ENCINITAS — The El Camino Real corridor has long been a critical part of the city of Encinitas.
The corridor runs through the middle of the city and includes a large part of the city’s retail spaces, but much of the city’s arterial roadway is aging and has not seen updates for some time.
Last summer, the city began a project to update the corridor and after meetings with residents and developers, the vision for the project is beginning to come into focus.
“It’s a long process but I think it’s going to be helpful and I look forward to what that corridor will become because it’s ugly, it’s car-centric, there are a lot of empty storefronts — and I realize a lot of that has to do with the challenge of COVID but I also think it’s kind of an unattractive place for developers,” said resident Christine Schindler.
The community outreach began in November of last year. A draft plan for the corridor isn’t expected until this summer with approval not expected until the second half of 2023, but the importance of the corridor to the city will mean eyes will be on the entirety of the planning process.
After last week’s presentation from city staff on community outreach, Deputy Mayor Joe Mosca pushed back on the idea of the corridor being unattractive.
“It’s not ugly, there’s beauty there,” Mosca said. “But the point is it does need to be focused on. It suffers a little bit from a lack of focus over the years.”
During the public workshop, the city found that residents had desires for the corridor to include landscape improvements, mixed-use developments (retail, office spaces and housing), and safer conditions for pedestrians and cyclists.
The specific plan for the project will ultimately necessitate a Prop A vote from Encinitas residents and approval from the California Coastal Commission.
Housing is likely to become the sticking point for many residents in the city. During the first public workshop, there were already disagreements on how housing should or shouldn’t be added into the corridor.
“Some community members see that housing is needed within the corridor while others don’t want to see housing at all as they feel it will contribute to more congestion within the corridor,” said Melinda Dacey, the city’s project manager.
Local developers said they believe the standalone retail that exists along the corridor is failing and there must be an increased density of housing units along with increases in building heights.
“They need incentives in order to redevelop the properties,” Dacey said. “They tend to have complicated lease agreements and the cost to redevelop the land is an expensive endeavor.”
Councilmember Tony Kranz, citing documents from the Encinitas Ranch Specific Plan where the city convened a task force of residents to give input into the planning process, suggested the city convene a similar group of residents for the El Camino Real project.
“I think it’s really important that we more formally identify representatives of the community to have this conversation with,” Kranz said. “I think it’s important we engage the community in this way.”