ENCINITAS — Encinitas residents will be having a feeling of deja vu in 2019, as many of the same issues that dominated headlines in 2018 will once again be front and center.
That’s because many of the top headlines — the Leucadia Streetscape, the housing element update and the proposed staircase at Beacon’s Beach — were unresolved by year’s end.
Here are some of the top story lines that readers should expect to see unfold in 2019
1. Who will replace Tasha Boerner Horvath?
This one is low-hanging fruit, but a critical decision that faces the council in January. The four members of the City Council have agreed to appoint the fifth member, keeping with the tradition of recent council vacancies.
But with four moderate-to-liberal leaning officials comprising a super-majority, Mayor Catherine Blakespear and the council are faced with a decision — select someone in line with super majority’s views or someone who represents an alternative viewpoint.
Several names have emerged for the fifth seat, including mayoral candidate John Paul Elliott, planning commissioner Kevin Doyle and longtime Leucadia 101 board member William Morrison.
2. The Housing Element Cycle
A judge has given Encinitas 120 days to certify an update to a state-mandated affordable housing plan, and has nullified Proposition A — the citizens’ right to vote initiative — for the current housing cycle.
This means the council will ultimately cast the deciding vote on the housing element, in which the city must plan for about 1,600 units of affordable housing.
Opponents of the city’s failed housing element attempt, Measure U, are hopeful the council will adopt a plan that reflects some of their objections to the failed 2018 ballot measure and suggestions to improve it, but the council isn’t required to implement those suggestions.
3. The 2021 Housing Element Cycle
Weren’t we just talking about deja vu? Well, city officials must quickly turn around following their adoption of the current cycle’s plan and craft a new plan for the next housing cycle, which begins in April 2021.
If city officials were hard-pressed to find locations suitable for the 1,600 units required under the current housing cycle, meeting its next regional housing needs assessment will be yet another challenge.
In this case, however, the City Council will have to go before voters once more, as the nullification of Proposition A only applies to the current cycle, the judge ruled this month.
4. Will the city start the Leucadia Streetscape?
The crash that critically injured Cardiff 101 Executive Director Roberta Walker has galvanized supporters of the North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape into action. Walker was one of the project’s biggest supporters.
But will that action result in an accelerated timeline to start the project?
Questions still remain on how the project — with its $30 million price tag — will be funded, and whether North County Transit District will give the necessary clearance for the project to move forward.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear has been adamant that she wants interim measures in place to make the road safer for cyclists and pedestrians, but her plan received push back from allies who believe stop gap measures would take pressure off of NCTD and give project opponents ammunition against the project.
If all breaks in the city’s favor, could this be the year the long-discussed project begins?
5. The Rail Corridor
2019 will be a big year along Encinitas’ rail corridor, as construction is expected to be completed on the once-controversial Cardiff section of the Coastal Rail Trail, as well as the city’s first quiet zone at the Chesterfield Drive crossing.
The Cardiff rail trail is expected to open in the summer. If you recall, there was a well-coordinated campaign against the current placement on the San Elijo Avenue side of the tracks, but the California Coastal Commission rejected an alternative plan on the west side of Coast Highway 101.
The city is also expected to begin work on a very highly anticipated pedestrian under-crossing at El Portal in Leucadia, which has been in the works for years. With no legal pedestrian crossings in the area, El Portal is expected to be a game changer for Leucadia and residents looking to safely access Coast Highway 101 and the beaches.
6. Cannabis and the 2020 elections
With the possibility of the state’s primary election moving from June to March, Encinitas residents could be in campaign mode by the second half of the year. And the biggest topic on the election docket? Cannabis.
A cannabis advocacy group successfully filed enough signatures in its referendum effort to require the city to allow various cannabis activities, including storefronts, deliveries, manufacturing and cultivation. The City Council, rather than adopting the ordinance outright, has put it in the hands of voters.
Back in 2017, when a local flower grower proposed using a section of his farm to grow cannabis, the debate was fierce. As the city moves closer to the 2020 race, expect that debate to rev up once more.
Also of interest will be who will challenge Blakespear for mayor, Councilman Tony Kranz in the newly formed District 1 and the currently vacant District 2 seat. If 2018 was a preview of district elections, expect partisan lines to be drawn.
Other storylines to follow:
Beacon’s Beach — Will the city move forward with a staircase at Beacon’s or will resident opposition be insurmountable?
Pacific View — Will this be the year that the long discussed plan to transform the former elementary school into a cultural arts and ecology center materialize?
Community Choice Energy — The city is set to release the results of its feasibility study into community choice energy in January, which could set the stage for the city and other North Coastal cities to join forces with San Diego to form a regional energy conglomerate.
Granny flat policy — Encinitas’ long-awaited accessory dwelling unit policy is expected to be released and voted on by the council in early 2019. The policy would give residents eight pre-approved ‘granny flat’ designs that would streamline the development process.