Editor’s note: Each of the candidates has received the same 10 questions. Their responses have been unedited and will be posted online as they are returned.
Name: Catherine S. Blakespear
Occupation: Attorney. My law practice centers around estate planning, which is drafting wills and trusts, doing probates and advising on trust administrations. I help my clients pass their assets and their values to the next generation.
Previous government experience:
I worked as a law clerk for a judge on a state appellate court. I have been on the Encinitas Traffic & Public Safety Commission for the previous four years.
After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, I was hired to work as a news reporter for the Los Angeles Times. I covered transportation, which sparked my initial interest in public policy and land use planning. I subsequently applied to and was hired by the Associated Press in Salt Lake City before the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. As a reporter, I covered all aspects of the Olympics, from infrastructure improvements in Utah, to Mitt Romney’s leadership decisions as head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to feature stories about the items left behind in the “lost & found” at the Olympics.
While working as a reporter, I decided to attend law school at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. I served as the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Law & Family Studies, one of the three student-led law journals. I clerked at the Utah Attorney General’s Office in their juvenile justice division, and was hired by the highly regarded law firm of Ray Quinney & Nebeker as an associate attorney. Before beginning work, I did a one year clerkship with a judge on the Utah Court of Appeals, researching and writing drafts and memos for use in legal opinions.
My husband and I moved back to my hometown of Encinitas with our two small children and I co-founded my own law firm, Blakespear & Smith Law Offices, which focuses on estate planning. I currently work as an attorney doing wills, trusts, probates, and trust administration.
I volunteered to represent the owner of Coral Tree Farm for no pay to protect the owner’s historic right to farm in Encinitas. My advocacy on behalf of her farm, coupled with my own personal interest in backyard food production, led to me requesting that the city forms an “urban agriculture” subcommittee so that the city’s codes could be updated to reflect the changing desires of residents for more local food production and local farming options.
- What prompted you to run for council or mayor?
Coming from a family that has been in Encinitas for almost a century, I care deeply about what our city will look like when my children are grown. I want Encinitas to be as great for my children as it was for previous generations. I see the important decisions that the City Council makes every week that affect our charm, long term solvency, and the feel of our community. I have a balanced, nuanced understanding of how to respect our history while also innovating and embracing improvements for our future.
- What do you feel are the three biggest priorities for the next city council, and how as mayor or council member would you help the council achieve those objectives?
- The most important decisions involve the city’s growth and development. I want developments that are in scale for their neighborhood and that build communities instead of degrading them. It’s important that we have leaders who have the skills and background to understand the nuances of how to accomplish this.
- Our streets need more than just re-paving! The “complete streets” plan has gathered dust on the shelves for years. Unless we have leaders who care about making it safer to walk and bike in our city, we will never get out of our cars — congestion and gridlock will only worsen. We need crosswalks, for instance across Saxony Road to the YMCA. We need dedicated pedestrian paths, where appropriate, so residents can safely walk to the beach and to local businesses. We need wider, up-to-date bike paths throughout the city. We need traffic calming. We need to clean up and utilize our rail corridor for pedestrians, cyclists and parking. As a member of the Encinitas Traffic & Public Safety Commission for the last four years, I’m uniquely positioned to know how to fight for this.
- The prudent management of the public’s money is the single most important city responsibility. I take this seriously. We need to continually ask city staff to do more with less. We need to make sure our expenses do not bloat and consume an ever bigger part of our city’s budget. We need to live within our means and make sure we do not take on too much debt, just as a responsible homeowner would do. The city has a budget surplus of $6 million this year after fully funding the rainy day fund, all core services and putting an additional $1 million into road paving. I look forward to maintaining this financially stable position.
- In 2016, the electorate will vote on the Housing Element Update, which is currently in its preliminary stages of public input. What do you think the housing element should reflect in terms of density, housing types and community character?
The housing element should comply with mandatory state laws and reflect the will of the community. I want any new housing to fit within existing neighborhoods and be appropriately scaled, with all necessary setbacks. I don’t think it is up to me, or any City Council members, to determine the placement of new housing but should be a reflection of the will of the people.
- City staff has contended that the housing element needs to include zoning to accomodate for the devlopment of more of 1000 “affordable” units to meet state affordable housing mandates. A number of residents feel the city could achieve it’s affordable housing mandates by providing amnesty for illegal dwelling units provided they be earmarked for a certain period of time for affordable housing. Where do you stand on this issue?
I would love a solution that simply counted our granny flats and magically we met our required housing numbers. Unfortunately this solution has been rejected by the relevant state agency because state law requires each city to zone for new affordable units. It’s irresponsible to promote an idea that gives false hope, and leads people to believe there is a simple and easy answer.
- The City Council recently received a report that showed that nuisance complaints stemming from the city’s downtown bar scene had decreased since increased enforcement began during the summer, but it also showed that two of the largest alcohol-serving establishments, Union and Shelter, consistently missed the mark during inspections. What do you feel needs to be done to continue to improve the downtown night scene and specifically what needs to be done in regards to the two bars that have been out of compliance?
We need to start issuing citations. We’ve been through the warning stage and need to up the ante for bars that aren’t following the rules and being good neighbors. This is really important for the quality of life of our downtown residents.
- The City is currently in the process of closing escrow on the purchase of the Pacific View Elementary School site for $10 million, which it will pay for with debt financing that will amount to $24.4 million (this includes the financing of the lifeguard tower) over the life of the bond repayment. Briefly state your position on the purchase, and, moving forward, what should the city’s next steps be with the site, and what priority should be giving to accomplishing those steps?
I strongly support the purchase of Pacific View so that this historic school site can be kept in the public domain, available for the residents of this city to enjoy in perpetuity. I’m proud of our city leaders who had the vision to make this investment.
We know that bluff-top property is not cheap. I don’t believe that $10 million for 2.8 acres of coastal property in downtown Encinitas is too much. The reality is that the city has the money to buy the property and fund all our core services. We do not need to cut ANY services based on this purchase.
Encinitas has a vibrant, engaged and very active arts community and we have inadequate space for them. We don’t have enough space for the visual arts, performing arts or creation of the arts. I don’t know what type of art facility will ultimately emerge but the decision should be made by our community members as a group and not the City Council members.
Pacific View has the potential for successful public-private partnerships that don’t exist for things like parks or road maintenance. I look forward to Pacific View being a gem of our community, like our library, the Senior & Community Center, and the many fabulous parks.
- How would you rate the city’s efforts with road and infrastructure maintenance and how much of a priority would it be for you as mayor or council member?
I’m very interested in updating our roads. It’s a top priority. (Please see the answer to Question 2). We need better bike lanes, more crosswalks, dedicated pedestrian paths, traffic calming along Quail Gardens Drive and other places, as well as sidewalk improvements. I’m the only candidate who has served on the Traffic & Public Safety Commission and this is one of my top priorities.
- What action should the city be taking to address the Leucadia rail crossing issue. Should the tracks be lowered similar to Solana Beach or should there be level crossings, and how much of a priority should this be for the council?
I support the Leucadia Streetscape Project, which involves improving the rail corridor and planting almost 1,000 trees. Trenching the railroad tracks is expensive. I am interested in hearing all proposals and weighing the pros and cons of at-grade crossings versus trenching. We should seek regional funding for a large infrastructure project like trenching. The rail corridor through Leucadia has tremendous potential for biking and walking under a lovely tree canopy. I care about improving Leucadia and its rail corridor.
- For the mayoral candidates, what do you see the role of an elected mayor as being and how would you put your personal stamp on the position?
- The performance of several high-ranking city staff members, namely the City Manager, City Attorney and high-ranking planning department officials, has been a steady talking point during the election. How would you rate the performance of these staff members, what can be done to improve their performance, or do you believe at this stage they are irredeemable?
As a member of the public who is not privy to the behind-the-scenes workings of the city government, I don’t have a fully formed opinion on this question. However, I do believe the planning department needs reform. A striking number of residents have touched our city government through the planning department and walked away enraged. I want to change this. I want to reform the planning department to reduce needless paperwork, provide consistency and mechanize routine applications, for instance a permit to install a new water heater. Why can’t this type of ministerial permit be obtained online? If you are interested in being part of the committee that helps reform the planning department please write to me at Catherine@blakespear4encinitas and I’ll put you on my list.
- Why should people vote for you?
I’m a pragmatic, moderate problem-solver who will be able to get things done for you. My family’s long history in Encinitas gives me insight and perspective about what needs to be protected. My legal background gives me the skills to read the code for myself, challenge city staff, demand reform, and spearhead innovation. My basic orientation is toward a smaller government. The government should only be involved in our lives when needed and for clearly justified reasons. I dislike the creep of government into more and more areas of our lives. My background on the Traffic & Public Safety Commission, and my advocacy as the pro bono attorney for Coral Tree Farm, is an example of how I’m already making a difference in Encinitas through understanding how the game is played and being an effective advocate.
I respectfully request your vote to serve on the Encinitas City Council.