Encinitas council approves budget, ballot words


After a full house and long public comment periods at its previous two meetings, the Encinitas City Council on June 22 put final touches on two high-profile issues, agreeing on wording for the Housing Element Update ballot question and voting to officially pass the 2016-17 budget.

As Encinitas is on a two-year budget cycle, much of the 2016-17 Operating and Capital Improvement budget was proposed and discussed last year. On June 8, the council heard public comment, held discussions and instructed staff to make small additions and changes to the budget, creating the final product which they voted 5-0 to adopt on June 22.

With an estimated city revenue of $91.8 million, Encinitas’ operating expenditures are expect to total $79.1 million, while the budget sets aside $26 million for capital improvements.

The biggest piece of that pie is the $6.7 million portion allocated toward the North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape project. This money will then be ready when the meticulous planning and coordination is completed and construction is ready to begin, hopefully near the end of 2017 or early 2018.

While that expenditure, part of a total $8.1 million designated for the project, remained unchanged, the council did request more money added to the Annual Street Overlay program. With $3 million already scheduled to be spent on street paving, the council added an additional $780,000 to ensure the city’s goal of increasing Encinitas’ average Pavement Condition Index (PCI) up to 76 or higher.

To reach this mark, any city road with a PCI of 35 or lower will be fixed.

Council member Mark Muir, who pushed for an even higher PCI goal, has been especially vigorous in his support for the road improvements, and the council as a whole was eager to put money into the Encinitas streets, which saw their average PCI fall each year from 2009 through 2012, when the number dropped to 69.

In that same vein, the 2016-17 budget found $1 million in Safe Routes to Schools money to do improvements to streets near three school sites.

Among the many projects allocated Capital Improvement funds, other key expenditures include $2.7 million to build the long-awaited Standard Pacific Park in Leucadia, $2.5 million for a potential railroad crossing at Montgomery Ave. in Cardiff (this money has been set aside should the council be able to find a solution to several issues including horn noise and fences) and $1 million for drainage-related items. This includes working on flooding issues in Leucadia.

Before voting to adopt the budget, the council spent some time at the June 22 meeting, figuring out the exact wording for the Housing Element Update ballot question, which will be put to voters in November.

While the budget was a hot-button issue, based on public comment, the housing plan aroused passions at the June 15 meeting. After much debate, the council — and one key change capping at two the amount of stories allowed in developments in one site in Cardiff — eventually felt it had to go through with a housing plan. And because of the recent Prop A, that plan must now go to the Encinitas voters.

The ballot question will be: Shall City Council Resolution No. 2016-52 and Ordinance 2016-04, which collectively update the City’s General Plan Housing Element, amend related General Olan provisions, and amend Specific Plans, Zoning Code, Zoning Map, Municipal Code, and Local Coastal Program in an effort to comply with state law, incentivize greater housing affordability, implement rules to protect the character of existing neighborhoods, maintain local control of Encinitas zoning, and resolve existing lawsuits, be adopted?

Encinitas voters will answer yes or no Nov. 8.