Mired in a bureaucratic morass

Among the many bonehead moves Encinitas City Councils have made since 2005: Raised employee pensions 35 percent, hired a weasel city manager, bought land and built a park that will cost about $80 million, bought a school site that will cost about $20 million, built a $1.1 million garage at Moonlight Beach, committed to building a lifeguard station that will cost about $6 million, hired a new city manager whose total pay is about $300,000.

Given the city’s track record, I thought if I suggested something really easy, the staff and council would quickly get it right. Nope.

I started surfing in Encinitas in 1966. Because I wasn’t then a local, I used the “Surfing Guide to Southern California” to find the breaks.

I surfed Cardiff Reef, Swami’s and what the guide and locals called Beacon.

Sometime after incorporation in 1986, the city erected a sign that named Beacon “Beacon’s.”

That disagreed with what I knew, so I looked into the history.

I went to the San Diego County Historical Society, and I got microfilm from the California State Library. I found:

1) A 1939/40 Coast and Geodetic Survey nautical chart.

It showed seven aeronautical lights from Dana Point to Point Loma. One was on the bluff at 33 degrees 4 minutes north latitude.

That spot is now the overlook at the north end of the Beacon parking area. Concrete struts that were probably the footing for the light tower are still visible there.

2) A February 26, 1942 Coast Dispatch newspaper notice that read: “Persons desiring to play safe against possible blackout can find assistance by looking for the ray from the beacon light in the north end of the district. . . . If the beacon is not lighted at night, do not turn on your own light.” Following the Pearl Harbor attack, San Diego County instituted an ordinance that required periodic blackouts as a safeguard against attacks by sea or air. The beacon cited in the paper was undoubtedly the Leucadia aeronautical light shown on the C&GS chart.

3) A 1948 USGS topographical map of Cardiff, Encinitas and Leucadia. On the bluff between the foot of what was then Fulvia Street (now Leucadia Boulevard), but closer to the foot of Jasper Street, the map showed a tiny circle it labeled “Beacon.” It had to be the C&GS aeronautical light the Coast Dispatch called a beacon.

In mid-2013, I showed the surfing guide and the other documents to then-Mayor Teresa Barth and then-parks and recreation leaders. They acknowledged the documents’ accuracy but took no action to correct the city’s naming error.

Enter City Manager Karen Brust. She correctly named Beacon Beach in her newsletters. I emailed her, attached my documents summary, copied the council and asked Brust to correct the sign and city records.

She passed the buck to then-acting Parks and Recreation Director Jim O’Grady. I showed him the documents. He did his own research by contacting several sources that got here too late to know the history. He concluded sticking with the wrong name was OK and recommended that I gather popular support and appeal to the City Council.

I replied it’s the city’s responsibility to fix its mistake. No reply from Brust despite my request.

My point: To perpetuate the error disrespects the history.

It dishonors the memory of thousands of air and sea navigators who used the beacon as a guide, and it especially dishonors the memory of Leucadia residents who looked to the beacon to know if they should black out their home lights to frustrate attacks by sea or air during World War II.

My larger point: Our city government is dysfunctional. They get the big and little things wrong. They can’t even fix a simple mistake. They’re mired in a self-serving bureaucratic morass. Our city government needs creative disruption. We need clear thinking and decisive action that represents the majority of residents.

There are three ways to be heard by city staff and council: winning lawsuits (Cummins, Stern), ballot initiatives (Prop A) and mass uprisings (720 Balour Drive, Cardiff Rail Trail). Otherwise, residents get stonewalled. Maybe that will change come November.

Doug Fiske lives near Beacon Beach in Leucadia.

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