Time for a new kind of funky

My name is Anton Gerschler. 

I live and work in Leucadia. I am old enough to remember coming down 101 from L.A. as a little kid to visit relatives and visit the zoo before Interstate 5 was even built.

On the way down, I would stare in wonderment at the animals surrounding “Noah’s Ark” restaurant (then located where the Ponto beach day use parking lot is today), thinking that this must be the entrance to the zoo. And more than one Sunday night return trip back up ol’ highway101 would grind to a complete halt in bumper to bumper traffic through Leucadia.

The only thing that has changed in the 55 years is the construction of I-5, and the traffic on 101 now snarls in Leucadia mainly southbound during daylight commuter hours.

I first lived in Leucadia after college in 1975, renting a house on North Vulcan while working as an editor at Surfing Magazine and commuting to the office located at the time in Laguna Niguel. I remember when the Seabluffe condos were built and we all complained because they put up fences that blocked access to a surfing spot we called “Tomato Patch,” so-called because tomatoes were grown there.

Then I went to law school and about10 years ago, I happily moved my law practice from downtown San Diego to “downtown” Leucadia in Mike and Barbara Shores’ office building located at the northwest corner of Leucadia Blvd. and North Coast Highway 101. About three years ago, I finally completed the circle by moving into a Seabluffe condominium just off 101 near La Costa Avenue.

My law firm has been a member of Leucadia 101 Main Street Association and I know many of the other members and hard-working volunteer directors and staff employees, especially Paula Kirpalani whom I personally credit for making a beer garden magically appear in my office parking lot one Saturday every summer when they stage the “Summer Fun on the 101.” Thank you, Paula.

For the annual Leucadia Art Walk, the group converts the parking lot into an art market for working artists. They do all of this entirely for the benefit of the local merchants (the great majority of them being owner/operated), but also for the benefit of the local community, local musicians and local artists — for the community.

Over the last year it has been a privilege to be one of the many dozens of people including several Leucadia 101 board members (Gene Chapo, Paul Ecke III and Fred Caldwell are just a few of the names that come quickly to mind) who took an active part in helping longtime Leucadia resident Mark Patterson and his nonprofit Surfing Madonna Oceans Project find a new home for his “Save The Ocean” mosaic right here in the heart of Leucadia. She is now quietly and comfortably on display on the wall between Café Ipe and Surfy Surfy at a location generously hosted by building owner and Encinitas real estate man Keith Harrison.

I share all of this because I think this gives me some standing to express a couple of personal opinions about the Leucadia Streetscape project which is seemingly stuck in bureaucratic limbo since obtaining all funding and final City Council approval in December 2010. That’s right, we are coming up on two years since final approval and the only ground broken so far was the dirt moved while yanking out a few overgrown trees and the planting of several new ones.

New trees are nice, but they are not going to calm the traffic along our treacherous 101 corridor.

Opinion Number One: It is time to get this project started. Traffic circles are not crop circles; the aliens won’t build them for us. We have let contracts and get this party started! It will be a mess during construction, for sure, but the sooner we get started, the sooner we get finished.

If you don’t know anything else about Encinitas politics, just know this…Leucadia is the city’s red-headed hippie step-child. Candidly, I have no idea how the Leucadia 101 folks managed to put together the millions of dollars in grant money necessary to fund the Streetscape project, but they did…a minor miracle in these tough fiscal times.

Leave that funding hanging out in the government coffers too long and someone will find somewhere else to spend it.

It seems that a handful of folks who probably read about Woodstock in a book and collect Devo hats have somehow managed to project the illusion of community opposition to the Leucadia Streetscape plan alive. It is an illusion also fostered by a couple of recalcitrant merchants on the corridor who seem slow to warm to the idea of the 21st century. We can call them the 21st century deniers. And we ask them, with the deepest respect, to please consider what is best for the entire Leucadia community, and not let temporal inconveniences or minimal encroachments negate the will of the vast majority of people who live, work and recreate here now and who will do so in the generations to come after us.

When it comes to vehicle traffic passing through our corridor, there is absolutely nothing to be nostalgic about. What we have now is a two-mile gauntlet of poor and obstructed sight distances that instantly converts from a car and motorcycle speedway one minute to a virtual War of the Worlds parking lot every time there is the slightest traffic hiccup on Interstate 5. This has become an almost daily occurrence since construction plans have been similarly stalled with well-intended but equally misplaced opposition to the expansion of Interstate 5 traffic lanes along Leucadia’s eastern “border.”

The new plan strives to slow down all traffic and create a safe and survivable environment for everyone, motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Merchants can’t serve customers speeding by in vehicles. Drivers don’t become customers until they get out of the car and start walking around. And drivers won’t get out of their cars and become pedestrians (customers) until they feel safe doing so.

Don’t blame poor emergency response times on the Streetscape plan. Blame that one on the Leucadia community, which in a similarly unenlightened frame of mind years ago passed up the offer to lower the railroad tracks through Leucadia. The resulting train horns, bells and crossing bars 25 times a day at Leucadia Boulevard, Vulcan and 101 have kind of taken the fun out of funky in this neck of the woods. Hopefully, the time spent stopped at a red light in Leucadia does not count against our time on Earth.

But as they say, that train has left the station. Maybe City leadership will eventually find a way to fund the long-promised pedestrian crossings across the above-grade train tracks in Leucadia. But meanwhile, we have the ways, the means, the plans and the approval in hand right here, right now to at least calm our motor vehicle traffic corridor and discourage the Interstate 5 de-tourists.

Opinion Number Two: Let the de-tourists know now that Leucadia is no longer a convenient I-5 shoo-fly. Think about it, do you ever get off on Via de La Valle to plod through downtown Del Mar in order to get around a traffic stoppage on southbound Interstate 5? Heck no, you stay put on the freeway and just tough it out.

My one personal suggestion for the implementation of the Leucadia Streetscape plan is to start construction with the first traffic circle at the north end of the project at La Costa Avenue and get southbound de-tourists used to the idea that Leucadia is no longer just two additional lanes of southbound Interstate 5.

And if it were up to me, I’d put up signs on southbound 101 at La Costa and northbound at Encinitas Boulevard that say “Local Traffic Only” or “Local Traffic Speed Limits Strictly Enforced” or “Welcome De-Tourists To Leucadia: Not” or “Speeders, Motorcycles Without Mufflers, Bicyclists Not Riding Single File & Anyone Playing Music In Their Vehicle That Anyone Else Can Hear Will Be Tazed & Cited.”

But maybe something more Leucadia-ish might be better, something like, “All Vehicles Yield To Tie Dye.”

Seriously, it’s time to finally get this Streetscape project moving off the drawing boards and into reality. If you don’t know what the plan actually entails, take a look on line at the traffic-calming plan at leucadia101.com/Streetscape.html. Or better yet, stop in at the Leucadia 101 Mainstreet Association office at 386 North Coast Highway 101. They have a detailed display of the entire project and all the information you’d ever want to know. Paula also stocks a cool collection of Leucadia 101 tee shirts and stickers.

That’s what I did when I wanted to know what this plan is all about, and I have to tell you, it took some real effort to get my mind around the idea of driving past a diagonal parking spot, then backing into it. But it is a method that has been tried and proven elsewhere as being a safe way to slow the pace of traffic while creating maximum safe parking into a confined area.

Yes, the new street and parking design is quirky, even strange. That should actually please many Leucadians, and it will definitely take some getting used to by residents and visitors alike. But as Mark Patterson once memorably said to me, “Being different is what makes Leucadia Leucadia.”

Anton Gershler is a Leucadia resident.


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