City taps coalition for Pacific View site

ENCINITAS — A preliminary proposal for an arts, culture and ecology center at the Pacific View elementary site from a conglomerate of local movers, shakers, singers and surfers — and everything in between — received an enthusiastic thumbs up from the Encinitas City Council.

The City Council voted 5-0 to select the proposal from the group that calls itself the Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance over another proposal that called for an outdoor commercial, dining and entertainment venue on the former elementary school campus.

“This site was purchased to be a home for our local arts community…and it is thrilling that all of the different groups … got together to create one cohesive plan,” Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “I can’t believe that it happened.”

The membership rolls of the EACEA, spearheaded by famed local surf researcher and author Garth Murphy, read like a who’s who of local Encinitas leadership, and many showed up at Wednesday’s meeting to speak in support of the proposal, which calls for a multi-faceted arts center that also includes cultural arts and ecological exhibits and activities.

Among those supporting the project were the members of the Grammy-award winning rock band Switchfoot and surfing legend Rob Machado, who each spoke at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I thought this was great opportunity to be involved,” said Machado, who is from Cardiff-by-the-Sea. “I have been involved for quite some time putting on events to help the beaches and preserve what a beautiful place we have, and I see this as an expansion of what we all have been doing.”

Murphy urged the council to select the alliance over another proposal by Radlab Designs and Sequoian Investments, which unlike the alliance’s proposal also included a $2.875 million letter of intent from the investment company.

“We don’t think it needs bars, restaurants and retail, we think it needs art, because art builds character, character is what makes leadership and leadership is what keeps the world afloat,” Murphy said.

Several residents expressed concerns about the plans presented Wednesday for the property, because many of them are incompatible with the property’s current zoning, which is for public and semi-public use. Uses such as retail would require the property to be rezoned and a local election.

But the council said that by selecting the Alliance, it allows them time to fine-tune their proposal before the council enters into a formal contract.

“So what I think we need to do is give them the opportunity to present their full proposal,” Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said. “We are not ready sign a lease until we have done our due diligence.

“This feels greats… but we still need to know you won’t become a liability to the city,” Shaffer said. “I have great confidence you will be successful.”

A companion report reviewed Wednesday by the City Council from the engineer tapped to study the site estimates that it would cost between $3 million and $4 million to bring the site, which has been shuttered since 2003, up to code.

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