ENCINITAS — Encinitas has adopted the changes recommended by the California Coastal Commission to a proposed overhaul of North Coast Highway 101.
The project, commonly referred to as the “Leucadia Streetscape,” will dramatically transform the stretch of 101 into a bicycle-, pedestrian- and transit-friendly enclave complete with six roundabout intersections.
The California Coastal Commission unanimously approved the project in October, but with several recommended changes:
- A requirement that the city study travel time along any major coastal access roadway with significant congestion prior to modifying it. If the study shows that the project will impact coastal access, it “should be avoided,” according to the staff recommendation.
- A stipulation that any future roadway modifications include public access benefit enhancements that promote different transportation methods, including improved walking and biking access and increased public parking.
The City Council voted 4-1 at its Nov. 14 meeting to memorialize the commission’s stipulations. Mark Muir, who has voted against the streetscape plan, cast the lone dissenting vote.
Streetscape has been highly controversial in the city, and became one of the defining issues during the most recent election.
The plans call for six roundabouts between A Street and La Costa Avenue, bike lanes, pedestrian paths, wider sidewalks and crosswalks, bus facilities, on- and off-street parking, and the planting of more than 1,000 trees to restore the street’s famed tree canopy. North Coast Highway 101 would be narrowed from four lanes to two lanes in the project area, north of Leucadia Boulevard.
City officials estimate the project will cost $30 million and are weighing options on how to pay for it.
Supporters, which include a number of business owners, residents east of the railroad tracks and several prominent residents who live west of Coast Highway 101, believe the proposed reconfiguration of the main street will reclaim it for the community after years of being used by motorists to bypass traffic on nearby Interstate 5.
They also see it as a potential boon to the retail district, as the street will be beautified, traffic will slow down and possibly attract more people to local businesses. After decades of wait, the project is long overdue, they said.
Opponents argued that the streetscape would choke traffic along Coast Highway and force motorists onto residential streets like Neptune and La Veta Avenue, and will deter people from visiting the beach. They also said that the proposed changes are subject to Proposition A, the 2013 voter initiative that empowered the public to vote on major land use changes.
Voters are on the verge of electing the three officials who supported the plan: Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Deputy Mayor Joe Mosca and Planning Commissioner Jody Hubbard, who defeated Muir for the newly formed District 3 council seat.
Five people spoke on the item at the council meeting, including four project supporters who thanked the council for their support, and an opponent who said the project will jeopardize public safety.
Invoking the devastation from the recent fires in Paradise, resident David Smith said that the project will create a traffic bottleneck that will make it impossible for residents to evacuate during a fire.
“This is not neglect, this is gross neglect,” Smith said.