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A red-light camera overlooks the intersection at Encinitas Boulevard and El Camino Real in Encinitas. Photo by Abraham Jewett
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Council votes to delay decision on red-light camera contract

ENCINITAS — Encinitas is one of only three places left in the county that still use red-light cameras as a means of cutting down on red-light runners and traffic collisions and the city council’s support for the program seems to be waning.

At last week’s council meeting, the council, instead of voting on whether to extend the city’s current 18-month contract with camera company Redflex, unanimously agreed to direct the city’s traffic engineer, Abraham Bandegan to look into whether the company, which it’s employed for the service for the past 15 years, remains the best choice to use. Council also directed staff to look into other camera providers the city could potentially use and whether there were alternatives other than the cameras that could reduce the incidence of motorists running red lights.

“I’m a bit suspicious of the program,” Councilman Joe Mosca said. “Are there structural things that we can do to adjust these intersections that will make it less likely that people are going to be running red lights?”

Red light cameras were installed in Encinitas in 2004 at El Camino Real and Encinitas Boulevard. More than a year later, another system was put in at the intersection where El Camino Real, Leucadia Boulevard and Olivenhain Road meet.

According to a city report, during the past five years, 81% of the violations were issued to non-residents and 19% were issued to Encinitas residents. Additionally, 99% of the notices were issued to first-time violators and only 1% had multiple violations on their records.

The report states that the lack of repeat violators may be considered a measure of the program’s effectiveness, meaning after being detected by the system and receiving their first notice, most have not repeated the violation at these locations.

The last time this issue was debated at council was in August 2018. Bandegan said at that time council directed staff to compare the red-light intersections to similar intersections that don’t have cameras. He said they chose El Camino Real and La Costa, and El Camino Real and Palomar Airport Road.

Bandegan said the data “doesn’t clearly show that these intersections under camera are way safer than others without camera.”

Along with Encinitas, Del Mar and Solana Beach still utilize their red-light cameras. Cities that have terminated their red-light camera programs include Oceanside, Vista, Escondido, Poway, El Cajon and San Diego.

Three members of the public spoke on the cameras at the meeting, two opposed to keeping them and one in favor of them staying put.

Peter Kohl, chairman of the city’s Traffic and Public Safety Commission, who said he was speaking not as a commissioner but as an individual, said he has been in favor of the cameras since the beginning and has not changed his mind.

“The cameras are the most effective way to discourage red-light running,” he said. “Enforcement is the best way to get people to comply with any law.”

Cardiff resident George Hejduk said he’s spent 15 years “fighting this fiasco” and wants to see the cameras — and their associated hefty ticket fines — done away with.

“Encinitas is one of the three remaining cities in this county continuing to operate the outrageous public price gauging $490 plus a ticket — red light camera theft,” Hejduk said. “You should rid us of this partnership that you have entered with the Redflex company when almost every other city in this county has found some reason to eliminate these dreadful cameras.”

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said she also had concerns about the high cost of the tickets, arguing that she doesn’t support the camera program partly because it’s “fundamentally unfair to the poor.”

“To me there’s a real proportionality problem with sending someone a $500 ticket for rolling through a red light in the middle of the night on a right-hand turn,” Blakespear said.

The mayor pointed out that the program is costing the city $200,000 a year, and they’re making about that, or slightly more than that, a year from it, which “doesn’t seem to me like it’s a net positive.”

She added that leaving the cameras in Encinitas when many other cities have removed theirs sends a message to the mostly out-of-towner offenders that the city is an “unfriendly” place.

Both Deputy Mayor Jody Hubbard and Councilwoman Kellie Shay Hinze said they have concerns with the program, but say they would support it due to the fact that the majority of the Traffic and Public Safety Commission recently backed it.

Councilman Tony Kranz said he was in support of the red-light camera program, saying “it’s an important part of our public safety” program. Kranz said having the cameras are as good as having a traffic officer doing the same job.

“I get that the fine is expensive, but the reality is that it’s the same amount, whether a human issues the ticket or the camera (does),” Kranz said.

The city’s current contract with Redflex expires in May.

5 comments

Andres December 31, 2019 at 12:34 pm

The cameras are not just a sign the City is “unfriendly” but a sign that the City is lawless, Unconstitutional, and doesn’t respect the Bill of Rights or Due Process for defendants. Cameras are a sign of “corruption” at the deepest levels of government.

taxpayerconcerns December 23, 2019 at 6:35 pm

Mayor Blakespear, who is just another Council member but changed the rules to give her unilateral power over the other four members, doesn’t really like the red-light cameras. Is she going to do something such as declaring the cameras must go now?

Councilman Tony Kranz considers the cameras the same as a traffic officer. Hardly.

At the El Camino Real left hand turn onto Olivenhain Road, the city has rigged the yellow light to immediately turn red in two (2) seconds. The green arrow for this light lasts for 3 cars before it turns yellow. But it is all perfectly legally, right?

It is time to remove this Mayor/Council and the red-light cameras now.

Jason December 21, 2019 at 2:47 pm

I’ve traveled through this intersection on my way to and from work daily for the last 10 years. There are major problems with these cameras. Last January, I received a ticket for entering the intersection 0.3 seconds late. Unfortunately there were solicitors in the intersection dangerously impeding the right of way as they weave through traffic after the light turns green! This is both illegal and dangerous. With a red light camera in place allowing solicitors in the intersection is negligent of the city. These solicitors delayed my progress (in consideration of their safety) and caused me to enter the intersection late despite my vehicle being in a position in line that normally would easily make the green light. The officer and judge at the hearing had only meager photographic and video evidence that was not enough to properly assess the situation. I was the only person present at the scene and yet I am the one who paid. As a result, Encinitas got my money, but I no longer do business in the city. Nice work Encinitas!

john December 19, 2019 at 5:51 pm

Such B.S. I see so many red light runners in Encinitas and no cops to enforce the law (and my family’s safety). Blow the light, get a ticket, pay the fine! What is the problems people? Encinitas has become LA and entitled drivers central! Support red light cameras. The crash you prevent may be your own!

Andres December 31, 2019 at 12:31 pm

Did you know simply lengthening the yellow light time by 1 second is more effective at eliminating red light running than any scamera system set up anywhere in the world? Simple engineering solutions to intersections that don’t require draconian enforcement without any due process. No need to trample on the US Constitution with these scameras.

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