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Community character to factor into Encinitas roadside standards

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, Encinitas is developing roadside standards that take neighborhoods’ character into account.

Currently, Encinitas code states that new homes and major remodels on residential streets must put in curb, gutter and sidewalk improvements — no matter if surrounding homes have them.

The Encinitas City Council gave direction Nov. 12 for staff to craft revised rules giving the staff discretion over whether sidewalks are required in front of new houses on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. Final language will go before the council for a vote in two or three months.

“We have tree-lined streets,” Mayor Kristin Gaspar said. “We have sidewalk-lined streets — take your pick. But I guarantee most people move to the neighborhood that they enjoy, and they don’t picture it dramatically different. We want to be supportive of that.”

Glenn Pruim, the director of Public Works and Engineering, said residents have opposed “cookie cutter” citywide standards. But on the flip side, he said it could be a tough call in some instances for city staff to decide whether to mandate sidewalks in a given neighborhood.

“How much curb and gutter does there need to be in a neighborhood before you say it’s part of the community character?” Pruim asked.

However, he added a staff decision on the matter is appealable to the council.

Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said it’s important that sidewalks connect to make neighborhoods more walkable. But she also stated forcing someone to install curb-and-gutter improvements in a rural area without concrete in sight doesn’t make sense.

The conflict over street standards versus community character boiled over two years ago when the city stipulated that residents looking to build a home on Crest Drive put in a curb, sidewalk and dedicate the edge of the property to the public right of way.

Local architect Kevin Farrell, who filed an appeal, argued that those proposed improvements clashed with the rest of Crest Drive, known for its rural feel and lack of sidewalks.

Council ultimately granted the appeal and the portion of Crest Drive that runs from Birmingham Drive to Santa Fe Drive was later named a “special case” street. That means it’s one of 70 city streets that’s exempt from public improvement mandates.

After hearing from residents vocally opposed to sidewalks, the council also voted unanimously Nov. 12 to expand the Crest Drive designation north to Melba Drive.

Farrell, other local architects and engineers are part of a committee that’s worked with city staff to develop the proposed street changes. He said at the Nov. 12 meeting that demanding infrastructure improvements in all areas is not only out of step with many neighborhoods, but also expensive for homeowners.

“It’s costly and doesn’t fit,” he said.

Besides waiving certain improvements, the majority of the 12-member committee recommended relaxing rules to say that each new home must make room for at least one on-street parking space. That way, more trees or landscaping would be allowed on the edge of sites.

But parking-challenged areas — Cardiff west of Interstate 5 and Leucadia west of Coast Highway 101 — would have to provide on-street parking for the entire property length. This is the current standard throughout the city.

According to the staff report, the committee’s dissenting minority argued that new homes have garages and driveways, meeting parking needs in less-dense parts of the city.

However, Councilwoman Teresa Barth noted that neighbors raised concerns about parking even with the controversial Desert Rose development in rural Olivenhain. She added that the one-parking space standard “is a good compromise.”

The council also agreed to vote on that and other less restrictive roadside standards in two or three months.


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