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Community Community Featured News Rancho Santa Fe

Barriers on San Elijo Avenue placed as a matter of public safety

ENCINITAS — It didn’t take Michael Manhard long to express his feelings about the new “additions” to his neighborhood — more than a dozen temporary barriers at the edge of a bluff adjacent to the stretch of San Elijo Avenue where he lives.

“Of course I think they’re ugly,” said Manhard, who lives in a home along the east side of San Elijo Avenue, which has a front-and-center view of the white-and-orange barriers. “I don’t understand why they did this. I hope they take them down.”

The North County Transit District, owners of the stretch of dirt that is often lined with cars that use it as a makeshift parking lot for beachgoers or the lunch-with-a-view crowd, said the barriers are here to stay — at least until they can install something more permanent.

The reason? Public safety, officials said, as some cars have gotten dangerously close to driving over the bluff’s edge and into the train tracks that rest some 12 feet below.

“They are a visual deterrent to keep people from parking too close to the edge of the berm,” said Katie Whichard, a spokeswoman for the transit district. “We’ve had a few instances where drivers have gone partially over the berm and their tires have been spinning.”

Whichard said there are no documented incidents of cars driving off the edge and onto the tracks, but they have come “dangerously close.”

“Just because they haven’t gone on the tracks doesn’t mean that it is not an issue,” Whichard said. “We want to encourage people to be safe when they park here.”

The barriers stand about 5-feet tall and 3-feet wide and are 10 feet apart from one another.

Bruce Cook, who was eating lunch along the dirt strip, said he was skeptical as to whether the barriers would be effective given the distance between them.

“If a car is going to drive through, it is going to drive through,” Cook said. “If there was a more permanent fence, then perhaps.”

Whichard said that is the plan. The transit district is coordinating with the city on a more formal parking plan, which will include a continuous barrier that is not as visually intrusive, she said.

“We understand that they are not visually appealing, but this was in response to a direct public safety issue,” Whichard said. “We are hopeful that the permanent solution will not obstruct views and won’t have to involve the Coastal Commission as a result.”

At least one person along the stretch who talked to The Coast News said she didn’t feel the barriers were an issue.

Ann Marie White, who was having lunch during her break from work at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, said she understood the purpose.

“They are not too bad, and they’re for public safety,” White said. “If you live here, of course you might see it differently, but I don’t think it blocks views too much, and it is a good reminder to be safe.”

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