Thoughts on Leucadia Streetscape

I’ll come right out and say it: I’m anti-development.

I feel the same way about developers that the suffragette mom in Mary Poppins feels about men: whatever you might think about them individually, “as a group they’re rather stupid.”

Yeah, yeah, not all development is bad. It’s just that I’ve been watching the development of Encinitas for over forty years, and developers have not been responsible for much of anything positive during that time.

But in our community lately, there’s been a problematic tendency to conflate the notions of development and of improvement.

They’re not the same thing. This confusion reached a peak during the controversy over the Cardiff segment of the Coastal Rail Trail. During that controversy, the No on Rail Trail group pretended to be “anti-development” and “pro-environment” as a sneaky strategy to maintain the car-centric status quo there. To me, bike paths and walkability are in no way “development.” In fact, they’re the opposite, because they promote environments with fewer cars, less pollution, and more trees. So, I don’t understand how Encinitans can pass Prop A, oppose Measure T, and then argue against lane diets, roundabouts, and bike paths. Folks: development means McMansions, strip malls, suburban sprawl. It doesn’t mean bike paths, walkability, and roundabouts — those things are improvements.

Whereas I gag when I see a new mall going in, I’m cheered by the construction of bike paths.

This is why I support the basic plan for the Leucadia Streetscape project.

The reduction of vehicular lanes to one on each side will be a positive development in the long term, even if there is a period of adjustment needed.

Even if traffic becomes worse along Highway 101, this will only prompt drivers to stay on the freeway during rush hour (as they do in Del Mar), instead of using the 101 as a freeway surrogate.

Most importantly, it will, over time, encourage local residents to leave their cars at home and use their bikes instead. In future summers, when tourist families arrive from Phoenix in their incredibly large SUVs, hopefully, they will be able to park them for the week and rent bikes to get around instead.

As for roundabouts, they’re a no-brainer. I lived in Northern Europe for many years, and I saw how they prevent traffic jams by keeping traffic flowing while also doing away with the energy and maintenance of street lights. Statistically, they’re also much safer, as they eliminate the possibility of the deadly “T-bone” type of accident that occurs at intersections.

So, the roundabouts in the Streetscape plan will be an improvement. My only caveat is that I think the plan needs to be reviewed to make sure there aren’t too many of them bunched closely together at the north end of Leucadia.

Shouldn’t one of those perhaps be moved southward to a cross street such as Daphne?

Fully separated bike lanes need to be the ultimate goal for the corridor, not just bike lanes created by painted lines. At present, unfortunately, this is not part of the Streetscape plan. City planners must understand that if fully separated bike lanes are left out of Streetscape, they must absolutely be part of the Coastal Rail Trail, when that’s built.

The reason is that  “transportation” cyclists, not the spandex-racer cyclists, will ultimately be the ones who reduce traffic and greenhouse gases. These transportation cyclists — grandmothers and shoppers and kids — need bike paths completely separated from car lanes, so they can use them in total safety. That needs to be a central goal for the entire coastal corridor, not just Leucadia.

As for parking, when there are fewer cars on the road (and more bikes), we won’t need as many parking spaces.

As for the trees, yes, it will be a shame to lose a few of those glorious eucalyptus.

But hundreds of new trees will be planted in place of those few, hopefully trees that are less of a fire hazard than are eucalyptus.

Streetscape is a good, environmentally-friendly plan. The only thing that should delay it is if we can figure out a way to finance the trenching of the train tracks. Carlsbad may be doing it, Solana Beach has already done it.

What are we in Encinitas, the poor cousins with the million-dollar homes?

I do think we should be exhaustively exploring the ways to pay for track-trenching, even if it requires new taxes.

But that’s a discussion for tomorrow.

Darius Degher is a Leucadia resident.

10 Comments
  1. john 10 months ago

    To believe the everyone will suddenly start riding bikes when traffic becomes unbearable in Leucadia is naive at best and delusional at the extreme.
    Tourist will suddenly start renting bikes when there’s too much traffic?
    More likely the tourist will go somewhere that’s less frustrating to get around. I’m sure that would be welcomed by you, but not the local business that depend upon them.

  2. Darius Degher 10 months ago

    Au contraire, John. The tourists pedaling along 101 with their families will have the time of their lives as they look out on the Pacific south of Swami’s, stopping at restaurants and shops along the way. In fact, I suspect that a properly built Coastal Rail Trail will be a tourist attraction. As for slower car traffic and its effect on business, I believe you have it backwards. When traffic slows, drivers notice the shops and restaurants. They pull over and enjoy themselves. Have you ever noticed (and perhaps been frustrated by) the increase in traffic lights and stop signs when you’re driving through some little town in the middle of nowhere? Those are there for the specific purpose of slowing traffic in order to boost local business.

  3. Doug Fiske 10 months ago

    Degher continues to peddle a theory that has no basis in reality. Where in suburbia have people switched from cars to bikes or walking for transportation in big enough numbers to have any reduction effect on traffic, parking needs and greenhouse gas emissions? The answer in nowhere because the distances are too great, and you can’t carry stuff. I’m sure Degher’s experience in Europe was terrific, but the roundabouts he loved there weren’t at T intersections and weren’t one lane and about 100 feet in diameter. They facilitated traffic flow rather than clogged it. Degher should look at the facts and abandon his pet pipe dreams.

  4. Lynn Marr 10 months ago

    Traffic circles/roundabouts may work in some locations, but not well, according to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, when traffic is not approximately equal on the thoroughfare and cross streets. In this case, not only would multiple one-lane roundabouts with NO throughway cross-streets, due to the RR tracks, be clumped too closely together, they would actually eliminate the northbound eight-foot wide bike lane (not separated from highway) currently on N101. Bicyclists would be forced to funnel through chokepoints, five of them, almost in a row, with all the motor vehicle traffic, one lane northbound and one lane southbound.

    Sharrows would be much more problematic, and more dangerous, with only one lane in each direction, on our highway. Adjacent residents will have more traffic cutting through our neighborhoods west of 101. The U. S. Dept. of Transportation provides statistics, as do other sources, that there are more collisions involving bicycles at intersections with roundabouts than before the roundabouts were installed.

    It’s not right to rob us of our highway. Most people riding their bikes are doing so for recreational purposes; they’re not commuting, or shopping; primarily, people like to buy more groceries and other commodities than one can comfortably carry on a bicycle. The roundabouts you experienced in Europe were probably not adjacent to RR tracks. They probably involved at least four way intersections, not T intersections. Trenching the tracks would be an excellent solution. We need to have a SEPARATED rail trail corridor bike/ped lane, as called for in the Bicycle Masterplan Update, indefinitely tabled by Gus Vina, taken off the agenda, and never put back on. Another railtrail corridor bike/ped lane should not be installed first, in Cardiff, where, as the CCC says, there is already a separated lane on the west side of Coast Highway, enjoyed by many.

    The current N101 Streetscape Plan would cause more greenhouse gas emissions, due to more back-ups and gridlock. People would divert to residential streets and Vulcan, a school zone, to escape traffic snarls. People commuting, do take the freeway, when possible; those of us who live west of the highway have no choice but to use 101. By building obstacles on our highway, the City would be robbing us of Historic State Highway 101, walling off us and neighboring commuters. Locals would end up avoiding touring the Coast, driving north to Carlsbad and Oceanside, or south to Solana Beach, whenever possible.

    Thousands have signed petitions against Plan 4a, which included five roundabouts. This new plan has not been approved by any Commission or Council, with six roundabouts and multiple new medians to prevent left hand turns, including onto our own cross-streets. Also now included are signalized cross-walks. El Portal and 101 would absolutely also be required to be signalized if there is ever “bridge” (underpass/overpass/at grade crossing) there, for bikes and peds, over the RR tracks, just as a traffic signal was installed in Cardiff, at that underpass.

    Moreover, why is the first roundabout scheduled for El Portal and 101, which isn’t technically in Leucadia, when the only intersection that received “enthusiastic support” for a roundabout at the Feb. 23, 2008 Charette was the one at Grand View and 101? There is no guarantee the stop sign at Marcheta and 101 would ever be removed, just as the stop sign at Leucadia Blvd. and Hygeia was never removed between the two Leucadia Blvd. roundabouts. Because Phase II of that streetscape never was accomplished, just as Phase II of the Downtown Encinitas Streetscape never happened.

    Previous Council approved this foolhardy project, Plan 4A, by only one vote. James Bond voted no. The only one who actually owned adjacent property, Dan Dalager, recused himself. No one on current Council voted on that previous plan, or the new plan detailed in the Draft EIR.

    The comment period for the Draft EIR seemed intentionally placed over the winter holidays. Most people in the City are oblivious to these multiple roundabout plans for Historic State Highway 101. Previous Council did give direction to begin with the roundabout at La Costa, which was to be a two lane roundabout, which Carlsbad which help to pay for, but which would have undoubtedly also required a traffic signal because of it’s proximity to Ponto Beach. That roundabout has been indefinitely delayed due to development interests postponing their plans.

    To begin with the first roundabout at North El Portal, which already has back-ups during peak periods, due to the proximity to to traffic light at Leucadia Blvd. and 101, makes no sense. The three year traffic study provided by engineering shows that traffic calming is not necessary according to collisions per thousands of motorists, at El Portal and 101, or any of the intersections where they are currently to be placed, according to the Draft EIR. Also, there is another public works development project pending for El Portal, an underpass, which must be planned, to be effective, concurrently with any public works development project on 101.

    We already have an “island” created by double yellow lines, so that those pulling out at El Portal, turning left, northbound on 101, one only has to wait for southbound traffic, before pulling over into the right hand lane. Usually, this can be easily accomplished by waiting for a break in traffic, guaranteed by the light at Leucadia Blvd. and 101. Also, people wanting to turn left from the highway, to go access our homes, can use this island. There’s a no right hand turn sign at North Court and El Portal during peak morning traffic hours. Why do we need a roundabout at El Portal and 101 for what is essentially northbound/southbound traffic?

    When traffic is backed up on 101, going south, in the morning rush hour, people already tend to cut through Lou’s Records’ parking lot, onto La Veta, using residential back streets to divert from traffic jams, especially when roadwork is being done, or the freeway is clogged. This back-up, and traffic cutting through residential neighborhoods, plus admittedly slower emergency response times, absolutely would be exacerbated by multiple roundabouts, forcing all vehicles and bicyclists into chokepoint after chokepoint, taking away our major arterial, and walling us off from other neighborhoods, and our own homes!

    In Carlsbad, where a SINGLE roundabout was installed on Coast Highway and State Street, there are not hundreds of homes west of the highway, and there is a separated railtrail corridor bike/ped lane there, giving bicyclists an alternative, rather than going through a narrow, one-lane roundabout with all northbound and southbound traffic. The current plan would be a disaster for bicyclists and local motorists, alike.

  5. Darius Degher 10 months ago

    Doug: That we’re discussing this is a very good thing. That’s how we, together, will arrive at smart decisions as a community. However, I’ve tried to find the logic in your argument against bike paths, and I’m unable to locate it. The problem is that your argument here rests on coastal Encinitas being a “suburb.” I wouldn’t call it that. Inland Encinitas, yes, but not coastal Encinitas. While it is not urban, it is not exactly a suburb either, certainly not a typical one. Instead, it’s a beach town, and beach towns have their own special needs and profiles. Beach towns even have responsibilities to allow coastal access to both visitors and residents. Bike paths are one important element of that coastal access.

    The truth is that, historically, the city of Encinitas has been surprisingly hostile to bicycles. Not only do we lack decent bike trails along the coast, but we don’t have viable ones along our congested east-west thoroughfares either (read Encinitas Blvd, Leucadia Blvd, and Santa Fe Dr.). Our city councils of old were always just too car-centric to imagine it. And, granted, there was less of an obvious need in the nineties, before the traffic was as bad as it is now. At this point in time, we have a chance to exercise some vision and be pro-active. My hopes are that the city will take this opportunity (in fact, it’s more of a responsibility) very seriously in the coming months. For me, Streetscape is part of this opportunity.

    I know it’s difficult to imagine things you haven’t seen or experienced before. Here are two links to articles on coastal bike trails in the USA. Please check them out, and imagine the possibilities . . .

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/06/15/coastal.bike.trails.cl/
    http://www.coastalliving.com/travel/coastal-bike-trails/view-all

  6. Darius Degher 10 months ago

    Dear Lynn: thanks for your very detailed comments. The linked article here will perhaps help dispel some of your misconceptions about roundabouts:

    http://www.citylab.com/cityfixer/2016/12/a-chat-with-the-mayor-of-roundabout-city-usa/511466/.

    Also, I’m under the impression that after the first phase is built, including the El Portal roundabout, there will be time to evaluate its effectiveness. So, that could be the silver lining of the 2-phase approach. In the end, we all have to get used to change in our lives. It’s the only thing we can count on.

  7. Doug Fiske 10 months ago

    Darius —

    You would do well to drop the condescending tone.

    I rode a bike all over North County for 28 years. A severe injury stopped that great fun. There are much more pleasant north-south routes through Encinitas than 101. I’m sure you know and use them.

    Regardless of how many bike lanes or paths there are, there will never be enough people using them to make a dime’s worth of difference in traffic volume and GHG emissions. Riding a bike for transportation is too inconvenient, especially in a spread-out bedroom community like Encinitas. It’s also dangerous for the bones and bad for the lungs.

    Those drawbacks might not apply to you, but they do apply to the overwhelming majority of people. The numbers are what matter, not your personal habits.

    I’m not against bike lanes or paths. I included support of them in my comments on the draft EIR. You must not have read them. I’ll send them to you. They should change your mind about the proposed Streetscape. It has some good features, but overall it’s a very bad idea.

    You don’t want to support a plan that would further clog traffic, make emergency response times worse than the sub-goal level they already are, make lefts from the Ts and biking on 101 still more dangerous, take out so many great old trees, and violate the Municipal Code and the California Coastal Act of 1976, do you?

  8. Morgan Mallory 10 months ago

    I support the adoption of the EIR of the long awaited streetscape improvements for the North Coast Hwy 101 Corridor.
    I have witnessed all the public processes that have proceeded this EIR concerning enhancements of the Leucadia 101 corridor.
    Soon after the city incorporated, in 1986, I was honored to serve on the draft committee of the Leucadia Specific Plan. We met at City Hall on Encinitas Blvd along with the downtown 101 draft committee. The two plans were to be implemented concurrently.

    Our task was to imagine what the needs and wants of the community would be in the future and to identify element the community wanted to keep.
    In 2008/2010’the city sponsored public workshops, guided by Michael Peltz and Associates and city staff. The informative meetings were very well attended and benefited by considerable public input. We were fortunate to have White House Award winning city planner, Dan Burton to offer guidance.

    As it turned out, the issues noted from public input in 1986 were mostly the same as 2010.
    ~ Maintain the tree canopy
    ~ Slow Traffic
    – Safer streets for cars, pedestrians and bikes
    ~ Sidewalks
    ~Parking opportunities
    Other issues brought up in ‘ 86 were safe and legal passage across the tracks, address the surface water issues and create a rail trail along the tracks, which are still unresolved to this day.
    There is a limited amount of land between the NCTD rail line and the ocean.
    I applaud the city, staff and Pelz and Associates for assisting with informing the public of options to implement a street scape that reflected the input and wishes of the public.
    There were five options that were formulated in 2010 by assessing public input and refining plans. The consensus was that plan 4C was the preferred option.
    This EIR reflects the designs of plan 4C and I agree with the the majority that the EIR should be approved.

  9. Ronette Youmans 10 months ago

    Darius,
    Thank you for your reasonable perspective on the difference between development & improvement, and how to make Leucadia more livable by providing separated bike PATHS & lanes. I agree that painting lines hardly increases safety. Until we have the separated pedestrian & bike paths, folks will stay in their cars to avoid getting hit by someone texting & drifting into a painted bike lane.

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