Plan to relocate Beacon’s Beach parking lot wins approval but nearly half the spots will be eliminated

The downtown Encinitas sign.
(The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Debate on 149-unit, Piraeus Point housing project continued to May 18 meeting


Plans to relocate the tiny parking lot at Beacon’s Beach away from a landslide-prone cliff won Encinitas Planning Commission approval Thursday, May 4, and the work’s scheduled to occur this fall.

Eleven of the lot’s current 26 parking spots will be eliminated when the lot moves out of the landscape zone. That’s a “sad” but necessary compromise needed to preserve public access to a popular trail down to the beach, commissioners said.

“I love Beacon’s and I want it to be here forever,” Chair Kevin Doyle said, adding that if the city doesn’t take this step soon, it could lose both the trail and all of the parking lot.

Commissioner Steve Dalton agreed, saying, “I’d rather prioritize people over cars.” He added that much of the use of the Beacon’s Beach access point is by people who live nearby, “so the parking loss doesn’t concern me.”

A local landmark that’s known for its great sunset and surf views, the Beacon’s Beach access point is along the west side of Neptune Avenue, between Leucadia Boulevard and Jasper Street. In addition to the somewhat awkwardly designed parking lot, which is squeezed in between the roadway and the cliff edge, there are bike racks and benches. A much-loved, dirt switchback trail runs from the cliff edge down to Beacon’s Beach.

Historically, this access to the beach was created by “a series of massive landslides” and those continue to the present day, city coastal zone program administrator Todd Mierau said, mentioning that the most recent one happened last year. The city is proposing to move the parking lot back by 7 feet, which will put it outside the landslide failure zone, he said.

Construction is scheduled to begin once the busy summer beach season has ended, and the work will last roughly a month, Mierau said. The popular dirt pathway to the beach will remain open during construction.

The planning commissioners put one extra condition on their approval of the project’s major use and coastal development permits. They asked that 50 percent of the new bike lockup spots accommodate bikes with surfboard storage racks, after hearing from one public speaker that this had been a problem with some of the old racks at the site.

In other action May 4, commissioners postponed their decision on permits for a controversial Leucadia housing project after hearing much opposing testimony from nearby residents who had concerns about traffic, pedestrian safety and the extensive site grading work the developers are proposing. The debate on the item was continued to the commission’s May 18 meeting.

Put forward by Lennar Homes of California, the 149-townhome project is proposed to go on what’s now a vacant hillside at the northeast corner of Piraeus Street and Plato Place. Plans call for some 57,000 cubic yards of soil to be hauled off the site to create the building area, which will be partially enclosed by walls, developers’ representatives said. Fifteen, three-story residential buildings with garages are planned.

Public testimony lasted until close to 10 p.m. May 4 — the time by which the commission has to decide whether to stop its business for the night or extend the meeting. Commissioners said postponement was the best choice, given that they might next need several hours to get through all their questions about the project.