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Encinitas Traffic Commission to draft complete streets policy

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council unanimously empowered the Traffic and Public Safety Commission to draft a policy that will govern so-called “complete streets” projects throughout the city.

Complete streets are those that accommodate multiple modes of transportation, not just vehicles, including public transit, pedestrians and bicycles.

State law requires that cities adopt complete street plans when they update their traffic plans, known as circulation elements. But the council agreed that the city should look at adopting an interim plan.

“I would propose that we direct the traffic and public safety commission to develop policy for council consideration and propose something to us sooner rather than later,” Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer said.

While the city does not have a complete streets policy, it has implemented several projects to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists on the roads, including a re-striping of La Costa Avenue between Vulcan Avenue and Interstate 5.

These projects, however, have not come without controversy. The council’s vote to re-stripe La Costa was 3-2, with Gaspar and Muir opposed. One activist from New Encinitas has repeatedly criticized the council majority’s complete streets initiatives, which he said would choke vehicle traffic on the city’s arterial roads.

Gaspar and Muir reiterated some of their concerns with the complete streets at the March 23 council meeting, in which they said they wouldn’t support a policy that doesn’t accommodate all transportation modes.

“I don’t think they are against freedom of choice, they just don’t want to compromise one mode or another,” Gaspar said of critics of complete streets.  ”If you can strike that balance… then it is a win across the board.”

Muir said that proponents need to also understand that most people choose driving a vehicle as their mode of transportation.

“The reality is that people are in cars, and we need to understand people drive cars,” Muir said. “People are not going to give up their cars.”

No complete streets opponents spoke during the March meeting, which was a joint session with the Traffic and Public Safety Commission and council. Nine people, however, did speak in favor of complete streets and the council drafting an interim policy.

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