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The city agreed to provide additional funding for a designated Quiet Zone and at-grade rail crossing in Leucadia. File photo/The Coast News
The city agreed to provide additional funding for a designated Quiet Zone and at-grade rail crossing in Leucadia. File photo/The Coast News
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Encinitas allocates more funds to rail crossing, quiet zone projects

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council on Wednesday discussed the city’s operating and capital improvement budgets for the fiscal year 2023-24, allocating funding for a number of projects, including additional funds for Leucadia’s at-grade rail crossing and a designated “quiet zone.”

In an original strategy session on March 15, the council created a framework for the following goals: housing solutions for the homeless and unhoused, railroad crossings and quiet zones, prioritizing streetscape elements, safe routes to schools, expanding habitat stewardship programs, and working toward 100% affordable housing.

After a presentation on various projects, such as sewer and road improvements, the City Council reviewed the general fund’s remaining $4.11 million for unassigned capital improvement projects.

Council approved $900,000 for ADA curb ramps, innovative bike lanes, safer routes to school (bike lanes, sidewalks, traffic safety, general mobility) and storm drain repairs that have deteriorated due to this winter’s historic rainfall.

City Manager Pam Antil then recommended the approval of 14 other projects, including e-bike safety training, Leucadia at-grade crossing design and quiet zone, all of which the council approved for $2.6 million.

Both the at-grade crossing and quiet zone are in the early stages of development. In April 2022, the Encinitas City Council endorsed a proposal to allocate funding to the design and engineering of a designated quiet zone — no train horn — from approximately Leucadia Boulevard in the south to the city’s northern border with Carlsbad. 

In January, the city proposed two at-grade rail crossings located between La Costa Avenue and Leucadia Boulevard. The northern railroad crossing is close to the pedestrian crossing at Grandview Street and Coast Highway 101, connecting to Vulcan Avenue on the east side of the tracks between Coral Cove Way and Hillcrest Drive.

The southern location is proposed at the Phoebe Street and Coast Highway intersection, connecting to Vulcan Avenue between Glaucus and Jason streets.

The council then unanimously approved $240,000 for the annual paving project for roads in poor condition, with a focus on the streets of Rodney Avenue, Turner Avenue, and Shields Avenue, and $331,000 for a design of a pedestrian path running from Vulcan Avenue to La Costa.

The pedestrian path may need more money, according to Antil. City staff will return at mid-session review and get final approval in June.

“I think this is overall one of the tighter budgets we’ve had in a few years,” Councilmember Bruce Ehlers said. “I think we’ve been spending quite a bit of money, and if we look at the unassigned money remaining money, it’s tighter than usual.”

Community Grant Program Applications

The council heard from multiple city organizations hoping to get grant funding or additional funds. 

The city issued a total of $141,122 in grant funds to various applicants, with only five groups disqualified. Council members will then each decide where to donate portions of the remaining $8,878 in available grant funds.

Council members with seniority (Mayor Tony Kranz and Deputy Mayor Joy Lyndes) were given $1,776, while the remaining council members (Ehlers, Councilmember Kellie Hinze and Councilmember Allison Blackwell) received $1,775 each to allocate to groups of their choice. 

Kranz gave $592 each to the Mission Edge San Diego Organization for Bro-Am Beach Fest, North Shore Symphony for Presentation of a Concert Series in Encinitas, and San Dieguito Heritage Museum for a mural representing historical contributions of Latino Farm Workers.

Lyndes equally halved her contribution to Cardiff 101 Mainstreet for the Cardiff Farmers Market and Encinitas Friends of the Arts for event promotion and coordination.

Ehlers allocated $808 to North Shore Symphony and $807 to San Dieguito Heritage Museum. Hinze gave to five different organizations: The San Dieguito Academy’s Drug-Free Youth Study Buddy program ($355), Assistance League of Rancho San Dieguito for Operation School Bell Clothing Children ($356), Campana Studios for Gallery Art Shows at Perspective Space ($355), Cardiff 101 Mainstreet ($355), and San Dieguito Heritage Museum ($355).

Blackwell gave $592 to Coastal Roots Farm for its organic food distribution program, $591 to Mission Edge San Diego and $591 to Northshore Symphony.

Many of the organizations that applied for grants were centered on providing services to youth. Several council members agreed youth organizations should have separate opportunities to receive more funding.

“I would like to be able to see if we could evaluate some of these programs’ grant applications for those that directly affect youth,” Mayor Kranz said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff that goes in here that is specifically focused on youth, and I think our sales tax for cannabis products should be focused on the diversionary effort that we have for our young people to keep them from hanging out back on the block and causing trouble.”