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Encinitas council pursuing lease of old Cardiff fire station

The city of Encinitas may lease the vacant Cardiff fire station to a company that transports military veterans.

Last week, the Encinitas City Council voted 4-1 to enter into lease negotiations with G.J. Trippe, a non-emergency service that shuttles veterans to Southern California medical facilities. The company is proposing to lease the .17-acre fire station, at 1867 MacKinnon Ave., for $2,500 a month.

“Having a tenant there is better than the place sitting empty,” Councilman Tony Kranz said.

Built in the 1970s, the fire station closed when Fire Station No. 2 opened on a nearby lot about two years ago. The council in August directed staff to invite lease or purchase proposals for the site, which is in a residential area by the Encinitas Community Park.

Joyce Trippe, who runs Carlsbad-based G.J. Trippe with her husband, said the company would fit in with the neighborhood. She added that non-emergency ambulances stationed at the site wouldn’t “run out of there in the middle of the night with lights and sirens.”

“We’re very quiet,” she said, adding that they love the site and the area.

G.J. Trippe has also promised to spend $40,000 on improvements to fix up the fire station. While the business is allowed under the current public/semi-public zoning, city staff said they would need to do more research on whether the couple could live there, as proposed.

Kranz, Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer and Councilman Mark Muir said leasing works for now, and they expressed interest in the city rezoning the property to residential and selling it down the line. Muir said a residential home would fit the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear supported leasing, though she said selling would be shortsighted for the city.

“We just never know what we’re going to need property for,” Blakespear said.

The council also directed staff to bring back a report on the necessary steps for the city to rezone the property. Notably, Proposition A, the growth-control measure voters approved in 2013, requires a public vote for zoning changes.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar, the sole vote against the motion, favored selling the property under the current zoning. Gaspar said it would take city money and staff time to go through the ballot process, as well as spruce up the site.

“I’d prefer a private party deal with that,” she said.

To that end, the city received a $410,000 offer to buy from John and Whitney Musser, who want to use it as their family home. Because of Prop A, they proposed to incur the cost of rezoning, estimated at $30,000 to $50,000 during the 2016 election.

John Musser said he was confident residents would approve the rezoning request.

Najjar Enterprises proposed buying the old station for $500,000 as is. John Najjar, owner of Seaside Market, said he’s not sure what he’d do with the property, adding the use would fit the community.

The other offers: Chad Dunham wanted to buy the site for $450,000 and convert it into a residence, contingent upon the city successfully rezoning the property. H20 Trash Patrol, a local nonprofit that deploys stand-up paddleboarders to pick up trash from the ocean, proposed a $2,000-a-month lease. But that use doesn’t fit within the current zoning, according to the staff report.


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