Encinitas might bring back red light cameras

The downtown Encinitas sign
(Charlie Neuman / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Three City Council members who voted not to renew the contract are no longer in office


At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, a divided Encinitas City Council voted to cancel the city’s red-light camera contract, saying the tickets that motorists received were far too high and the program didn’t work as intended.

All three of the people who voted to remove the cameras — Catherine Blakespear, Jody Hubbard and Joe Mosca — are no longer on the council, and the issue of whether to use cameras to catch red-light runners is resurfacing.

At a city Mobility and Traffic Safety Commission meeting Monday, March 13, Commissioner James Gross said the council acted too hastily in 2020 and should reconsider the issue now.

“I think our job is to figure out ways to make the city as safe as possible,” he said as he asked his fellow commissioners to support getting the council to revisit the issue.

Newly selected commission Chair June Honsberger and Commissioner Glen Johnson both agreed to put the item on a future commission agenda for additional discussion.

Encinitas previously had two sets of red light cameras. Both were along El Camino Real — one at the Encinitas Boulevard intersection and the other at Olivenhain Road/Leucadia Boulevard intersection. The Encinitas Boulevard cameras were installed in 2005, while the other ones went in a year earlier.

Supporters said the cameras encouraged people to obey the law, prevented unsafe driving behavior, and created a simple process to ticket law-breakers without requiring Sheriff’s deputies to monitor the intersections and pull people over who ran red lights. The two intersections are among the busiest in the city for vehicle traffic, and Sheriff’s deputies said the cameras were a safer enforcement option than using patrol cars to chase down law-breakers. The cameras took pictures of vehicles’ license plates as they went through the red lights, then tickets were mailed to the homes listed on the vehicle registration forms.

Opponents noted the cameras weren’t primarily catching the people dangerously speeding straight through the intersection when the light turned red. Instead, most of the tickets went to people who either failed to come to a complete stop when turning right, or those who were making left turns while the left-turn arrow was going from yellow to red. The costly $490 ticket, and the fact that much of that price went to court-related expenses, also was cited as a concern by opponents.

When the city canceled its contract with camera provider Reflex, Del Mar and Solana Beach were the only other San Diego County cities still using the cameras. Cities that canceled before Encinitas included Escondido, Oceanside, Poway, San Diego and Vista.

Two Encinitas council members who voted against removing the cameras in 2020 remain on the council. Tony Kranz, who was a council member at the time and has since been elected mayor, has long supported the red-light camera program. When he voted against removing the cameras, he noted this fact and said he backed the cameras because the Sheriff’s deputies did so.

Councilmember Kellie Hinze said she had some reservations about the camera provider, but voted to continue the program because the city’s Traffic and Public Safety Commission recently supported doing so.