Year in review reflects changing city

ENCINITAS — As City Council prepares for its annual goal setting workshops, residents are reminded of the changes that occurred within the city in the past year.
This year’s workshops will be held Jan. 20 and Jan. 27 at City Hall beginning at 4 p.m. and are open to the public.
Last year, Leucadia 101 Main Street Association board members specifically requested that the council consider reducing the speed limit along North Coast Highway 101 from 40 mph to 30 mph in order to promote traffic calming and create a more walkable community. While the Leucadia Streetscape plan is not yet complete, the public has had several opportunities to weigh in. “There has been tremendous public participation in the Leucadia Streetscape process,” Councilwoman Teresa Barth said.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sanford Shapiro reported last year that the panel was studying the impact of a possible smoking ban on city beaches. He noted the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and the litter generated by discarded cigarette butts. “We are looking at what other cities are doing,” he said. The council later approved a smoking ban at beaches, parks, outdoor dining areas and trails.
Increased accessibility to local government was a topic at last year’s goal setting workshop. Then-Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan said she was interested in having council meetings streamed online as well as taping Planning Commission meetings. “We have the technology to do it,” she said. In fact, both meetings are now available online in real time.
“I hope we continue to discuss a Sunshine ordinance for a more open government,” Barth said. “I still believe we should give 72 hours notice for our closed sessions to the public rather than the minimum requirement of 24 hours.”
The enhancement of North Coast Highway 101 received broad support from the council during the last goal setting workshop. The project included improved and new sidewalks in addition to landscaping along a two-mile stretch of the highway. It was designed with the help of consultants and input from residents within the year according to Planning Director Patrick Murphy.
Despite an appeal of the approval of a new development, construction got under way on a mixed-use project called Pacific Station. Developer John DeWald said it would add significant retail and residential opportunities to the downtown area. The project calls for two three-story buildings surrounding a courtyard with a grocery store and a two-story restaurant as the anchor. Retail spaces on the first floor would be available for lease and two levels of underground parking are planned to accommodate the increased traffic on the 1.39-acre lot between E and F streets.
City Council also cleared the way for construction of five lighted sports fields at the Hall property during a packed meeting Oct. 22. The 3-2 vote reverses the Planning Commission’s denial of the project.
Councilwoman Barth and current Mayor Houlihan opposed the motion to set aside the commission’s concerns about the impacts of traffic and lighting at the proposed park site on the surrounding neighborhood. Barth said she was unable to approve the appeal, brought by the Parks and Recreation Department, because of the inclusion of 90-foot light poles in the plan. Houlihan agreed, adding that traffic issues had not been properly mitigated.
A lawsuit was filed and two appeals were filed with the state’s Coastal Commission in an effort to block construction of the park. The commission staff decided not to take up the appeal along with another one filed by resident Peter Stern at its meeting Jan. 7 to Jan. 9 in San Diego according to staff members who said more time was needed to study the issues. Councilman Dan Dalager will represent the city at the meeting.
Gerald Sodomka signed the suit filed in Superior Court on behalf of the group Citizens for Quality of Life. The move comes as no surprise to many as the group publicly pledged to challenge the council’s reversal of the Planning Commission’s decision in court.

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