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Catherine Blakespear
Catherine Blakespear has served on the Encinitas City Council. since 2014. Courtesy photo
Mayor's Minute Opinion Opinions

Mayor’s Minute: Top 10 for Encinitas in 2021

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones! As we start the new year it’s worth taking a moment to look back at the great things accomplished in 2021, despite the pandemic.

It’s also important to note how different this year feels. Last year in January the circumstances felt truly dire. We were in an indefinite lockdown, with vaccines barely available. COVID was skyrocketing, schools were closed, and hospitals were at zero capacity.

We’re not out of the woods yet, of course.

Here are the Encinitas’ Top 10 of 2021.

Last year we…

10. Started our innovative organics recycling program

In 2021, our residents and businesses started recycling their food waste into green bins for processing, instead of being buried in landfills. Our waste hauler EDCO has spent the last three years building a digester that can turn green and yard waste into natural gas and fertilizer.

We embraced this program from the start, offering kitchen caddies and compostable green waste bags to make habit-changing easier.

9. Adopted stronger short-term rental regulations

We updated our regulations for short-term vacation rentals (STVRs) for the more than 600 units that owners rent out in Encinitas.

We approved a three-night minimum and are looking at an overall cap of the number of units that can be transformed into STVRs. We also strengthened the regulations to make it easier to enforce consequences when there are violations.

8. Switched to renewable, cleaner energy for all

Encinitas adopted 100% renewable energy as the default electricity source for all customers and approved the county’s most ambitious building electrification ordinance to wean our future buildings off their dependence on fossil fuels. Electric energy is cleaner than gas energy, and we’re serious about reducing our city’s carbon footprint.

7. Created new, safer ways to walk and bike

The city continued to prioritize biking and walking projects, including approval of a new two-way cycle track on the west side of Highway 101 between downtown Encinitas and Cardiff, and improvements along Vulcan Ave and El Camino Real.

We continue to reconsider how public space is used to make it easier, safer and more pleasant to choose to go somewhere without a car.

6. Reopened businesses and public places

As rapidly and safely as possible, we reopened our city’s businesses, schools, beaches and parks. We also restored important community events like the Holiday Parade and Dia de Los Muertos and art night celebrations. Among the many assists that were offered, we supported local businesses by letting them use the city’s sidewalk right-of-way.

5. Memorialized Jody Hubbard and welcomed Joy Lyndes

Early last year, our beloved former City Councilmember Jody Hubbard was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer, and she passed away in June. She was known for her love of the outdoors and for improving ways to walk, bike and run in Encinitas. Jody was not only a force of nature, she was a force for nature. Jody’s seat on the Encinitas City Council was filled by the capable landscape architect Joy Lyndes.

4. Opened Olympus Park, our new Encinitas gem

In May, we opened our new three-acre Olympus Park in Leucadia, created on a hillside east of I-5. The designers included whimsical play structures, a dog park, a zipline area, basketball and pickleball courts, a skate area, a pump track for bikes, skateboards and scooters, and a yoga stretching area. Olympus Park also sports walking paths, a gazebo, a botanical garden and 76 newly planted trees!

3. Relocated our successful Safe Parking Program

We voted to continue and relocate our “Safe Parking” program for those without a home who still have a car to stay overnight in a protected and safe place, where they’ll receive counseling services. It’s operated successfully at the Leichtag Foundation property and now it’s moving to the parking lot of the Encinitas Senior & Community Center. The program helps people and hurts no one – I’m proud that we’ve done the right thing.

2. Crafted an inventive housing plan and approved an ‘agrihood’

For the first time in city history, the City Council approved an on-time Housing Plan that encourages the building of affordable homes for those who make lower incomes. Based on this successful plan, we approved the city’s first “agrihood” in Leucadia, Fox Pointe Farms. This exciting project consists of homes and apartments with an agricultural theme. We also approved several additional smaller housing projects that will provide homes in our high opportunity city.

1. Reinvented Highway 101 with Leucadia Streetscape

In 2021, we broke ground on the city’s largest infrastructure project, a complete overhaul of Highway 101 through Leucadia, and continued construction on a new pedestrian railroad undercrossing in Old Encinitas at El Portal.

When finished, it’ll be easier to get to the beaches by foot or bike, and the Coast Hwy in Leucadia will be much more walkable and family-friendly. This project with roundabouts, bike lanes, trees, parking pods, wider sidewalks and better drainage has been 15 years in the making, and we made it actually happen this year!

A final thought

As we begin 2022, my heartfelt appreciation goes to our City Councilmembers, city staff, and the generous people of Encinitas for working together to improve our paradise during these many difficult months. We should be proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

Let’s carry on, believing that our hope, energy and vision will create a safer and more fulfilling 2022!

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