Above: A city rendering of the final park design for the Standard Pacific Park. Courtesy photo
ENCINITAS — More often than not, major community amenities that come before an elected or appointed board in Encinitas are met with marathon hearings, fractious public comment and contentious votes.
And then there was the June 6 Planning Commission meeting, where appointed officials, city staff and audience members used terms like “feel good” and “very excited” and “no complaints.”
The hearing was for the approval of Standard Pacific Park, a proposed amenity on the southeast corner of Piraeus and Olympus Streets in Leucadia that has been in the works for nearly two decades.
And the Planning Commission enthusiastically gave its stamp of approval to the project, voting 5-0 to approve the major use permit, design review permit and coastal development permit for the ambitious neighborhood park.
“This is what every community should want, it’s a beautiful park,” Commissioner Kevin Doyle said. “It will be the best park in the city.”
“I’d like to see it built as quickly as possible before my kids are too old to use it,” Commissioner Al Apuzzo said.
As part of the approval of the Standard Pacific residential development, which surrounds the park, the city purchased the sloping, 3.1-acre property in 2000 with the intent to transform it into a park for the neighborhood east of Interstate 5 and north of Leucadia Boulevard.
Over the years, though, the land sat vacant and fenced off, as the city moved forward with other park projects, including the 44-acre Encinitas Community Park in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
But staff began working on the project in earnest in 2016, soliciting community input in a series of public workshops and meetings, which ultimately led to the final design.
That design includes a basketball/pickleball sports court, a dog park, a skate park structure, an “adventure path” up the 68% grade slope between the western and eastern segments of the park, a 100-foot zip line, playgrounds, shade structures and terraced seating.
But officials said the most unique amenity in the park is the all-wheel pump track, a bicycle track with rolling jumps and turns that, according to one website, “teaches the basic skills of carrying momentum, balance and speed by using your arms and legs to pump your bike/board/scooter around the track.” The track can be used by riders of all levels.
“I am super excited about it, I can’t wait to deliver this to the community because it was so wonderful working with them,” City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Director Jennifer Campbell said. “To be at a community meeting and literally we got a round of applause several times, that was a great feeling.”
“If you think about sports arenas, they always get fancier and better, don’t want sports arena from 20 years ago, you want the one that’s now,” Campbell said.
While the park pushes the envelope further than city has ever taken a park, certain elements of the approval date back to the 2000s, when the community desired to make it a park largely for the neighbors, not a community park like the much larger recreation areas such as the Community Park.
Standard Pacific’s development is largely striped for no parking, and as part of the approval, the park has no public restrooms and limited curb-side parking, which is by design to limit the users to the surrounding community.
Commissioner Bruce Ehlers requested that as part of the approval, the conditions be reiterated into the record.
“It’s designed to serve the half-mile radius around that park, specifically it’s not supposed to have off-street parking because it’s a neighborhood park,” Ehlers said. “My suggestion was make a friend in the neighborhood and go park in their driveway.”
The lack of parking, however, doesn’t preclude the public from using the park, commissioners said.
Beyond that discussion, the park’s approval came with only one “gripe” from the public.
“The biggest gripe has been, consistently, it’s been 19 years can we have our park now?” said Elizabeth Brady, a parks and recreation commissioner who lives in Leucadia.