ENCINITAS — Mayor Teresa Barth highlighted construction projects and a process for growth in her State of the City address April 5 at the Encinitas Community Center.
In a 20-minute speech with about 200 people in attendance, she said, “new energy at City Hall” can be attributed to recently hired directors of various city departments, as well as more cooperation between council members.
“There’s willingness to question how and why we do what we do,” Barth said.
Barth, who was elected to council in 2006 and voted in as mayor in November, said she’s striving to bring more transparency to the city since serving in her new role. As an example, she said recommendations for regional board appointments were made public before they were approved at a council meeting, rather than the “surprise” that it has been in the past.
Barth touted ongoing work on the 44-acre Encinitas Community Park and new facilities at Moonlight Beach, two projects that were approved last summer after years of delay.
The community park will feature a skatepark, dog park, soccer field and other multiuse sports fields when it opens summer 2014. A new restroom, concession building, public overlook and storage facility for lifeguard equipment are being built at Moonlight Beach and will debut in several months.
And she said that the Santa Fe pedestrian crossing that was unveiled to the public this past month has improved bicycle and pedestrian safety.
“This project represents the new approach that provides options for people — not just cars — to move about our city,” Barth said. She added that pedestrian crossings in Leucadia are in the works.
Barth noted council members just kicked off a series of strategic planning sessions, which will be held over the next two months, to settle on a larger vision for housing and land use. Simultaneously, the city is putting together a two-year financial plan so that initiatives identified during the planning sessions, “are funded and will be accomplished.”
On a related note, she said shifting demographics could affect the city’s tax base. Because more than 80 percent of the city’s general fund revenue comes from property and sales tax, Barth said that future housing development should be tailored to suit the millennial generation’s preference for walkable communities and smaller, intimate stores that promote interaction.
“Even in an era of Facebook and Twitter, people will continue to seek out places that provide opportunities to connect with friends, participate in local events and the larger community,” Barth said.
Barth added that future infrastructure spending to support development should be balanced with long-term costs like pensions obligations — a topic she didn’t go into detail with during the speech.
Additionally, she touched on the city’s growing demand for a community arts facility, citing the arts as an economic driver and the large number of artists in the area. She said the city should consider building an arts center at a vacant lot in Encinitas Ranch Town Center, or look at spots in downtown Encinitas.
Councilman Mark Muir called Barth’s speech “positive and productive.”
“I was inspired by her words, as I hope all of us were, to help us focus on working together in the coming year to build a better and safer community,” Muir said.
With well-known surf breaks and a great climate, Barth noted that Encinitas has attracted quite a few sports companies. She said these companies, dependent on clean water and air, illustrate how business and environmental stewardship can go hand in hand.
“Quality of life in Encinitas is cherished by its residents,” Barth said.