ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council has reached its annual three-week recess, during which time no council meetings are held and the council members typically are on vacation with their families.
What are some of the biggest issues that lie ahead for the council upon their return from vacation?
The Coast News has prepared a brief list of some of the top issues facing the city over the next few months.
- A new leader takes the reins — The day-to-day management of City Hall will be in the hands of a new city manager Sept. 1, when recently appointed Karen Brust assumes her post. Brust, an Olivenhain resident, formerly served as city manager in San Juan Capistrano and Del Mar and held a finance position with the San Diego Association of Governments. Brust will be asked to hit the ground running as the city prepares for the daunting task of finalizing a housing element plan that will past muster with the voters in 2016, as well as tackle other pressing issues, such as downtown’s public safety concerns, Pacific View’s short-term future and the design, approval and building of rail crossings that will complement a state coastal trail plan that will block access to the coastline with the creation of a fence along San Elijo Avenue.
- The Housing Element Update— The end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 are critical for the city’s long-running effort to update its housing element for the first time since 1992. Following an environmental review of the housing maps and draft policies it approved in the spring, the city must settle on a proposal that will both meet the state’s and region housing mandates and pass muster with an electorate that is somewhat skeptical of the plan to begin with. With the 2016 elections looming in the backdrop, the city’s housing element faces somewhat of an uphill climb.
- Downtown problems — For the second consecutive year, the City Council will await the end of the summer tourism season to determine the next steps to take in combating the alcohol-related and social ills that have plagued downtown. A split council before its recess voted against a request by Sheriff’s Capt. Theresa Adams-Hydar to add an additional deputy to patrol the beach and downtown- the majority argued that the deputy would be on the street too late to have an impact on the summer season. Rather, at its most recent meeting the council voted on a series of recommendations brought forth by a council subcommittee, including increased parking enforcement, code enforcement presence at downtown night spots and support of an alley-activation program proposed by Encinitas 101 MainStreet Association. The council will revisit the issue once enforcement results are in for the summer, sometime during the fall, at which time it could also choose to revisit the deemed-approved ordinance that was voted down last year.
- Pacific View Partner — The deadline for operating partners to submit letters of interest is Aug. 3, two weeks before the council returns to the dais. The Council will then have to choose a partner that will be responsible for designing, rehabilitating and operating the former school site. This partner will be responsible for stewarding the property in the short term, as the city determines the long-term vision for Pacific View. So far, at least one group, The Encinitas Arts Culture and Ecology Alliance spearheaded by local resident Garth Murphy, has emerged as a potential partner.
- An Intrepid alliance — Back in May, the City Council unanimously voted to engage in negotiations with Intrepid Theatre Company to build a performing arts center on a 0.7-acre site in the Encinitas Ranch Town Center long targeted for such a venue. The city has had several false starts over the years for that space, most recently in the mid-2000s. The city and the company, which currently operates out of San Marcos High School’s Performing Arts Center, could come to some agreement during the fall that could pave the way for Encinitas to have a long-coveted permanent performing arts space. But questions loom as to whether the company has the financial capacity to build the project up to the city and Town Center’s standards. Those will all be sorted out during contract negotiations.
- Does El Portal make the cut? — Encinitas will learn in August if it receives a grant that will help pay for a proposed undercrossing at El Portal Street in Leucadia. The City Council voted as part of its budget process to earmark $700,000 as a partial match for the $6 million project. The city last year applied for the grant, which is awarded through the California Transportation Commission’s Active Transportation Program, but was unsuccessful, but officials feel that the match — which is roughly 11 percent of the project’s cost — along with several other council policy approvals this year make the city a more competitive candidate. Leucadia residents have long called for some type of rail crossing to provide safe access to the west side of town, as well as to cut down on the number of citations that residents receive from Sheriff’s deputies for illegal crossings.