ENCINITAS — City Council voted 4-0 Aug. 19 to spend approximately $1.1 million for consultants to update the city’s general plan. Councilman James Bond was absent. While several speakers were unhappy with the choice of the traffic consultant, others thought the use of any consultants was a misuse of taxpayer funds.
City Council voted 3-1 to accept the staff recommendation of Austin Foust and Associates to complete the general plan update traffic study. Councilwoman Teresa Barth said she would like to see the study done by city staff. Councilman Jerome Stocks said that a competitive bid process would be appropriate.
The city request for proposals for the general plan update included the need for new policies such as sustainability, climate action plan and healthy communities, as well as existing policies including walkability in the city.
MIG, Inc. — a Berkley-based consulting company with offices in San Diego — was chosen over nine other applicants with unanimous support from staff and others on the interview panel to serve as the main consultant on the city’s general plan update process.
Planning Department Director Patrick Murphy said the two-year process was a major undertaking. He said public outreach was the most important component. “It needs to be their (residents’) general plan,” he said.
Daniel Iacofano, a founding principal of MIG, addressed the council. He stressed the importance of public participation in the general plan update process. He noted that through his research he found the city was “clearly a quality community.”
“We’re not here to impose our agenda on the community,” Iacofano said.
“We’ll be looking at traffic very carefully,” he said. In an effort to establish a more walkable community and maintain open spaces, he said MIG would use a fresh approach.
The process will take place in three phases. The first will engage community members through public discussions, surveys and comment cards, while the second and third will establish drafts and fine tuning. MIG put an emphasis on gathering input from young people and families through social networking and nine public workshops.
The most controversial issue was the company chosen to complete a crucial element of the general plan update. Staff requested $110,000 for Austin Foust and Associates to complete a traffic study.
Encinitas resident Donna Westbrook told the council that the general plan update was something that should be done in-house by the Planning Department. She suggested the funds be spent on tangible infrastructure maintenance. “Get your priorities straight,” Westbrook said. “No money should be spent when the work could be — and should be — done in-house.”
Kevin Cummins recommended that the traffic study portion of the general plan update be put out for a competitive bid process. He reminded the council that a previous traffic study focused on Leucadia that began in 2004 and was not delivered until 2007 was flawed based on members of the traffic commission. At the very least, Cummins said, a citizen overview committee be included in the Austin Foust traffic study contract.