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Encinitas candidates test the waters on issues in virtual forums

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to clarify a question regarding “stroads” during an Encinitas Viewpoint virtual forum. Additionally, a quote was incorrectly attributed to Julie Thunder in an email chain consisting of Thunder, Susan Turney and other residents. After further review, it is not clear exactly who wrote the statement.

ENCINITAS — Testing the waters on local issues, Encinitas candidates for mayor and city council recently participated in virtual Zoom forums, discussing local topics, such as transportation improvements, homelessness, housing density and climate change.

Of the three forums held in the previous three weeks, one was hosted by Mayor Catherine Blakespear and the other two hosted by the local citizen-run group, “Encinitas Viewpoint.”

The latter two forums on July 30 and August 6 served as a less formal conversation featuring Encinitas mayoral candidate Julie Thunder, District 2 candidate Susan Turney and Alex Riley, candidate for District 1.

Blakespear’s forum on August 11 —  “Zoom with Catherine and Friends” — served as part campaign rally and part conversation with fellow incumbent candidates, including Deputy Mayor and District 2 candidate Kellie Shay Hinze, Councilman and District 1 candidate Tony Kranz, State Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas), U.S. Rep. Mike Levin (CA-49), and District 4 County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

Blakespear, along with Fletcher, hosted her own virtual forum, interacting with audiences and soliciting campaign donations in an almost telethon-style manner, thanking participants for donations made during the event.

Candidates shared their personal and professional relationships with Blakespear and discussed local issues, including construction in Leucadia’s rail corridor, homelessness and climate change.

Blakespear also recognized the growing concerns of a select group of residents regarding the bike lanes on Coast Highway 101 and public safety.

“When I hear reports of accidents, I become alarmed too,” Blakespear said. “We never want to build things that are a danger or put people at risk, so I asked our city staff to conduct an analysis of alleged accidents.”

After comparing official accident records with incidents described by concerned residents, Blakespear noted the data doesn’t match up. Blakespear suggested some of the issues may be caused by inattentive pedestrians and unrelated to the construction of the bike lanes.

She also noted there is a section of the sidewalk for pedestrians currently being built.

Cardiff Bike Lanes
Pedestrians walk in the newly constructed Cardiff bike lanes along  CoHighway 101, despite ample signage restricting the lane to cyclists only. Photo by Caitlin Steinberg

Kranz expressed excitement for the upcoming Leucadia Streetscape construction, saying, “I’ve been involved from the start because this will offer the opportunity to take a piece of infrastructure that is over 100 years old and transform it into a roadway safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Kranz also talked about the numerous state-wide as well as federal challenges in-regards to rail corridor construction, noting the expense and level of bureaucratic hurdles required in building rail crossings through Leucadia.

Hinze shared her own personal experience and involvement in the recent Leichtag Foundation’s Homeless parking lot, stating the lot was a “tangible solution” to the rising homelessness issue in Encinitas.

“Everybody in the city agrees we do not want homelessness to increase,” Hinze said. “Between the pandemic and economic calamity, the tremendous suffering and hard times are only likely to get harder for those experiencing homelessness. We need to be prepared in Encinitas and need to be realistic.”

Hinze invited the public to join the city for a virtual public presentation on the city’s Draft Homeless Action Plan at 6 p.m. on August 17, encouraging all residents to participate in the event.

Additionally, both Levin and Boerner Horvath spoke on the importance of climate change to local coastlines and the importance of participating in local politics this election season.

According to Blakespear, the Zoom event prompted 59 individual donations totaling over $5,000 throughout the course of the forum.

Encinitas Viewpoint Forums

The two forums hosted by Encinitas Viewpoint, which were not fundraisers, focused on specific issues including the proposed high-density housing development on Rancho Santa Fe Blvd in Olivenhain as well as the “good and bad in government.”

Both virtual forums can be viewed in full on EV’s YouTube channel.

During the first forum, Bruce Ehlers, vice-chair of the city’s Planning Commission, opposed the Goodson development and the three candidates agreed, expressing concerns on fire safety, the number of affordable units in the building itself, as well as their perceived impact on nearby home values.

“People have to realize with the tiny amount of affordable units we’re going to get, we’re sacrificing our whole town,” Thunder said. “There’s nobody that doesn’t want restaurant workers to have a place to live in town… but we’re sacrificing our town for something we won’t get.”

Riley expressed concerns over the public safety implications of high-density development in Olivenhain and Leucadia Streetscape construction, asking when the fire department will weigh-in on evacuation risks.

The second forum, candidates voiced their disagreements with various recent municipal actions, including communication between the city and residents, lack of public attendance on city council meetings during COVID-19, and the upcoming Leucadia Streetscape construction.

“I have a problem with [the City] not being upfront about costs and there is room for improvement, safety measures,” Turney said. “I would like to see [the Council] work with cycling groups who understand the width constraints needed.”

The group also discussed the city’s “Shared Streets” program. Thunder’s main contention with the pilot program was the reduction of Coast Highway 101 to two lanes, which the city has since changed back to four lanes. But Thunder also took issue with the origins of “Shared Streets.

“Why were permits even required? I don’t know the answer but it’s very frustrating to me.”

During the Q&A portion, the discussion sparked a question from a participant who took offense to Thunder’s lack of knowledge regarding Encinitas 101 Main Street Association. Thunder apologized and offer to learn more about the nonprofit organization.

The Roxy
Customers dine at The Roxy along Coast Highway 101 on July 7 as a part of the city’s “Shared Streets” pilot program.         Photo by Caitlin Steinberg

 

During the Q&A portion of the forum, several incorrect facts were shared among candidates.

For example, a District 2 resident expressed her fear that candidate Hinze supported turning roads adjacent to Coast Highway 101 into “stroads,” or high-speed roads used to circumvent traffic. The question was initially directed at Turney, who also perceived Hinze to support “stroads.”

In previous weeks, email strings have circulated among residents and candidates and the following statement was made (it is unclear who wrote the statement): “Hinze supports the notion of ‘stroads.’ These involve narrowing main thoroughfares to force overflow traffic into neighborhoods. We have this in writing from her to a friend whom she had this discussion. Folks who count on keeping their streets residential will not be happy — would you?”

However, The Coast News obtained and reviewed the emails wherein, Thunder alleged, Hinze had endorsed “stroads,” but found they stated the opposite.

“There is so much to love about Highway 101, especially if we can get it to act less like a ‘stroad,’” Hinze wrote in the email. “Just some food for thought. Happy to discuss.”

Hinze told The Coast News again she is adamantly opposed to turning Coast Highway 101 or adjacent roads into speedways used to avoid traffic.

Another participant also falsely stated that Blakespear supported “defunding the police.” However, Blakespear has not publicly expressed a desire to withdraw from the city’s contract with the sheriff’s department.

8 comments

CJ September 3, 2020 at 3:06 pm

It’s a bit of a shock to listen to the “Encinitas Viewpoint” gang discuss the before and after biking situation on Vulcan Ave and South Coast highway. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nix9c7N_yI)

In my personal experience, nothing could be further from reality.

As an active cyclist, and having ridden both of those roads for decades, these stretches were formally the worst part of any north-south ride. And now they are best.

Nowadays I can pedal along happily, and enjoy the beautiful views without worrying about someone driving their BMW into my backside.

And once a week my dad takes my mom to Cardiff and pushes her in her wheelchair. He says it’s the highlight of her day.

Are they seriously against all that?

What would they prefer? A return to 1974 when the road was less traveled?

Perhaps we all would like to go back in time to when we were young, innocent and tan. Since that’s not available, I think a wide safe bike and pedestrian lane is a pretty great alternative.

And considering that they have offered no viable alternative plans, I’d chalk this up to serious case of NIMBYism, from folks who are fortunate enough to enjoy oceanfront living but aren’t willing to share it with anyone else.

steve grah August 17, 2020 at 9:54 am

Probably the most biased one way article I have read to date in the Coast News. You should be renamed “The Blakespear, Horvath, Hinze” news letter…….When Thunder wins what will you do?

John Eldon August 15, 2020 at 8:32 am

Regarding the Goodson project, Randy Goodson engaged in The Big Lie when he contended that the project is well-served by public transit. I commuted on the NCTD 304 bus when I worked in Vista, and its normal routing in Encinitas stays on El Camino Real and points west. It detours exactly 5 times per weekday, 2 in one direction and 3 in the other, to serve the corner of Rancho Santa Fe Rd. and Encinitas Bl. As designed, the project is therefore woefully underparked, not overparked, and there is no nearby on street parking available for guests or for tradespeople maintaining the facility.

Regarding the new cycletrack in Cardiff, you cannot reasonably exclude pedestrians without providing a sidewalk parallel to the facility. The photo clearly shows that there is no room for a separate pedestrian facility. The entire project was poorly engineered, then rolled out in a dangerous fashion. For starters, the curbs are extremely hazardous and completely unnecessary, as evidenced by the bollards-only demarcation that was used on Leucadia Bl. Fundamental to safe cycling is the ability to take the lane as needed and release it when safe to do so. The curbs completely preclude any form of dynamic lateral positioning, because the project’s designers refused to talk to transportation and commuting cyclists who understand and practice lawful vehicular cycling. The cycletrack would not be a problem at all if it had not obliterated one of the best Class II bike lanes in the county.

The elephant in the room, literally, is neighborhood-destroying high density infill, and it is important to understand precisely where each candidate for a city, county, or state office stands on protection of our established residential neighborhoods, which is why we incorporated as a city in the first place. (Some of us remember Bob Bonde’s “Don’t Tread On Me!” slogan, that was aimed squarely at county government and then-supervisor Paul Eckert. Now a number of us, through LivableCalifornia.org and similar organizations, have the same local control message to the state.)

Teresa Barth August 13, 2020 at 7:53 pm

Thank you Coast News for investigating comments made in the Encinitas Viewpoint and reporting that they are false.

Is there a count of actually numbers who participated in the different events?

concerned August 13, 2020 at 6:56 pm

From another article comment -BLM are an extreme Marxist violent group formed to overthrow all systems of a civil society. Floyd held a gun to a woman’s stomach. Did she call out at Floyd, Momma, I can’t breath? Yet North County politicians didn’t discuss this.
Why are politicians such as Congressman Mike Levin, Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Encinitas Councilwoman Kelli Hinze participating in these BLM protests under cover of the death of George Floyd? Politician’s oath when sworn into office is to uphold the Constitution not join groups dedicated to overthrow the government. Did the incumbents discuss this?

Joanie August 13, 2020 at 2:41 pm

Ms. Steinberg, while not technically incorrect, “local citizen-run group, Encinitas Viewpoint” may give the wrong impression. Some of the candidates themselves are leading and coordinating this group, along with individuals working or volunteering for their campaigns. It is in fact part of and an extension of their campaigns.

Cindy Cremona August 13, 2020 at 1:51 pm

As the moderator for Encinitas Viewpoint, I’m unsurprisingly disappointed with the tone of this piece by the author. Not myself or any of the panel on Encinitas Viewpoint were contacted for clarity, though Ms. Steinberg was offered numerous opportunities to connect with Julie, Susan and Alex when we were contacted about this article being written.

Ms. Steinberg had suggested this would be a fairly reported piece about the nature of Encinitas Viewpoint, a community panel which discusses Encinitas issues with actual community input. Much of the discussion is a back and forth between panel participants and guests and questions are taken unfiltered from the audience, primarily residents from Encinitas.

Instead, she took the most opportunity to focus on negative issues which she spoke to the current slate of council representatives about, without the courtesy of contacting the Encinitas Viewpoint panel participants. Not quite fair or balanced reporting, Ms. Steinberg.

Anyone interested in hearing from our panel and guests, can register for our Zoom meeting every Tuesday evening at 6, up until the election. Come and visit and decide for yourself if our forums are substantive or not. We’d love to see you there!

Caitlin Steinberg August 17, 2020 at 11:21 pm

As stated in our previous communications, Ms. Cremona, every single candidate was informed of my coverage of these forums in an equal manner. I told each individual that I would simply be listening and reporting on the subjects broached, stating I would reach out to them with any questions. Everyone responded and acknowledged that they received my message. In covering all three events, I only sought clarifications on falsehoods and misstated facts spoken by Encinitas residents. There were no false facts shared in Mayor Blakespear’s Zoom forum, however on two occasions Encinitas residents spoke false facts in EV forum’s. Had EV corrected the falsehoods live, in real time, I would not have needed to report on them. However, as they were not corrected, I chose to clarify the facts out of respect for Coast News’ readership, so to not propagate falsehoods to the public. This is what fair and balanced coverage looks like. All candidates have my email as well as phone number and have been encouraged to reach out at any time with any clarifications on public statements.

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