Encinitas leaders set priorities for 2017
Housing element, rail trail, homelessness among top priorities for newly elected council, county supervisor
January 6, 2017 •
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In the wake of November’s election results, Encinitas has sworn in an entire City Council sans one seat.
Catherine S. Blakespear was sworn in as Encinitas’ new mayor Dec. 13 after defeating opponent Paul Gaspar. Council members Tony Kranz and Mark Muir were re-elected to a second term by Encinitas voters, and are joined by council newcomer and former Old Encinitas planning commissioner Tasha Boerner Horvath, who replaces Lisa Shaffer, who did not seek re-election.
The election was unusual due to the fact that the mayoral and every council seat was up for grabs. Similarly, the election has left a council seat vacant due to Blakespear being elected mayor. To fill that seat, the council is planning on appointing a new member rather than relying on a special election. The council has sent applications for interested parties to apply and will interviews on Jan. 11.
Appointing someone to that council seat would save the city money and time, Blakespear said. Special elections cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the soonest the city could hold one would be in June.
“That’s six months from now,” Blakespear said at the end of December. “And I want us to get fully up to speed.”
Moving forward, the city’s biggest challenge seems to be getting Encinitas compliant with state housing laws. The previous housing element proposal, Measure T, failed at the polls despite being supported by nearly every candidate in the election.
Blakespear said that Measure T was likely rejected by voters because they didn’t see its effects — additional housing with the possibility of increased traffic and density — as adding anything positive to the community. Despite that, Encinitas is still the only city in the county that is out of compliance with state law.
“I think one of the difficulties that people don’t realize is that state housing policies require that cities grow,” she added. “The city isn’t allowed to say, ‘We are perfectly happy with our city as it is, and we don’t want to add more housing.’”
Additionally, Blakespear added that many voters were mostly informed by the No on Measure T campaign, which mobilized a staunch opposition to the proposal. To succeed, a new plan would need to have that group’s support.
The council is planning its first public meeting concerning a housing element update in mid-January.
Another high priority for the council is working out a plan for Encinitas’ rail corridor. Councilman Tony Kranz said that the Coastal Rail Trail — a track that is slated to run from Oceanside to downtown — has proven to be a controversial topic in Encinitas. Each city along the trail is responsible for its own segment.
Upcoming construction along Interstate 5 near the San Elijo Lagoon in Cardiff is bound to have a significant impact on the surrounding community, Kranz said. In spite of that, he added that the City Council will prioritize working through the issues involved with getting the Encinitas segment built — safe crossings, quiet zones and parking among them.
“We hope that things go smoothly and they can get out and get out as quickly and as quietly as possible,” Kranz said.
Kranz also said that traffic and transportation issues are high-priority items in Encinitas, as well as ensuring that the city is “walkable and bikeable.”
Newly elected Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath said that one of her biggest priorities is cleaning up the city’s municipal code — such as housing ordinances and zoning codes — to make it easier for homeowners and small businesses to make improvements, and to align future development with the city’s vision.
“We need to make sure that what our code says is the type of housing and development we want to see in Encinitas,” Boerner Horvath said. “I think there’s a discrepancy now with what’s in our code and what we want to see.”
Beyond the municipal code, Boerner Horvath said that environmental policies — which are important to the local community — will also be among her top priorities. But, she added, some of those goals might be put on the back burner due to the council’s need to focus on a housing element update.
As for Councilman Mark Muir, he wrote in an email that he never went into political office with an agenda other than to represent the city and community that elected him.
“I hope the city council clearly represents the values and priorities of our community in making it a better place to live, work and play,” Muir wrote.
Transition to county office
Beyond the city’s council and mayoral race, another Encinitas-based politician has been elected to office. Encinitas resident and outgoing mayor Kristin Gaspar unseated incumbent and Solana Beach resident Dave Roberts in the San Diego County Board of Supervisors District 3 election.
Going forward as a member of the board, Gaspar said one of her main priorities is homelessness within the county. She’s already had several meetings with local officials discussing the issue and the best ways to go about resolving it.
Homelessness is an issue that Gaspar shares with other local elected officials. Mayor Blakespear also stated that homelessness and housing insecurity are top priorities for her term.
Gaspar added that her business background lends her a unique perspective as to how the county can aid small businesses. Part of that, she said, is a focus on ensuring county operations are “streamlined, efficient and working well for our taxpayers,” as well as ensuring that county policies aren’t a barrier to business owners.
Although Gaspar said that environmental policies are important to her — as San Diego’s coastline and open spaces lend to the city’s quality of life — she wants to ensure that there is also “economic sense” attached to them.
“There’s always a sweet spot where environmental policies and protections can meet with smart economic decisions, as well,” Gaspar said.
San Diego’s District 3 comprises the coast from Del Mar to Encinitas, and stretches as far east as Escondido. Gaspar was sworn in on Jan. 2.
Mike Peterson is a North County freelance writer