ENCINITAS — After two years of planning and gathering public input, the city released its first draft of the general plan update on Sept. 1. The arts was front and center in the massive document as the city planning department said it intends to highlight various sections in the coming months as a way to easily inform the public about the content of the new draft plan.
The policy document intended to guide the city’s decision-making over the next 25 years is comprised of multiple elements that inform planners, developers, policymakers and the community.
Beginning in January 2010, a general plan advisory committee, along with city staff and a consultant, began the first phase of updating the general plan.
The city’s blueprint has been updated to address new policy issues such as sustainable and healthy communities, green building codes and emissions standards.
The plan also speaks to traffic circulation, walkable communities, economic and environmental sustainability and recycling. The existing general plan was adopted in 1989.
But the document also states that arts and cultural activities “play an important role in community life.” Rather than just a brick and mortar urban planning document, the general plan update incorporates the importance of art within the goals and policies with the intent to “strengthen and enhance the arts in Encinitas and to provide guiding principles and strategies to respond to art issues,” according to the language of the document.
“It’s great to see art and culture, including historic preservation, referred to throughout the draft general plan,” Highway 101 Corridor Coordinator Peder Norby said. “Art and cultural can give a community an identification that is separate and distinct from any other place on earth. In a sea of generic sameness, a community rich in art and culture expressing their unique creativity and place on earth is an enriched community.”
The city has a wealth of artistic talent. “The Encinitas arts community has been under served in the past,” said Dody Crawford, executive director of the Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Association. “There is a real need for a Cultural Arts Center with music, theater, dance and film venues. Artists in Encinitas need outlets for their endeavors and they should be local.”
Crawford cited recent reports about the region’s arts community as evidence of the city’s potential for growth.
“The San Diego Foundation has just released a study to provide a first-ever portrait of artists living and working in San Diego County and their impact in communities and on the economy,” she said. “San Diego County ranked 11th in the nation in number of artists in residence. Out of that, Encinitas ranked second in the number of artists who live and work in our county. Naturally, the arts element in the General Plan is vital if the city’s plan is to reflect its community.”
Recent events including the installation of the “Surfing Madonna” and the ever-changing “Cardiff Kook” have brought the issue of policies surrounding public art to the forefront.
“Art can cause many problematic issues that can be challenging for a city to navigate,” Norby said. “A wise city makes the decision to have abundant art and the related issues sometimes uncomfortable, rather than having no art, thus no issues and a bland generic existence.”
The city’s volunteer arts commission had input in the development of some of the guiding principles in the draft document. Erica Heisler, chair of the Commission for the Arts, served as the liaison to the general plan advisory committee.
“I believe that the commission’s goals of incorporating the visual, performing, and literary arts in the life of our community and of making opportunities to experience, learn about, and produce art available to all segments of our diverse community are effectively conveyed,” she said. “The community benefits enormously when they recognize and nurture their own local artists.”
But, the document still has room for improvement. “As we move through the fall and winter, the Commission for the Arts will be discussing the goals and policies set out in this draft of the General Plan update in more detail,” Heisler said.
The public can access the full draft of the General Plan update and leave comments at encinitas2035.info.