ENCINITAS — As a coastal community, Encinitas residents have unique reason to be concerned with global warming’s impact on rising sea levels, City Council members Tony Kranz and Lisa Shaffer said.
But to date, the city’s response to the looming threat has been minimal.
“We are concerned that we are not doing as much as we should to address our vulnerability to sea level rise on our bluffs and beaches,” Shaffer said at the Dec. 17 city council meeting. “We recognize that the environmental commission has it in its work plan but they haven’t really gotten a lot of traction on it.”
To that end, the City Council recently formed a subcommittee to address the impacts of sea level rise on the city’s bluffs and beaches.
The council voted unanimously to create the body, which will consist of two council members and two environmental commissioners, who will meet to develop a city plan to address rising sea levels and its effect on Encinitas’ coastline. The subcommittee will actively recruit neighboring cities, organizations and local coastal property owners to join in on the discussions.
Encinitas has around 300 homes and structures that abut the coastline, including the Self Realization Fellowship Temple and its popular meditation garden, which attracts 100,000 visitors annually.
Current sea level research indicates that California could see as much as a 55-inch rise in sea level over the next century, which would threaten a number of the local beaches and several homes.
While the final vote was unanimous, there was some dissent in regards to the scope of the subcommittee.
Shaffer and Kranz’s original recommendation included the subcommittee drafting a proposal for a consultant study so it could be included for consideration in the 2015-16 capital improvement budget talks.
This was met with resistance from Councilman Mark Muir, who said he believed the best course of action would be for the city to re-engage with regional groups that were already undertaking climate change and sea level rise discussions, such as the San Diego Association of Governments, as opposed to setting up a group with the expectation that it would need to hire a consultant.
“I do believe we do need and plan and need to start planning 100 years out,” Muir said. “My only concern is when you start talking about hiring a consultant, that kind of turns me off… I am not going to approve a recommendation that includes leaning a group to hiring a consultant.”
The idea of a consultant also gave Mayor Kristin Gaspar pause.
“Typically in the city of Encinitas, we don’t do very well with consultants,” Gaspar said. “I don’t want to set up something with the expectation that the funding will be there.”
Kranz and Shaffer said that expectation wasn’t that the subcommittee would have any authority to authorize a consultant study, but if the discussions led to that conclusion, the council would make the ultimate decision.
“There are big changes happening in the area, and my interest is not in creating a research team or another study,” Shaffer said. “We need to take action to protect our coastal infrastructure.”
Several residents and stakeholders in the community supported the city’s measure and pledged their support to the subcommittee.
Jon Corn, an attorney representing the Sea Coast Preservation Association, actually requested that the subcommittee include a member of the public, but the council opted to keep it at a four-member body.