As designs for a series of improvements along Birmingham Drive near completion, the Cardiff-by-the-Sea community has begun to make plans to save community-based sidewalk art from the 1980s that runs along the street.
The city of Encinitas released a timeline for completion of the design phase of the Birmingham Drive Streetscape Project in March. The project seeks to improve mobility and safety along the street with the construction of new sidewalks, bikeways and a roundabout, as well as the movement of utilities underground.
However, the current sidewalks on Birmingham hold messages and memories from the community. In the 1980s, the “Own a Piece of the Walk” project allowed individuals and businesses to buy 1-foot sections of concrete in order to help fundraise for the creation of a sidewalk, said Ken Harrison, who was president of the Cardiff Town Council at the time.
“At the time – this was before cityhood – there was nothing but a dirt path going down, which forced most people to walk out in the street to go down to the beach,” Harrison said.
Community members wanted to improve the area, but they were not able to get funding from San Diego County, said Encinitas City Councilwoman Joy Lyndes.
“So the Cardiff Town Council came together and got the community together to fund the improvements that were needed,” Lyndes said. “So it was really a very important example of a community coalescing behind something that was important to them.”
The fundraising project was inspired by the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (now TCL Chinese Theatre) in Los Angeles, where celebrities put their names and handprints in the cement, Harrison said.
When the Cardiff Town Council had enough money for half of a block, it would pour the concrete and people would come to write their names, put their handprints or draw something in the wet cement, he added.
Irene Kratzer, who had just moved to Cardiff in 1981, bought a square and participated in the project.
“I think it’s unique to Cardiff and it was a wonderful thing that the Town Council did,” Kratzer said.
As the city addresses the safety and roadway improvements along Birmingham, Lyndes said it is important that it also capture this part of Cardiff’s history. She added that preservation is fundamental to what she has practiced throughout her career as a landscape architect with a certificate in historic preservation.
“How do we make sure we capture the stories of the layers of history of our community because so many people have touched this land in so many ways before we arrived here,” she said. “And I just think it’s just so awesome that we have examples left in our community of things like this, where it’s a documentation of this really amazing event.”
Alison Wielechowski, executive director of Cardiff 101 Main Street, said the organization is working with the city to develop a specific project to memorialize the sidewalk art.
Cardiff 101 Main Street is a nonprofit organization that assists local businesses and the community, Wielechowski said. It is also dedicated to historic preservation as part of Main Street America, she added.
Wielechowski said Cardiff 101 Main Street is creating a subcommittee for this particular project with members from its own Cardiff Arts Coalition and the Cardiff Town Council, a separate organization.
At the moment, Wielechowski said, no specific plan has been developed, but it does want to ensure that these panels are not lost. She added that the organization needs to coordinate further with the city in order to get the subcommittee moving.
“It’s really wonderful to see how this community pulled together to create that and how we can, not necessarily maintain it where it is, but find a location for it, see how we can take those pieces and bring it into Cardiff in a way that will honor the intent of the creation of the project,” she said.
Julia Shapero is an Encinitas freelance writer.
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