The Coast News Group
San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones speaks to residents and officials during the State of the Community event on June 2 in San Marcos. Courtesy photo
San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones speaks to residents and officials during the State of the Community event on June 2 in San Marcos. Courtesy photo
Cities Community Community News Politics & Government Region San Marcos

State of the Community: San Marcos officials reflect back, look ahead

SAN MARCOS — Expanding the San Marcos downtown core, a return to in-person schooling and new industries were among the completed and future developments highlighted by the city government and school district leaders during the 2022 San Marcos State of the Community.

The event drew dozens of residents and local officials to the San Marcos Community Center, where they heard an overview of the positive changes in the city and the San Marcos Unified School District over the past two years as well as ongoing projects.

Following a resource fair with booths set up by local and city-level organizations, Mayor Rebecca Jones and San Marcos Unified School District Superintendent Andy Johnsen provided remarks, both praising the community for their resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic and coming out of it together.

“It’s apparent that San Marcos has emerged stronger than ever,” Jones said. “I’m proud of our residents, our businesses and our community advocates who have leaned in to help our city.”

Jones outlined the growth of the new downtown core, referred to as North City, developed in partnership with Cal State San Marcos and Sea Breeze Properties, which earned recognition from the California Association for Local Economic Development in 2020.

The reimagined downtown within the city’s University District Specific Plan area has sought to create an urban living atmosphere, with several new eateries and breweries, student housing and a climbing gym. The area has become a large cycling hub, serving as the base for the California Belgian Waffle Ride in late April, and hosts a farmers market each week.

In the coming weeks and months, the San Marcos Planning Commission and City Council will consider approving further changes to North City, including increasing the maximum building height in the area and approving plans for a 484-unit apartment building with commercial uses.

“It’s rare to have the opportunity to create a new downtown,” Jones said. “The North City area … is the eclectic crown jewel of San Marcos.”

The San Marcos Creek Project, the city’s largest capital improvement project to date, which seeks to reduce flooding, improve traffic and revitalize the creek, recently reached a new milestone with the opening of the Bent Avenue Bridge, according to Jones.

Lane broadening is also underway on the Via Vera Cruz Bridge and Via Vera Cruz itself as part of its project, with new bike lanes planned for Via Vera Cruz.

“We are also building a new neighborhood park, and a 1.2-mile nature trail with a scenic creek overlook. The entire creek project is expected to be completed in 2023,” Jones said. “We know when the creek project is done, it will definitely be worth the wait.”

The mayor also highlighted recent and forthcoming developments in the health care sphere. The opening of Scripps Coastal Medical Center along Campus Way in June 2021 brought additional primary care and radiology and laboratory services to North County, and the new Kaiser Permanente Hospital is expected to open in the summer of 2023.

“San Marcos is home to more than 4,000 businesses and more than 46,000 jobs. Five hundred more [jobs] are coming with Kaiser Permanente,” Jones said.

New developments are also underway in the San Marcos Unified School District, in the form of the new 44-classroom Richland Elementary School campus, planned to hold around 850 students. Construction is scheduled to finish in the fall, with students able to enter the campus over winter break, according to Superintendent Johnsen.

Health was a large focus of the past year in the San Marcos Unified School District, as students returned for a full year of in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we opened the school year, we made three commitments to our families — we were going to keep schools open, keep kids in class, and keep students and staff safe,” Johnsen said, describing how the district held 25 COVID-19 and flu vaccination events in coordination with the city to support this mission.

The superintendent also described the district’s work to support students in their learning goals, which proved to be difficult particularly for younger children who had been forced to learn solely via a computer. However, thanks to the work of staff and students, test scores remain in the top 20% of the state’s districts.

“Coming into this year, our students had some significant gaps. But our teachers worked really hard, staff worked hard, and students are very resilient,” Johnsen said.

The district also invested in additional counselors and social workers to ensure wraparound support for students, as the need began to outpace the resources available. Johnsen announced that to meet this need, the district has also received a $1.25 million grant that will support the implementation of “wellness units” in schools next year.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the district was able to make headway on new educational programs including career technical education (CTE), which involved a woodshop class building a residential dwelling unit for organization Wounded Warriors, and a new veterinary technology program at Twin Oaks High School.

“This is the kind of work we are doing with our students; they are doing real-world work that makes a difference,” Johnsen said.

Leave a Comment