Santa Fe Drive’s intersection with Crest Drive is notoriously dangerous for pedestrians, particularly people pushing strollers, and adding a roundabout would greatly improve the situation.

“It doesn’t feel safe trying to get from one side to the other,” he said, while another area neighbor said pets have been hit at the intersection and people have almost been struck.

Planning commissioners said they, too, wished the roundabout was still included in the plans, but fiscal frugality seemed the best course of action given the recent economic conditions resulting from the global coronavirus pandemic.

“Given the budget, I’m happy to get what we can out of it,” Commissioner Steve Dalton said.

Commissioner Chris Ryan, who lives in Leucadia, said her community has been waiting for some two decades for a roundabout at one intersection on Leucadia Boulevard. She told the Santa Fe Drive residents that at least their road would be gaining sidewalks along its entire length, unlike Leucadia Boulevard.

“It’ll look good — it won’t look like Leucadia Boulevard with dirt and everything,” she said.

Ryan added that she would encourage the roundabout proponents to attend city Capital Projects Budget meetings to lobby for the roundabout and make sure it’s a city budget priority in the coming years.