New Encinitas mayor expects homelessness, housing law compliance to top his agenda

Tony Kranz succeeds Catherine Blakespear, who was elected to the state Senate

Tony Kranz.
Tony Kranz.
(Mim Michelove

The city’s newly elected mayor says he has no doubt what the key issue will be during his term in office.

“The growing concern over homelessness is, I think, going to dominate immediately,” said Councilman Tony Kranz, who was elected mayor in November and will be sworn into office Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Kranz, a 63-year-old printing company employee, will replace Catherine Blakespear, who has just won election to the state Senate.

He said last week that he doesn’t expect to make drastic changes to the city’s course once he assumes the top spot, but he does hope to “dial back some of the tensions” regarding issues that come before the council, particularly housing conflicts. He considers former mayor Teresa Barth as a role model, he said, adding that he liked her approach of hosting special meetings and engaging in strategic planning sessions to solve city problems.

Recent areas of community conflict have included the council’s approval of an overnight parking lot for homeless people who are temporarily living in their vehicles. The Safe Parking Lot program initially opened on private farmland and then later relocated to part of the city’s Community & Senior Center parking lot. Kranz said he will continue to support it in its new location, but he thinks it’s time for Encinitas to seek regional solutions for its homelessness problems rather than going it alone. He wants Encinitas to work with neighboring communities to establish a permanent shelter, so that the Sheriff’s Department has a place to take people who are illegally sleeping overnight in city parks or downtown sidewalks, he said.

“I think that’s one of the biggest concerns residents of Encinitas have is our parks are full of homeless people,” and the parks are not supposed to be campgrounds, he said.

Other topics Kranz expects to handle in the coming two years in office include keeping the city in compliance with state housing law, moving forward with the northernmost section of the Leucadia Streetscape overhaul of Coast Highway, upgrading the railroad corridor area and improving stormwater drainage.

Kranz, who was first elected to the council in 2012, is practically an Encinitas native — he moved into the city with his family when he was a baby. On the campaign trail, he regularly stressed his longstanding ties to the community and he expects his local knowledge to help him in his new leadership role.

Asked by a reporter to provide two names of folks who could talk about who he is as a person and what he’ll be like as mayor, he suggested former councilwoman Lisa Shaffer, who’s recently moved to south Carlsbad, and his high school graphic design teacher, Cardiff resident Neil Bruington.

Bruington said he taught Kranz for four years and “he was an excellent student.” He added that Kranz wasn’t someone he would have expected to go into politics, but as a teenager he had abilities that serve him well now as a politician.

“He was a good listener, he always asked relevant questions to what he was given … he was a good problem solver,” Bruington said.

Shaffer said that she expects Kranz will be “a very hardworking and non-traditional mayor, in the sense that he’s a very creative guy.”

He’ll be “non-traditional,” she added, because he won’t craft solutions that conform to either the Democratic or Republican party’s viewpoint and that may annoy some party-line folks. However, she said, she expects he will have a good working relationship with the area’s two state representatives, who are both Democrats and live in Encinitas.

“They know each other well. They understand each other,” she said.