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A rendering depicting the new Grandview Street roundabout in the final phase of the city's Leucadia Streetscape project. Courtesy photo/City of Encinitas
A rendering depicting the new Grandview Street roundabout in the final phase of the city's Leucadia Streetscape project. Courtesy photo/City of Encinitas
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Encinitas approves contracts in Leucadia Streetscape’s final phase

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council on Sept. 13 awarded construction contracts for projects in the final phase of Leucadia Streetscape, bringing some much-needed upgrades to the city’s roadways and stormwater infrastructure.

The Segment C West Side and North Highway 101 Drainage Improvements projects aim to improve drainage, mobility and roadway elements (additional sidewalks, more parking, dedicated bike lanes, median improvements, lighting and bus shelters) along a stretch of North Coast Highway 101 from Jupiter Street to La Costa Avenue.

Due to the city’s longstanding issues diverting excess storm runoff in Leucadia, residents have endured decades of seasonal flooding, resulting in extensive property damage and pushing the city to pump untreated stormwater over the bluff through a pipe onto nearby Beacon’s Beach, contaminating the coastal area and posing environmental hazards. 

In January, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the city $4 million to install 1.5 miles of new stormwater mainline underneath the highway in Leucadia to help reduce the intensity and frequency of flooding in northern Leucadia. The grant will only cover a portion of the storm drain pipe along the 2.5-mile stretch of road. 

The proposed drainage work includes installing a series of reinforced concrete storm drain pipes underneath the highway for additional storage capacity, catch basin and/or curb inlets along the roadway and at Leucadia Roadside Park, and “green street” or biofiltration elements (e.g., vegetation, soil and permeable surfaces) to help filter runoff and improve water quality, according to city documents.

Leucadia floodiung and drainage at Leucadia Roadside Park.
The city uses a pump to divert excess stormwater from Leucadia Roadside Park through a pipe and over the bluff onto Beacon’s Beach. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram

The storm drain pipes will connect to three existing outfalls near La Costa Avenue — a 24-inch and an 18-inch outlet at the basin west of North Coast Highway 101 and a 24-inch outlet on the east side of the highway. The drainage work, estimated at $15 million, would not make any changes to existing pipe outfalls. 

For Leucadia Streetscape Segment C West and North Highway 101 Drainage Improvements, the city approved contracts with Blue Pacific Engineering & Construction Company, Inc. ($20,252,466 for construction), Psomas ($2.3 million for construction inspection, management and public outreach), Michael Baker International ($381,369 for roadway design), Peltz and Associates ($168,682 for landscape design) and Kleinfelder Construction Services ($750,000 for project management support).

The city will also establish a memorandum of understanding with the San Dieguito Water District to fund $200,000 for a portion of the water district’s waterline work as part of Leucadia Streetscape Segment C. 

Drainage debate

During the Sept. 13 meeting, the council learned that the $4 million HUD grant only covers drainage improvements for the northern third of the project area from Moorgate Road to La Costa Avenue rather than the entire project length as originally estimated. 

Some council members expressed concern that finishing the aboveground Leucadia Streetscape work before completing the subsurface drainage and stormwater improvements, which include the installation of several pipes at depths of up to 35 feet underground, could require tearing up newly paved areas at a significantly higher cost down the road. 

“I just want to understand the order we’re doing this in — it seems backward — because the $4 million doesn’t seem to cover what we thought it might’ve covered,” Councilmember Bruce Ehlers said. “I don’t want to shoot, ready, aim. I want to go the other way. I feel like we’re rushing ahead to finish out the top, and then we’re going to come back…to fix the drainage problem in Leucadia. So, can we delay a little and figure out how we can get money for this very critical 60-inch pipe infrastructure or, lacking that ability, can we have a plan that tells me how much money I’m having to redo?”

According to staff, partial drainage work will provide some immediate relief during rain events. Despite the reality of digging up newly-completed road improvements to finish installing lateral pipes, staff said the roundabouts and other major streetscape elements would not be significantly impacted. No cost estimate was provided for retrenching to complete the drainage work in Leucadia. 

A rendering depicting the southbound view of North Coast Highway 101 between Range and Jupiter streets after the completion of Segment C West Side Improvements, the final phase of Leucadia Streetscape. Courtesy photo/City of Encinitas
A rendering depicting the southbound view of North Coast Highway 101 between Range and Jupiter streets after the completion of Segment C West, the final phase of Leucadia Streetscape. Courtesy photo/City of Encinitas

During the meeting, City Manager Pamela Antil interjected to admonish Ehlers for his questions about the drainage work, accusing him of “pulling” staff into a “political” discussion.

“Actually, I was going to ask that my staff not be grilled about this in this manner,” Antil said.

Ehlers, who previously voted in favor of approving Leucadia Streetscape during his time as chairman of the city’s Planning Commission, said the council only first learned the $4 million HUD grant wouldn’t fully cover the drainage improvements until after the item was placed on the consent calendar, without any previous open discussion. 

iBank loan

In May 2022, the city of Encinitas received a $20 million loan from the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, or IBank, to help finance Segment C West, which the city estimates will cost around $32 million. According to Lois Yum, the city’s public information officer, the city’s deadline to spend the $20 million iBank loan is December 2026. 

Antil said that with a construction deadline for funding and minimal anticipated disruption of the streetscape work, city staff do not recommend delaying the project.

The council unanimously approved the project and directed staff to explore temporarily extending drainage pipes under planned roundabouts. Residents can expect drainage and streetscape improvements to begin this winter and are expected to be completed by the summer of 2026.

The city completed Segment A, the project’s initial phase, in the summer of 2022 with work along Coast Highway 101 between Marcheta Street and Basil Street. Last fall, the city completed a Safety and Mobility Enhancements interim project from Basil Street to La Costa Avenue.

The remaining unfunded portions of Leucadia Streetscape include North Coast Highway 101 Drainage Improvement ($22 million total, partially funded with a $4 million HUD grant, $18 million unfunded), Leucadia Streetscape Segment A South and Drainage from A Street to Marcheta Street ($10 million, unfunded) and Leucadia Streetscape Segment B and Drainage from Basil Street to Jupiter Street ($25 million, unfunded).

1 comment

steve333 September 21, 2023 at 1:46 pm

Putting this City into debt for a glamour project that never should have started.
Blakespear’s legacy

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