The folly and fallacy of Leucadia Streetscape

Leucadia Streetscape started out on the wrong foot and hasn’t been in step since. 

The City proceeded without the public’s input or permission and retained outside consultants who developed a plan that’s in keeping with the city’s and the Leucadia 101 Main Street Association’s goals. Only when the plan was already shaped did the city seek input from a small minority of community members. We’re going to do this, the city said, how would you few people like to tweak it?

The claim that the majority of Leucadians favor Streetscape is false. A private, professionally conducted poll showed that 71 percent of residents west of 101 knew nothing about the plan. When informed of its principal goals and features, 81 percent said they opposed it.

As a commercial corridor, North Coast Highway 101 has three constraints that Streetscape fails to address or addresses inadequately. Comparisons with Solana Beach are apt:

Railroad Right-of-Way. The distance from the tracks to the 101 pavement through the Streetscape corridor is about 50 feet. That space is portrayed as sacred. South of E Street in Encinitas, the distance from the tracks to the rear of the nearest building west is about 20 feet. Where the tracks double, the distance from the eastern track to the parking lot retaining wall east is about 15 feet. So it appears that 30 to 35 feet of the right-of-way between the 101 pavement and the tracks in Streetscape’s corridor should be available for bike and walking paths and landscaping. That would leave two northbound vehicle lanes on 101, making northbound turns from T intersections safer.

Solana Beach trenched the tracks, opening a broad space on the west side for a path, benches and landscaping. Their 1.4-mile corridor has five pedestrian and/or vehicle crossings. By that standard, Streetscape’s 2.5-mile corridor should have nine crossings. It will still have three. Streetscape adds none.

Narrow Commercial Zone. Save for a few scattered deep lots, the commercial zone in the Streetscape corridor is narrow. Long stretches are only 80 or 90 feet wide. The zone broadens with some consistency from near Athena Street to A Street, but is still very narrow compared to almost all of Solana Beach’s commercial zone. Unless the city plans to gobble up residences west of 101, Streetscape’s corridor is constrained commercially by its width. There’s not much horizontal space for the “bigger, grander buildings” that consultant Dan Burden predicted Streetscape will bring.

Limited Parking. Although Streetscape’s corridor is 78 percent longer than Solana Beach’s, it has 34 percent fewer public parking spaces. Few businesses without off-101 parking prosper in the Streetscape corridor. The project adds only 29 to 38 parking spaces over 2.5 miles, and none for more than four blocks north and south of Leucadia Boulevard. One of Streetscape’s goals is to increase retail trade — unlikely without placing parking lots along the corridor.

Other points on increased retail trade: With no new rail crossings, customers east of the tracks have no more access to Streetscape corridor retailers than now. The project’s traffic consultant projected that up to 7,000 car trips per day will be diverted off 101. Four of the five roundabouts — three of those to be one lane — will be crammed into 8/10 mile at the north end of the project, forming more of a barrier than a welcome. Just where will the retail bonanza come from?

The city is driven to develop residential areas and commercial zones because it needs the sales and property tax revenue to service enormous bond debt, pay excessive salaries and pensions, and cover operating expenses. Eighty-one percent of General Fund revenue comes from sales and property taxes.

Streetscape is particularly appealing to the city because the $20 million funding comes from TransNet, which is countywide sales tax revenue. The city expects great benefit for little cost.

To help bring Streetscape about, the city annually gives $30,000 of taxpayers’ money to the Leucadia 101 Main Street Association, an ostensibly non-profit group of merchants, commercial real estate owners and developers. The city also contracts Peder Norby at $105,000 of taxpayers’ money annually to be Highway 101 coordinator and to play seven other roles, all of which strongly influence Streetscape. The city has made Norby a one-man interlocking directorate.

If the Streetscape plan itself were as good as the scheme that brought it about, few people would object. The city has the fully funded opportunity to do it well. Why do it poorly?

Doug Fiske lives west of 101 in Leucadia



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