ENCINITAS — After six hours of staff presentations and public comment, City Council directed staff to refine a controversial option to improve the North Coast Highway Streetscape project at its Jan. 13 meeting.
With an overflow crowd in an adjoining room the council chambers filled up before the 6 p.m. start of the highly anticipated meeting. Residents wearing red shirts and holding neon signs that read “4A DELAYS” and “4A NO WAY” dotted the mass of people. At least 60 people signed up to address the council.
After two years of public discussions, open houses and informal discussions with civic and business leaders, the city’s planning department unveiled two final options — 4A and 5 — for the controversial North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape Project. Along with consulting firm MW Peltz and Associates, staff supported option 4A to beautify the Leucadia corridor.
The Leucadia project area covers a two-mile stretch along Highway 101 between A Street and La Costa Avenue. The two final proposals presented to council differed slightly but generally include planting additional trees and landscaping, improving sidewalks and bicycle lanes, creating additional parking and implementing traffic calming measures.
The project’s Senior Planner Diane Lananger said plans have been thoroughly researched. “The public has been and is key in this process,” she told the council. Yet, there wasn’t a clear consensus on how to create a more pedestrian-friendly corridor while maintaining the community character. “I don’t want to look like Birdrock (in La Jolla),” Stephanie Shelton said. “This is Leucadia and I don’t want to see it stripped bare of its essence.”
The most contested element of option 4A was the use of five traffic roundabouts and eliminating one northbound lane according to the majority of the speakers.
“I’m not sure taking out a lane is going to solve anything but it seems like there is evidence that it has worked in other places,” Leucadia resident John Davenport said after the meeting. Councilman Jim Bond opposed the elimination of the northbound lane during council comments. “I’m trusting the traffic engineers’ methodology that reducing it to one lane won’t cause gridlock,” Councilman Jerome Stocks said.
Just after midnight, Councilwoman Teresa Barth motioned to direct staff to make revisions to the 4A plan. “What we decided was to come up with a new phase I that looks at the entire corridor,” she said. “So rather than having just a small beginning, we can look at the entire vision.”
Stocks said his concerns with option 4A include the Jupiter and Seabluff roundabouts that would require taking private property. “I’m not willing to do that,” he said. “I like wider sidewalks, more plaza and public space for gathering but we’ll have to figure out a different treatment for those intersections that doesn’t include taking private property.”
“Because it’s going to be rolled out over 10 years, I think it will give us time to readjust if we need to,” Barth said. “This is a framework for our long-term goals.”
“Perhaps phase I won’t start south and just plod along to the north, but staff can figure a way to get the biggest bang for our buck,” Stocks said. Without a cost estimate for the first phase of option 4A, staff is unsure of the final price tag. Stocks said that number should be forthcoming in the next report to council. No time frame for completion of a reworked 4A option was given.
$2.7 million is currently set aside for the first phase of the project. The city has budgeted $500,000 annually for the next five years to fund the construction. Barth said federal and state grants could help supplement the costs.