The Coast News Group

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Olivenhain emergency response issue

When I first heard about the angry group of residents who descended on the Encinitas City Council a couple weeks ago demanding response times equal to the rest of the city, my reaction was less than sympathetic. My wife and I used to have a country home a hundred miles north of New York City, where we understood that if something happened to us it would be a while before we saw the inside of an emergency room. I bought a large first aid kit, took a Red Cross course, and made sure the fire extinguishers were charged.
Feeling a bit reluctant to give vent to my opposition based only on the article in this paper, I had a conversation with the fire chief, and watched the video of each person speaking at the City Council. This has dispelled my anger as some legitimate points were raised on overall efficiency; but it has not lessened my disagreement with those demanding additional emergency funds for their rural (or semi-rural) district.
There was no concerted opposition from the people of Olivenhain when four times the cost of a potential fire station was spent on the purchase and development of a sports park, nor have they been organized in the unpopular effort to fight other excessive expenditures. All that is left to fund their demands are other vital services provided by government. So improving their security, their safety, the preservation of their lives will have the exact opposite effect on others.
There were many dramatic stories of potential and actual tragedies due to such long delays, 15 minutes average for distant parts of Olivenhain compared to less than six for the denser areas of the city. Within the constraints of existing fiscal obligations, all of the suggestions will to some degree or another mean a transfer of coverage from these higher-demand areas. Ignored by Olivenhain protestors were the aggregate statistics, that because of the vastly greater demand, any increase of response time in these areas will cause a greater delay, on average, for all of the citizens of the city. This translates to equally dramatic stories of permanent life-changing injuries and death prevented by these prompt responses.
The core explanation of the longer response times is found in this description of Olivenhain from their Town Council website:
“With winding two-lane roads, rail fences and trails for horses, bicycles and pedestrians, Olivenhain has a rural atmosphere greatly prized by residents.”
While delightful, this setting, along with gated expansive homes at the end of long dead end roads, does not exactly facilitate emergency response. Some of the effort to get the rest of Encinitas taxpayers to fund improved response time could be directed to creating a separate private emergency district. This would be just another cost of the luxury of rural living close to the coast.
In addition, those homes in Olivenhain, because they had a volunteer force before the city’s incorporation, actually still pay less than other areas of the city for emergency service.
While protection and preservation of the rural atmosphere is the stated purpose of Olivenhain’s town council, they now want one thing to be the same as the rest of the city, emergency response time.
The sincerity of this new found solidarity expressed at that meeting would be more convincing if they would end the political pressure to retain the rural quality of the only direct road from southern Encinitas to eastern Carlsbad and San Marcos by supporting improvement of Rancho Santa Fe Road. They could immediately allow the city to get rid of those seven multi-way stops signs that have no safety justification, and cause thousands of their fellow Encinitans to take the long congested way around. (This particular sacrifice of their rural character just might also decrease emergency response time.)
It would be a shame if the Encinitas City Council were swayed by the emotion of the meeting; and ignores the adverse effects on the larger number of residents of any transfer of emergency service funds to this community, one that values and protects the very rural quality that is the root of the problem addressed.

For more, or to contact Al Rodbell, visit


Remeber Mayor Gaines April 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Let me remind readers that our first Encinitas mayor who spearheaded city incorporation, was Olivenhain resident Marjorie Gaines. Part of the reason that the 5 community were brought under 1 City umbrella was to ensure the reasonable growth and safety of ALL of our communities.

In Andrew Audet’s article, he points out that in an apparent back room deal, the City chose to sell and profit from the designated property for the Olivenhain fire station.

I did not hear Olivenhain residents insult other communities on the coast who might need additional resources to help rescue people involved in water-related emergencies. I believe that they were angry that this land was sold off in secret, and that the City and a developer made a profit by placing Olivenhain citizens in harms way which may also have been a factor in the death of a young boy.

How can anyone blame Olivenhain residents when the property was sold off in another legendary secret deal with developers.

I only regret that it is not the people who made money on this, instead of the residents who had no ability to participate who have assumed the risk and ongoing consequences of this decision.

Chikamagua April 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Finally, a voice of sanity.

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