2/16/20: Emotions Run High at City Hall

Emotions ran high on a few topics this week at our Encinitas City Council meeting.

Several speakers during public comment expressed deeply-held feelings of anger about the 25-space parking lot we recently approved, where pre-screened people can stay overnight in their cars while they are experiencing homelessness. The objective of the program is to help them get back into housing before their situations deteriorate further.

The parking lot is now operating uneventfully with a total of eight vehicles staying overnight. Here’s an excellent article from the Encinitas Advocate with details of how it’s working. 

It’s worth re-emphasizing that this parking lot is located in the midst of an over 60-acre agricultural parcel. The project is one small way to help a modest number of people who are in a transitional period. It strains credulity to believe that this parking lot is worsening our homeless problem.

There are several community and faith groups that already help people suffering with homelessness in our city. And many host a rotational shelter every winter, where up to 12 homeless people stay inside their place of worship for up to two weeks.

Despite the seemingly non-controversial operation of those ongoing efforts, it’s apparent that when the City of Encinitas formalizes and approves a small program to help the same group of people, it has exposed a very deep community divide.

Our goal here is to provide opportunities so people can get back into housing before they fall victim to living unsheltered on the street – this is for their sake and for the sake of preserving the high quality of life that we enjoy here in Encinitas.  

Food for thought: I respectfully invite a reflection on whether the things some say about homeless people would be considered acceptable if they were said about a minority or racial group. 

There are reports of Encinitas residents publishing photos of people who are using the Safe Parking lot, including shots taken from drones. Violating the dignity and privacy of our most vulnerable human beings is clearly over the line.

I’m profoundly grateful to Jewish Family Service and the Leichtag Foundation for making this compassionate project possible. I unconditionally condemn any subtext of anti-semitism in the discussion of this effort, or in any other instance. 

We are better than this.

Another emotional and difficult topic at the meeting was our denial of an appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of a 10-unit housing project on Bonita Drive, with one house slated to be an affordable unit.

One of our toughest jobs is working to fairly balance the rights of Encinitas property owners with the desires of nearby residents. The Encinitas Advocate article is here

Bluff erosion funds come through

Our U.S. Representative Mike Levin called me this week to let me know that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will contribute $400,000 for the Encinitas-Solana Beach Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Project, which will add extra sand to the beach.

The city’s longstanding effort to get federal money for this 50-year effort is paying off. More funding will be needed, but this is an excellent start. Thanks go to Rep. Levin for his role in getting this done for the benefit of all of us.

Here’s the Encinitas Advocate news story.

Inaccurate Union-Tribune housing story corrected

An article that appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune on February 15 erroneously stated that Encinitas’ compliance status with state housing law had been “revoked.”

In reality, we’ve been threatened with de-certification in a letter from the state. We believe the city is fully compliant, and we’ll be meeting with the Department of Housing and Community Development this week to discuss the issues they have.

As of this writing, the Union-Tribune has apologized, revised its story online, and promised to run a correction in its February 16 print edition.

New city commissioners selected

On a happier note, the City Council made our annual commission appointments to the Commission for the Arts, Environmental Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, Planning Commission, Senior Citizen Commission, and Traffic & Public Safety Commission. All told, 21 candidates were approved.

Unfortunately, these appointments happened around 11 p.m. at the end of an over five-hour meeting, so several applicants were not able to stay and speak.

Encinitas has always been lucky to have such high-caliber applicants. I’m looking forward to a powerful mixture of new energy and valuable expertise! 

To those who weren’t chosen, please don’t be discouraged – there are many ways to contribute, including trying again next time.

And our new commissioners are:

Commission for the Arts

  • Jeffrey Redlitz – reappointed
  • Michael Schmitt – reappointed
  • Erin Seelert
  • Nivardo Valenzuela
  • Randall Sims 

Environmental Commission

  • Ari Novy – reappointed
  • Carol Wolf

(Amy Flicker was appointed to the Planning Commission effective March 1, so her spot on the Environmental Commission is now open. Interested in applying? Here’s more information. The deadline for applications is Thursday, March 5, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.)

Parks and Recreation Commission

  • Marla Elliott – reappointed
  • Courtney Lapin
  • Daniel O’Halloran
  • David Warren – reappointed

Planning Commission

  • Amy Flicker, Leucadia
  • Susan Sherod, New Encinitas
  • Bruce Ehlers, Olivenhain – reappointed

Senior Citizens Commission

  • Ronald Greenwald
  • Jesse Hanwit
  • Alan Lerchbacker – reappointed
  • Kris Powell – reappointed

Traffic and Public Safety Commission

  • Mary Schultz, Leucadia – reappointed
  • Michael von Neumann, New Encinitas – reappointed
  • Glen Johnson, Old Encinitas

All terms run March 1, 2020 through March 1, 2023, with the exception of Randall Sims, whose term runs through March 1, 2021. Congratulations to all and thank you for your service!

Come fly with me

An artist’s conceptual rendering of the proposed new Terminal 1 at San Diego International Airport.

Speaking of appointments, I’m honored to tell you that I’ve been selected by the North County mayors to represent our coastal area on the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority board.

This is good news for all of us in Encinitas because, in addition to my role as vice-chair of SANDAG, the county’s transportation and planning agency, we now have an even greater voice in shaping San Diego County’s transportation future. The airport is a critical transportation component in the network of how we get around in this county.

The Airport Authority is working on a $3 billion project to replace Terminal 1 (see rendering above), and I’m very much interested in helping it happen in an environmentally sustainable way. San Diego International Airport’s environmental record is impressive – did you know that it’s one of only two carbon-neutral airports in North America?

Another aspect that inspires me is the challenge of making transit to and from the airport fast, reliable and efficient.

In a news release, Airport Authority chair April Boling gave me a very touching compliment: “Mayor Blakespear’s solutions-driven approach and depth of experience in the public sector will be a great asset to our board. We look forward to working with her.” 

I’m ready to roll up my sleeves!

This Coast News article about my appointment to the board summarizes things very well. 

So finally, after a bumpy few hours at City Hall, I was relieved to focus on thoughts of love for my husband and family this Valentine’s Day, and reflections on our current presidency in light of President’s Day on Monday.

Have a great long weekend, if you’re lucky enough to get Monday off!

In service,