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.


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