Encinitas citizens, council talk Rail Trail at meeting

Although the July 20 meeting of the Encinitas City Council was scheduled as a quick hitter — simply a vote directing staff to fix a clerical error in the documents related to the Housing Element question that will be put to voters in the November election — public comment allowed four members of the No Rail Trail citizens group to have some harsh words for the council.

Meanwhile, after public comment and the procedural vote, Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer gave a report on the July 15 meeting of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Transportation Committee, during which the Coastal Rail Trail and the controversial segment, which runs through Cardiff-by-the-Sea, were discussed.

SANDAG has been trying to work with the city to get a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) passed as its attempts to build the portion of the 44-mile Rail Trail that would run along the railroad tracks near Highway 101 between Chesterfield and G Street.

In May 2015, the council originally selected an alignment on the east side of the tracks, closer to San Elijo Ave, but community feedback and the prospect of lower cost persuaded it to change its mind in March of this year. At that time, the council chose a west-side alignment, closer to Highway 101.

SANDAG in the MOU asked the city to shoulder some financial burden should a situation arise — namely a block from the Coastal Commission — that halts progress on the west-side version of the trail. The city council, however, was uncomfortable taking on that risk and voted against accepting the MOU at the July 13 meeting.

At the SANDAG Transportation Committee meeting two days later, Shaffer said direction was given for SANDAG staff and city staff to continue to negotiate an MOU and “find a way to address the issue of risk in the event that the Coastal Commission declines to find that the west-side alignment is compatible with their Public Works Plan.”

Shaffer went on to say that she has initialed an agenda item for the July 27 Encinitas City Council meeting “to allow us to hear a report back from the city manager on the negotiations, and to allow us to take action if we are at a point where action is appropriate.”

But before Shaffer’s July 20 report, four members of the No Rail Trail group expressed their displeasure in the process the council went through to choose the Coastal Mobility and Livability Working Group, which was finalized after council discussion at the July 13 meeting. That working group will be tasked with getting feedback from the community, discussing that feedback and giving advice to the city council on a number of coastal mobility issues, with the Rail Trail having the most current importance.