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For over a decade, Encinitas resident Steve Nortons has been advocating for pedestrian safety improvements along La Costa Avenue. Photo by Fiona Bork
For over a decade, Encinitas resident Steve Norton has been advocating for pedestrian safety improvements along La Costa Avenue. Photo by Fiona Bork
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Residents, tired of delays, clear footpath along La Costa Avenue

ENCINITAS — After years of voicing safety concerns over a stretch of La Costa Avenue, nearly a dozen residents spent three weekends clearing overgrown plants and forming a dirt footpath alongside the busy street, giving roadside pedestrians additional space to avoid speeding vehicles.

In June 2023, the Encinitas City Council voted to fund the design phase for the La Costa Avenue Pedestrian Path, which will consist of a 4-foot-wide crushed granite pedestrian footpath, bicycle buffer lane, and 12 curb ramps along the southern side of La Costa Avenue.

But the project has stalled due to funding obstacles, forcing residents to take matters into their own hands. 

“We refuse to give into this. We can’t walk as we want down to the beach,” said Steve Norton, a resident who led neighbors in the plant clearings. “And I’m still an old body surfer, but the point is, (the city has) got to do something.” 

A pedestrian walkway next to a bicycle lane along La Costa Avenue. A group of residents formed a dirt path next to the roadway that will allow pedestrians a place to avoid speeding and erratic vehicles.
A pedestrian-only lane next to a bicycle lane along La Costa Avenue. A group of residents formed a dirt path next to the roadway that will allow pedestrians a place to avoid speeding and erratic vehicles. Photo by Fiona Bork

Norton, who moved into a Leucadia neighborhood in the late 1990s, said he regularly walks along the east-west roadway to South Ponto Beach, where he catches breaks a few times a week.

For the past 11 years, Norton has advocated for a sidewalk. Last year, his concerns reached new heights after his wife was struck by a vehicle while in the crosswalk at the intersection of Vulcan and La Costa.

“We were in the painted crosswalk, although the paint needed to be redone. And two days after the accident, which I teed off on the city about how derelict they were not refreshing the paint, Tony Kranz, the mayor, wrote me and said, ‘Oh, it was on our schedule.’ And the next day, it was painted,” Norton said. “Trying to be polite here, but that’s just B.S.”

Norton said city officials should prioritize building a walkway along La Costa Avenue, noting that other main roads, such as Leucadia and Encinitas boulevards, have pedestrian sidewalks.

“We no longer walk to the beach, just to be clear,” Norton said. “[My wife] will not walk to the beach with me.”

Desire Smith, a resident of a cul-de-sac off La Costa Avenue, said she walks her dog six to 10 miles daily, often walking down the busy two-lane road connecting Leucadia to Carlsbad. Smith said she was walking last week when she saw a car speed through a stop sign, nearly hitting a family attempting to cross the street from the north side of the road.

Residents concerned about pedestrian safety spent three weekends clearing brush to form a dirt footpath alongside La Costa Avenue. Photo by Fiona Bork
Residents spent three weekends clearing brush to form a dirt footpath alongside La Costa Avenue. Photo by Fiona Bork

“The car came barreling right through the stop sign, and he would have creamed the whole family,” Smith said. “He would’ve just wiped out the entire family.”

Councilmember Allison Blackwell, the District 1 representative for the busy stretch of La Costa Avenue, said she is “strongly advocating for this (pedestrian) path” and rallying the “council’s support to prioritize this project.”

In the meantime, Blackwell said the city has taken interim safety measures along the roadway, including narrowing vehicular lanes, marking bike lanes with green paint, adding a pedestrian area, installing a stop sign at Sheridan and La Costa, and reducing the speed limit to 30 mph.

But Smith said lowering the speed limit by 5 mph is a “band-aid” fix and will not stop drivers from speeding.

“‘Let’s put in a stop sign so they stop bothering us,’” Smith said. “We keep on bothering them still. And then they go, ‘Okay, well, let’s lower the speed limit.’ Don’t placate me. We’re not stupid. Are you going fix the problem or aren’t you?”

Regarding a lack of funding for the improvements, Blackwell pointed to two upcoming budget junctures during a June 12 meeting as possible opportunities to earmark unassigned dollars for the La Costa Pedestrian Path.

Councilmember Bruce Ehlers said he considers the pedestrian project particularly compelling because several residential developments planned for the area will increase the number of cars, bicyclists and pedestrians on La Costa Avenue. 

“It’s a high-priority project for Leucadia, and that’s coming from the District 4 council member,” Ehlers said. 

The 72 units at the Triton Encinitas Apartments at 1967 N. Vulcan Avenue, a project the council approved in August 2021, are currently on the rental market. The city’s planning department is also reviewing a permit application for The Cove, a proposed 42 single-family home development located west of the I-5 on the north side of La Costa Avenue, east of Sheridan Road and south of the Batiquitos Lagoon. The homes are expected to be available for purchase in September. 

The city is also reviewing a proposal for the 17-room La Costa Boutique Hotel, which would be adjacent to the Chevron gas station on La Costa Avenue. 

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