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Encinitas council approves Olivenhain sewer, Vulcan housing projects

ENCINITAS — As the winter rainy season approaches, the Encinitas City Council unanimously voted to greenlight Phase 1 of the Olivenhain Trunk Sewer Project on Oct. 28, repairing and replacing decades-old manholes and sewer lines susceptible to overflow.

The council also approved a 12-unit development on Vulcan Street, modified to meet state regulations.

The total cost of the Olivenhain Trunk Sewer Project’s Phase 1 construction, management and inspection is $3,343,197 and will replace 43-year-old infrastructure running along Escondido Creek and San Elijo Lagoon from Lone Jack Road to the Olivenhain Sewer Pump States at the Manchester Avenue and I-5 Interchange.

During public comments, Susan Turney, candidate for City Council District 2, questioned why the council had not acted sooner, why construction was broken into phases, as well as the total cost to replace all manholes.

According to city staff, improvements have been delayed due to an extended Environmental Impact Report process as well as separated into two phases by easement negotiations with private landowners. After both phases are complete, the city estimates the cost to be $7.5 million dollars.

Additionally, the city clarified that the existing structure is not currently leaking raw sewage into San Elijo Lagoon, however, it is in danger of doing so during future major rain events.

In dry season conditions, the current pipes can handle the volume of water, however, according to the city, “during a heavy storm event when the capacity of the pipe is exceeded, there’s a potential to leak raw sewage.”

On April 10, 2020, the region received a record amount of rainfall, running the risk of overflow. The city narrowly avoided a sewage spill into local waterways.

“This is a large project we’ve been working on for a while, involving lots of engineering and money being put into it,” Councilmember Joe Mosca said. “We’re moving as quickly as possible and if we had the public right of way and private land use issues resolved, we’d probably be moving on as one project, one fell swoop.”

The council also unanimously voted to approve a modified 12- unit development on Vulcan Street after hearing and discussing the primary public appeal in length two meetings prior.

In response to the council’s requests during the Oct. 14 appeal and public testimony, the developer and city returned doubling the 12 units’ Southern setbacks against the property line.

After discussing the Vulcan development for several hours on Oct 14 and requesting the developer and city return with a modified blueprint, Councilmember Tony Kranz and Mayor Blakespear thanked the city staff and applicant for compromising.

During a contentious election season, critics have publicly accused the City Council of approving new housing developments without conditions, restraints and little public discussion.

In addition, the council voted to extend the temporary emergency motel voucher program, and postpone the appointment of Olivenhain representative to the Traffic and Public Safety Commission to March 2021, as well as accept the completion of infrastructure improvements to B street, which came in $61,683 under budget.

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