The Coast News Group
Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia. File photo
Cities Encinitas Encinitas Featured

City senses urgency on Leucadia Streetscape

ENCINITAS — Leucadia Streetscape, a project of the Encinitas City Council for now over a decade to revitalize the North Highway 101 corridor, appears to be headed for a reimagining after a strategic planning session of the council this week.

City staff will be returning to the council with plans to finish the project for $20 million that will be received using debt financing through the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank or I-Bank.

The public sentiment certainly appears in favor of that potential move, with many public comments at the meeting calling on the council to take advantage of historically low interest rates to complete the project.

Nikolas Harth, vice president of Leucadia 101 Mainstreet, urged the council to fully fund the project.

“Funding this through broken-up phases runs the risk of becoming a project that gets left behind,” Harth said. “We know that the Streetscape is an investment in the future, and it will generate more revenue to the city, so it’s in the best interest to fully fund this project now because it won’t be getting any cheaper.”

While interest rates are low, construction costs for the project have started to go up, prompting many to ask the council to show more urgency to get the project completed.

Kevin Doyle, a member of the city’s Planning Commission and the president of Leucadia 101 Mainstreet, says pursuing debt funding for the Streetscape project would quickly begin to pay for itself. That is a rarity in most capital improvement projects for cities.

“If we were to support staff’s recommendation and really, seriously pursue funding Streetscape in one phase, it will generate double the sales tax revenue at the minimum and property tax rates will really go up,” Doyle said.

As a member of the Planning Commission, Doyle is also uniquely aware of other projects that are on the docket for the city and what completing Leucadia Streetscape could mean for those and any other future plans.

“These are all really ripe for grant opportunities,” Doyle said. “Streetscape is a big block. It’s like a big lead weight sitting there on top of our capital improvement plan. We need to clear it out. We need to clear the boards there. And we can do that by paying for it.”

The city says it has a debt capacity of $30 million dollars but is recommending the $20 million of debt financing to leave room in case of other emergencies. The I-Bank is currently offering an interest rate of 2.7% for 15 years with an annual fee of 0.3% on the remaining balance of the loan.

Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz is in support of the debt financing but is concerned that a new re-imagined version of the project will leave a lot on the table unfinished.

“My preference would be to come back with the next phase, which would include what could be built for $20 million and then continue to pursue grant funding,” Kranz said.

City staff says they will not stop pursuing grant funding for the project, but they have yet to receive any for the Streetscape project.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear appears ready to get something tangible completed with the project sooner rather than later.

“This just goes back to the idea that it’s better for us to do something right now while interest rates are low, while construction costs are what they are and are likely to go higher, so that we can get real things on the ground for our constituents,” Blakespear said.