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With unauthorized parking becoming a trend along railroad tracks, the city of Encinitas and NCTD are drafting a cooperative agreement plan to help cut down on vehicles parking there. Photo by Jared Whitlock
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Encinitas and NCTD aim to address parking near train tracks

ENCINITAS — These days, it’s common to see rows of cars parked in the dirt alongside the railroad tracks in Leucadia, particularly in the summer. And the trend hasn’t gone unnoticed. 

“We don’t keep a count, but it certainly seems to be picking up,” said Glenn Pruim, Encinitas’ director of Public Works and Engineering. “Where we’ve really seen an increase is on the west side of the tracks in Leucadia, near the commercial businesses.

“People have found it’s easier to park in the rail right of way than in the neighborhoods,” Pruim added.

Fewer spaces are available in Leucadia, causing residents and visitors to park along the railway. So, NCTD and the city of Encinitas are drafting a cooperative agreement with the goal of cutting down on unauthorized parking and increasing the number of legal parking spots.

“There are more people parking near the railway, bringing more to cross the tracks, which is a safety concern,” Pruim said. “And the dust from cars can be an issue. Those are what we, the city and NCTD, worry about.”

NCTD owns the tracks and surrounding land. While it varies, NCTD’s right of way generally extends from the edge of the pavement on Coast Highway 101 to the edge of the pavement on Vulcan Avenue, according to Pruim.

He said the cooperative agreement would contain an outline of NCTD’s plans for its right of way.

Notably, NCTD plans on double-tracking some of the corridor. Depending on how much space is left, NCTD could potentially lease portions of the right of way to the city for parking.

As well as staking out portions of the railway, Pruim said the city might also look at converting vacant land in Leucadia into parking lots. This could ease the shortage of spaces, giving motorists less incentive to park along the rail corridor.

“It’s separate from the railroad conversation,” Pruim said. “But it’s all part of the parking solution. So, I think we’ll focus on the railroad rights of way, partly because it’s linear and you’re dealing with one owner, NCTD.

“But if we don’t think that solves our parking issues, we’ll start exploring options by looking around the city,” Pruim added.

He noted the Leucadia Streetscape, which calls for installing infrastructure, should help alleviate parking shortages.

J.P. St. Pierre, who owns Surfy Surfy in Leucadia, has a view of the tracks from his shop. He attributes the increase in cars near the railway to consumer demand outpacing Leucadia’s infrastructure.

“The tracks have become the place to park for the business corridor in the summer,” St. Pierre said.

And the railroad-parking trend accelerated due to more people checking out new businesses like Solterra, he said.

“I never thought I’d see cocktail dresses and heels walking across the tracks,” St. Pierre said.

He recommended that some of the popular restaurants set up a valet service during peak hours to solve some of the parking problems.

In addition to the cooperative agreement with NCTD, Pruim said the City Council signaled it would develop a larger rail corridor vision that would identify where to build planned railroad crossings and the rail trail — a bike path that will run parallel to the tracks.

“A lot will be happening in the rail corridor,” Pruim said. “So the city would have to be careful that any improvements we put out there aren’t thrown away.”

Technically, parking is unauthorized next to the railway.

However, because signage isn’t posted letting people know they’re trespassing, the Sheriff’s Department typically doesn’t issue tickets, Pruim said.

Reed Caldwell, chief development officer with NCTD, noted that historically tickets have only been issued to cars in Encinitas that park too close to the tracks.

Caldwell stated that the city and NCTD began discussing the cooperative agreement about four months ago.

Pruim said NCTD and the city are currently preparing a draft of the agreement. It will go before the Encinitas City Council and NCTD board for approval sometime next year. Although the agreement isn’t binding, it serves as guidance for how to move forward on parking and rail projects, he said.

“The railway is very integral to what we do as a city,” Pruim said.

1 comment

Lynn Marr November 17, 2013 at 9:28 pm

One thing that Glenn Pruim, our fairly new Encinitas Director of Public Works was noted as saying, which really jumped out at me, because of its inaccuracy:

“He noted the Leucadia Streetscape, which calls for installing infrastructure, should help alleviate parking shortages.”

City Planning staff has indicated that the N101 Streetscape, by eliminating a lane for motorists on Historic Highway 10, and adding angled parking for a few businesses, would result in a gain of 29-38 added spaces over 2.5 miles. Many more spaces would be LOST, in the dirt, in the RR right of way, with current N101 Streetscape plans.

Actually, there would be a NET LOSS of parking with N101 Streetscape, a huge boondoggle, were it ever to be approved by the California Coastal Commission, which is doubtful. According to “The folly and fallacy of Leucadia Streetscape,” By Doug Fiske
Feb 22, 2013:

“Limited Parking. Although Streetscape’s corridor is 78 percent longer than Solana Beach’s, it has 34 percent fewer public parking spaces. Few businesses without off-101 parking prosper in the Streetscape corridor. The project adds only 29 to 38 parking spaces over 2.5 miles, and none for more than four blocks north and south of Leucadia Boulevard.”

Adjacent residents and local commuters are not in favor of the Streetscape. We don’t need or want four one-lane, 3-way interesection roundabouts, reducing the speed limit from already lowered 35 MPH, to 15 MPH, and narrowing 101 to two lanes, one north and one south. We don’t want to further slow already subpar emergency response time, create more traffic on residential/recreational/school zone streets, leading to back-up and gridlock during peak periods. The City cannot afford it.

If TransNet Tax monies are available, they should be spent on trenching the tracks, not a pie in the sky plan that would benefit a few special interests, at the great expense of residents, negatively impacting our health and safety, and our quality of life by bottlenecking, unwanted, roundabouts and intensifying the unpermitted “road diet” already prematurely implemented, without first completing mandated environmental review.

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