ENCINITAS — Prior to the Encinitas City Council’s upcoming public hearing on the proposed Goodson Project in Olivenhain, a city staff report contends local fire safety concerns may not be as serious as some residents have previously stated.
According to city staff, the Encinitas Fire Department reviewed a study completed by J. Charles Weber, Fire & Life Safety Consultant, and disputed many of its findings. Weber is a retired fire captain at Lakeside Fire Protection District.
“Unfortunately, the Weber reports were completed without the Fire Department’s knowledge or input,” the staff report states. “Had there been an attempt by the author to contact the Fire Department, we would have been able to clear up many of the findings in the reports.”
The Weber report was commissioned by Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development, a group of residents opposing the development, seeking “an expert analysis of the City’s existing Olivenhain Fire Evacuation Plan,” according to the group’s website.
At the previous hearing on the project in October, Encinitas Fire Chief Mike Stein told the council it would take some time to provide more fire analysis.
“To engage a consultant to do that wouldn’t take days or weeks, it would take months — a couple of months,” Stein said.
The report goes on to say the Encinitas Fire Department believes “the reports use erroneous and inaccurate assumptions and inputs in various analyses, specifically fire modeling, roadway capacity, and evacuation route assumptions.”
The Weber reports found that wildfire in the area of Olivenhain would “impact the critical intersection of Rancho Santa Fe Road and Encinitas Boulevard approximately one hour after ignition.” However, the city’s fire department strongly disputes that claim.
“A similar scenario modeled by a qualified Fire Behavior Analyst (FBAN), with more than 40 years of experience fighting wildland fires in Southern California, found that under extreme fire weather conditions, that the fire would impact the northeastern portion of Olivenhain in approximately 4 hours and 47 minutes,” per the staff report.
Cindy Baker, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, wrote to the council saying the fire safety issue is critical to both Encinitas and her home.
“Fire safety evacuation is also a top priority for the residents of Encinitas and Rancho Santa Fe,” Baker wrote. “We depend on the governing bodies of both these areas to make the right decision on our behalf. Allowing a project of this size to be built at the proposed location is irresponsible.”
According to the staff report, the Weber report assumes just one evacuation route for Olivenhain, traveling southbound on Rancho Santa Fe Road turning west onto Encinitas Boulevard.
The fire department says there are four options for evacuation: emergency gates located on Double LL Ranch Road; Northbound Rancho Santa Fe Road to Olivenhain Road; Southbound Rancho Santa Fe Road to Manchester Road, and Southbound Rancho Santa Fe Road to Encinitas Boulevard.
Staff believes that assuming only one evacuation route is misleading.
“In staff’s view, this is an unrealistic assumption,” the report states.
The city will continue its public hearing on the project at 6 p.m. on Wednesday night during its regularly scheduled meeting at City Hall. According to the city, this will be the fifth and final hearing on the project.