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Encinitas Council approves special event, including new race

ENCINITAS — Encinitas officials unanimously approved the 2017 slate of special events throughout the city — including a new half-marathon race.

The council approved the 25-event slate, which includes all of the street fairs that occur throughout the year and the various pedestrian races, including the Cardiff Kook Run and Surfing Madonna Beach Run.

The council also approved the Surfing Madonna’s newest race, the Encinitas Half Marathon, which is scheduled for March 26.

Bob Nichols, chairman of the Surfing Madonna Foundation, has pledged $100,000 of the event’s proceeds to local causes.

While the vote was unanimous, however, the discussion took several turns. First, the organizers of the Kook and Surfing Madonna races said they had met during the week and pledged to work together for the benefit of the community at-large.

“Instead of trying to battle with each other over market share, why not work together as partners,” Nichols said. “We could do so much good in the community if we combined forces and really started to look at projects that the community needs help with. There is no point in trying to battle over turf. Let’s work together.”

But then, the discussion soured as the council discussed concerns and questions about the Cardiff Kook Run and the amount of money that was raised at last year’s race, and the race organizer detailed the breakdown of the relationship between the race and its former nonprofit partner, the Cardiff 101 MainStreet Association.

Cardiff 101 is currently suing the Kook Run and its organizer, Steve Lebherz, for $150,000 for using the likeness of the race’s namesake statue without the organization’s permission. Cardiff 101 MainStreet owns the copyright for the statue and it alleges that race organizer Steve Lebherz willingly ignored cease-and-desist demands from Cardiff 101 after Lebherz cut ties between the race and Cardiff 101 after nearly four years in late 2015.

Lebherz said he and race organizers have spent thousands to remove the Kook image from its website, billboards and banners, which cut into the money it would donate to local charities. In the end, the Kook race, which had 2,800 participants, only raised $2,000 for local groups.

Lebherz said that race organizers are strongly considering re-branding the Kook race to the USA 10,000, which reflects the race’s designation by the USA Track and Field Association as the 10,000-meter championship.

“We really don’t want anything to do with them,” Lebherz said of Cardiff 101.

Cardiff 101 president Susan Hayes fired back during public comment when she read from a letter the association sent to the council that said the association could not “in good faith” support the organizers, and urged the council to only approve the race on an annual basis and give greater scrutiny to the charitable aspect of the event.

Council members ultimately said they did not want to take sides with race organizers, but did want assurances from each of the races on how much money they would raise in the form of a memorandum of understanding.

As part of the approval, the city will enter into a memorandum with the Surfing Madonna race organizers that memorializes its $100,000 pledge, and with the Kook organizers for $4 per every runner, which Lebherz said was reasonable and the industry standard.