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News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

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Quality of life at center of vote

“For every quality of life issue there are at least two sides,” Encinitas City Councilman James Bond said.

Encinitas residents will get to choose those sides Nov. 4 when they go to the polls to elect a new City Council. Quality of life issues hold great stake in this election, and while most candidates have the same idea of what those issues are, there is little overall consensus on what should be done about them.

The one matter on which most candidates agree is taking much needed action on what is known as the Hall Property. The city purchased the property in 2001 and finally came to a decision Oct. 22 for the 44-acre lot to become an active park, complete with a skate park, dogpark, baseball fields and a swimming pool, among other amenities. The issue of an active park, on which residents are divided, is one Jerome Stocks, current mayor of Encinitas, voted in favor of. If re-elected, Stocks said the next step would be phasing.

“It cannot be accomplished all at once, and we will need to figure out how to best proceed from here. In other words, what is phase 1, phase 2, etc.,” Stocks said in a phone interview before the election.

Bond also voted for the measure, admitting that while some residents are upset about the park because of anticipated traffic delays and tall, bright lights, Encinitas is in need of an active park, stating that most of the area parks are “passive parks” equipped with walking paths and grassy areas.

Another openly debated topic concerning residents’ quality of life is sand replenishment. Stocks, who cowrote Proposition R in 1998, said he believes implementing a sand dredging program will benefit the city by increasing recreation. When passed, Prop. R tacked on 2 percent to the 8 percent transient occupancy tax (TOT) and designated the extra funds for sand replenishment. Bond said he supports the now-proposed Prop. K, which would put summer rental homes on the list of establishments required to pay the 10 percent TOT (as of the June elections, summer rentals are only required to pay 8 percent) and again, the extra 2 percent would be allocated to sand replenishment.

On the other side of the debate, candidates Joe Sheffo and Bob Nanninga both strongly oppose Prop. K, citing in Sheffo’s blog, www.sheffo4council.com/blog, that sand replenishment will create artificial reefs that will alter surfing conditions, and that there are more pressing concerns such as “overhauling the embarrassingly dilapidated lifeguard station at Moonlight Beach.”

Traffic control was also on the top of many candidates’ agendas. Harriet Seldin noted that there are not a lot of good answers out there yet, but if elected would weigh the opinions of experts and citizens to come up with different solutions.

“We need to be careful about future growth so that it doesn’t result in traffic gridlock,” Seldin said.

Bond and Stocks also name traffic as a main concern, but offer specific solutions to address the issue. Both support widening Interstate 5 in order to curtail traffic on the surface streets of Encinitas.

“It is an important aspect of improved circulation,” Stocks said.

Bond said that some of the fixes recently proposed are not reasonable, and is waiting for a response to a submitted request for a study of the city’s roads to make any further judgments. The study should determine which roads are most impacted and give possible solutions for alleviation. He said compromise would be an inevitability, as some land would need to be given up in order to make way for a widened freeway. If re-elected, Bond said he would focus on improving Santa Fe Drive and Encinitas Boulevard by equipping them with safer walkways, for example.

Water desalination is an issue Seldin said she believes needs to be addressed again by the council, which voted 3-2 against a measure on the issue. Water desalination, Seldin said, would offer a diversified source of water for the city. She said that if elected, she wants to make it a reality. Cutting back on water usage is another way Seldin said she would address the city’s water concerns.

While these issues are far from being resolved, Bond said that since first being elected in 1992, many measures have been taken by the council that promote quality of life. They are the things that a lot of residents take for granted, he said, such as regular street sweeping and road paving. Bond also noted the $10 million in reserves Encinitas has acquired during his stay in office to weather economic downturns, and the fact that the council voted to build the park on the Hall Property instead of a Costco — an offer they refused despite of its promise of increased revenue for the city.

The four other candidates for city council, who could not be reached by deadline, are Rachelle Collier, incumbent Maggie Houlihan, Anthony Brandenburg and Doug Long. Although she dropped out of the race in early October, Betsy Aceti’s name will also appear on the ballot.