Encinitas mayor highlights city’s ‘bold action’ on transportation in her final State of City address

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear stands at the newly completed El Portal railroad undercrossing in Leucadia.
Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear stands at the newly completed El Portal railroad undercrossing in Leucadia on July 28. It’s one of many transportation achievements she celebrated in her final State of the City address on Thursday, Sept. 1.
(Hayne Palmour IV/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Newly completed projects that make it easier to drive, ride and walk around Encinitas took center stage during the mayor’s annual State of the City address on Thursday night.

“One reason I have really enjoyed this State of the City event each year is that it allows the opportunity to pause and take inventory of what has happened over the last year and to use that frame to evaluate the future,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said near the start of her televised address. “Without the State of the City, it could be easy to move from project to project, and priority to priority, without passing to note the gravity of the milestones completed. And for the city, 2022 is marked with many positive achievements.”

Among those key achievements were many transportation projects, Blakespear said, including:

  • The ongoing, multi-year overhaul of Leucadia’s portion of Coast Highway 101
  • The recent grand opening of the El Portal pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks
  • A new city trail that opened last week in Olivenhain
  • And, the “once-in-a-generation” Interstate 5 project that added a vehicle lane in each direction, a new bridge over San Elijo Lagoon, a bike bridge under the freeway and pathways connecting Solana Beach to Cardiff

The mayor declared that she was particularly proud of the “transformative power” of the Leucadia Streetscape project along Coast Highway, combined with the El Portal pedestrian tunnel.

“We have reconnected a community that was disconnected by a railroad track,” she said to huge applause. “And we have re-created a positive public space for gathering and for traveling, where an overlooked and increasing run-down highway used to be.”

Thursday night’s address was given to a crowd of some 200 people at an Encinitas Chamber of Commerce-organized event at the Alila Marea Beach Resort, which is at the far northern end of the Leucadia Streetscape project. The event marked the sixth time that Blakespear has provided the annual city status assessment. It’s also her last — she’s running for state Senate and is not seeking re-election to her mayor’s post this fall.

For the second year in row the speech was broadcast live on the city’s website, and while the video occasionally shifted out of focus and made it hard to see the mayor’s face, the sound quality was good. To view the address, visit:

The crowd at Thursday’s event included representatives for the city’s three Main Street associations, many businesspeople, elected officials and candidates for offices ranging from school board to water districts. One person who didn’t attend was Councilwoman Kellie Hinze, who has recently given birth to a daughter, the mayor noted.

Several times during her speech, Blakespear declared that Encinitas was able to achieve its many recent successes because city elected leaders, city employees and citizens who were willing to take “bold action” to find solutions to tough problems, including creating an overnight parking lot for people who have become homeless and are living in their vehicles temporarily.

“It goes without saying that controversy follows bold action,” Blakespear said near the end of her speech. “But when you see problems fixed and people’s lives improved, the pain of living through the controversy is worth it.”

A willingness to make tough decisions also will be needed by the city’s future leaders in the coming years, she said, particularly when it comes to solving the city’s housing development conflicts.

“This is the most difficult, ongoing discussion we have in the city,” Blakespear said, adding that she didn’t expect that to change anytime soon. “I will foresee that this city will continue to struggle with finding places to add both affordable and market-rate housing.”

One arts-related project that she expects to see highlighted next year is the rehabilitation of the former Pacific View Elementary School. The City Council has agreed to set aside $7 million to turn the long-vacant school property into a city cultural center. Renovation work should start early next year, and conclude by summer 2024, the mayor said, noting that there’s a special council meeting next week to discuss the renovation plans and seek construction bids. That meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6.