ENCINITAS — Encinitas residents attending an Oct. 1 informational open house to view three redevelopment options for the North Coast Highway 101 streetscape project all seemed to agree on one thing. The 2-mile stretch between A Street and La Costa Avenue definitely needs improvement.
But when it comes to the best plan to get the job done, opinions are all over the map.
“The No. 1 issue for residents is to preserve the tree canopy,” local artist Mary Fleener said.
“I’m a little dubious about roundabouts,” 33-year Encinitas resident Mike Gollong said.
For Jeff Manuel, it’s all about public input and including in the long-term traffic study planned development just south of La Costa Avenue and future improvements to Interstate 5. “You’ve got to look at the big puzzle,” he said
The enhancement project, which is part of the city’s capital improvement plan, also includes a half-mile segment from A Street to North Court. The city has sought public input through a series of workshops, the first of which was a two-part session in February.
On day one, about 125 residents were on hand for presentations from project consultants. Two days later, more than 100 people were bused back and forth from City Hall for a walking tour of the area. That was followed by brainstorming sessions during which participants listed values and priorities for the project. Those included everything from restoring the tree canopy and lowering speeds to eliminating cut-through traffic and keeping the corridor “funky, not junky.”
Of the 88 residents who attended the second workshop May 29, 61 completed response cards addressing three alternatives that resulted from prior workshops and citizen input.
All three plans include a reduction in the number of travel lanes, reduced travel lane widths, back-in angled parking and more parking spaces.
Design concepts for the first alternative, which was preferred by 77 percent of respondents, feature five roundabouts, one traffic light, 328 parking spaces and a restored tree canopy.
To accommodate the reconfigured travel lanes and angled parking the median would need to be relocated, resulting in many existing tress being removed and restored with new plantings.
City acquisition of private property would be required to build the roundabouts. To avoid that, alternative two features traffic signals rather than roundabouts. It also includes 350 parking spaces and a restored tree canopy. Selected by only 4 percent of respondents, it was the least popular of the three scenarios.
Alternative three, which also uses roundabouts as a traffic calming measure, preserves the majority of existing trees, but offers only 261 parking spaces.
“I don’t find anything calming about roundabouts,” Manuel said. David Herskowitz, a 21-year Encinitas resident, agreed. “I hate those,” he said. “People are confused about who has the right of way.”
Fleener, who has lived in Encinitas since 1981, said safety is also one of her top concerns. “Traffic has to be slowed down on 101,” she said. “It’s always a thrill to see if you can get on 101 from a side street without getting hit.
“There’s also contention in the community about eminent domain if they use roundabouts,” she said. “North County Transit District won’t give up 9 feet (needed to build them) so they have to take away private property. It’s 9 feet of dried, scorched earth NCTD has done nothing to improve,” she said. “It’s a big problem. And I disagree with taking private property.”
In addition to being skeptical about the roundabouts, Gollong said he’d like to see some data on back-in parking. “Have other cities had success with that? Does it work?” he asked. “And we have to try to alleviate southbound traffic on 101 and get people off the streets. But I don’t want it to look like Del Mar, either, with stop signs on every corner,” he said.
Manuel said he’d like to see better public notification of upcoming workshops.
“I was a little upset,” Manuel said. “This is so radical. Luckily I saw (the open house announcement) … online.” Manuel suggested putting signs in the project area that list upcoming meetings and state, “This street is subject to change.”
“We’re doing what we typically do, if not more,” Diane Langager, principal planner, said. Notices were sent to all homes within 500 feet of the project, advertisements were placed in local papers on the city Web site, and representatives were on hand during Art Walk. Organizations including the Planning Commission, Leucadia 101 MainStreet Association, Leucadia Town Council and Seacoast Preservation Association made announcements at meetings.
As for Manuel’s concern about long-term traffic studies, Langager said there will be a full traffic analysis later in the process. “Right now we are only in the design phase,” she said.
Although Fleener is not sure which of the three alternatives she prefers, she does have one word of advice for the developers. “Keep the community character. I can’t say that enough.”