Public health issues discussed at community meeting

ENCINITAS — The city hosted a community meeting on public health issues in an effort to solicit input for the general plan update July 18 at the Senior and Community Center. Attendance was approximately 40 residents, along with city staff, including Gus Vina, the new city manager.
City staff encouraged feedback on several issues, including access to local and healthy food, personal safety, safe pedestrian and bicycle routes. A similar workshop was held June 14.
The city was awarded a Healthy Communities Planning Grant by SANDAG to fund the creation of a standalone Public Health Element during the city’s current general plan update. Although Public Health Elements are not mandatory under state law, an increasing number of California cities are utilizing general plans, community plans and specific plans to address issues intersecting planning and public health according to staff reports.
Beginning in January 2010, a general plan advisory committee, along with city staff and a consulting firm, began the first phase of updating the general plan.
The general plan should be updated within a two-year period, according to Planning Director Patrick Murphy. The city’s blueprint will be updated to address new policy issues such as sustainable and healthy communities, green building codes and storm water cleansing according to a staff report.
The plan will also speak to traffic circulation, walkable communities, economic and environmental sustainability and recycling. The existing general plan was adopted in 1989.
The advisory committee is one of the crucial elements to a successful process. In October 2009, City Council approved the creation of the planning body. There are a total of 24 members representing various organizations within the city. Nineteen members must be residents.
In addition to committee meetings, numerous public workshops and hearings are scheduled along with other public throughout the two-year period. All of the committee meetings are open to the public.
Various groups are represented within the committee including social services, the real estate industry, town councils, mainstreet associations, affordable housing advocates and commercial interests.
Daniel Iacofano, a consultant with MIG, Inc., who is facilitating the update process, said the timeline for completing the document is on schedule. According to Iacofano, a draft environmental report should be complete by the end of summer with a council discussion set for the end of 2011.
Several residents voiced concern over a subject that was not part of the prescribed agenda during the meeting. Parks and Recreation commission member Sanford Shapiro reiterated the importance of discussing how contaminated soil will be handled as an increasing number of greenhouses are converted into residential subdivisions.
Shapiro e-mailed planning staff prior to the meeting asking that the subject be considered.
“One of the subjects that is of great concern in town, and has been the subject of many speakers at council meetings, is the handling of contaminated soil during greenhouse conversion projects,” he wrote. “The contractors, apparently to save time and money, are taking shortcuts. This is also an issue that was discussed by Parks and Recreation staff at the last council meeting as it pertained to the new Community Park construction plans.”
Shapiro was told by Senior Planner Diane Langager that the issue would be considered at a later time.
“Several others in attendance spoke up and agreed that they felt City Council should take action on this situation to protect resident’s health,” Shapiro said. “I was glad to see that at most tables the participants suggested that the city take more responsibility for monitoring contaminated soil handling and not rely on County inspectors (who do not have adequate resources) nor rely on inspectors hired by the developers.”
In its latest effort to include more public input, the city has instituted an online comment process. Users are encouraged to submit comments on a special website — encinitas2035.info — that is part of the multi-year planning effort.

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