ENCINITAS — Lower crime, better roads and projects galore underway and on the horizon: the state of the city is strong, Mayor Catherine Blakespear proclaimed Tuesday night at the annual State of the City Address.
“By all objective and subjective measures, the state of our city is strong,” she said. “Objective numbers show that we have low crime, and high property values. We are fiscally sound and responsible, and boast high quality public amenities and community gathering places.
“And just as important are the subjective measures,” Blakespear said. “What does it feel like when you interact with the city? Here I don’t think we’ve ever been in a better place, and we continue to improve.”
Blakespear’s 45-minute speech highlighted a number of the city’s accomplishments over the past year and included praise for city staff and community stakeholders for making it possible.
“We are all a community with each other,” Blakespear said. “Because we have a shared responsibility, we all have a stake, we are stakeholders in it.”
She also pointed to challenges that the city is facing, most of which revolve around the city’s lack of a housing element and the lawsuits that have stemmed from the lack of compliance.
When discussing the city’s budget, Blakespear said she wanted to see the city bring down its “general government” expenses, which comprise $12 million of the city’s $85 million in expenses.
About $1 million of these expenses, she said, are directly tied to the city’s legal expenses from fighting the multiple lawsuits.
“This is money I’d much rather be using to make Encinitas even better, and I’m hopeful that soon we’ll stop this bleeding,” Blakespear said.
Among the highlights, Blakespear noted that crime in Encinitas was down 17 percent year over year — one of the 10 safest cities in California — and calls for service in the trouble-prone downtown area were down more than 2 percent, which she attributed to Sheriff Capt. John Maryon’s proactive policing approach and the city’s $100,000 infusion into the law enforcement budget.
Blakespear also highlighted the steady improvement of the city’s roads, which she said was the result of the city accelerating roadwork during a time when oil prices were at historic lows.
“Just to be honest about this, putting money into paving is the epitome of a non-sexy project,” Blakespear said. “Residents notice poor quality roads but don’t tend to notice high quality roads. But the commitment of this City Council and the council before that authorized this budget is that we have roads that are worthy of the quality of our city. We’re a prosperous, classy city and having roads filled with potholes and crumbling pavement doesn’t suit our magnificence.”
Another “non sexy” project Blakespear said has made a major difference is a series of small, yet effective, projects to improve flooding problems in Leucadia. The city spent $75,000 to construct five sump locations where storm water collects and allows for city crews to collect the excess water and put it into storm drain systems.
“It’s one of those things that when it works, you don’t hear about it, but if it doesn’t work you definitely hear about it,” she said.
Blakespear also pointed to projects that are happening around Encinitas, sponsored by the city, other agencies and the private sector.
The long-awaited Leucadia Streetscape, she said, is almost underway, and has swelled to $23.8 million for the entire stretch of the project as a result of how long it has taken to get it underway. The first phase, which will improve North Coast Highway 101 between Basil and A streets and cost $9 million, is fully funded and scheduled to begin in 2018.
Blakespear also talked about the suite of projects underway along the coastal corridor sponsored by Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments, including the widening of the Interstate 5 and the double tracking of the rail corridor. She said her favorite feature of the projects is the park and ride and adjacent trail that will provide a crucial linkage for bikers to the San Elijo Visitors Center and give bikers a safe passage away from Manchester Avenue.
The mayor also pointed to two major private sector projects — the renovation of the former Coco’s restaurant on Encinitas Blvd. into the brand new Crack Shack location and the multi-million renovation of the Moonlight Marketplace and opening of the Lazy Acres Natural Market — as “perfect fits” into the city’s culture.
“These businesses epitomize what’s authentic and interesting about Encinitas, and fit perfectly within our city’s culture,” Blakespear said. “They are also examples of how change can make things better.”
Blakespear was introduced by her two children, Ava and Oliver, and her husband Jeremy.
Before her speech, Thomas Witman of Navy Federal Credit Union delivered the Chamber of Commerce’s community update, which highlighted various business developments throughout the community.
The event was hosted by the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce and emceed by San Diego-based real estate agent Maria Pena-Morales, who also filled in to sing the National Anthem.