ENCINITAS — A familiar refrain was heard loud and clear at the City Council meeting on Aug. 15, as residents of a rural Cardiff-by-the-Sea neighborhood rallied to preserve the character of their community.
With creeping vegetation and a tree-lined canopy, its residents covet Crest Drive’s rural setting. Many attended the council meeting along with other supporters to protest the city engineering department’s finding that a proposed single family home at the corner with Birmingham Drive would have to include a curb, 7-foot-wide concrete parking and pedestrian walkway.
In the process, 13-feet of natural landscaping would have been removed and the street widened.
While the council voted unanimously to grant the appeal, some residents in other neighborhoods worry that no consistent policy is in place to prohibit another similar finding by the engineering department.
Masih Maher, a senior civil engineer with the city, and who worked on the project, said the council made it clear that so-called improvement development policies should be revisited. “When that will happen is at the council’s discretion,” he said.
In fact, Councilman Mark Muir requested that the full council review existing standards and make changes if necessary.
“There’s a great reason why we have these appeals because we can look at things on a case-by-case basis, and we can let common sense prevail,” Deputy Mayor Kristin Gaspar said during the Aug. 15 council meeting.
However, some residents are skeptical of that approach. “We have a curbed-gutter sidewalk, everything the same mentality in our planning department,” said Linda Durfree, an Encinitas resident. “I lived in Leucadia and we had the same issues,” she said. “When one new house is planned it’s an open door for the planning department to change the face of the neighborhood.”
“You shouldn’t have to get 400 signatures on a petition and file an appeal and meet endlessly with (city) staff just to have common sense win out,” said Don Robson, a Cardiff resident who lives close to Crest Drive. “That should be the exception, not the rule.”
Kevin Farrell, the appellant, agrees. An architect, who filed the appeal on behalf of the property owners, said the requirements didn’t make much practical sense.
According to the city planning and engineering department, all current projects are moving forward unless it hears otherwise from the council. With the election less than two months away, it’s unlikely that any decisions to change the existing standards will be reached.
Yet, the current council indicated it is amenable to preserving the natural landscapes of each neighborhood. “We have to make sure our standards meet our community,” said Councilwoman Teresa Barth during the meeting. “It’s not about lowering our standards. It’s about raising our standards to the level that our community expects our standards to be, and that’s to protect our community character.”