ENCINITAS — Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear becomes the latest Coastal North County representative to be named to the leadership of a major regional board.
The San Diego County Association of Governments board recently named Blakespear the group’s vice chair, part of a unanimous vote that installed Poway Mayor Steve Vaus as the board’s new chairman.
Blakespear will replace Vaus, who was previously the vice chair of the region’s transportation and land-use and planning agency.
“The SANDAG board is the forum for elected officials from throughout the region to come together and develop practical solutions based on solid research and educated discussion,” Blakespear said. “I’m excited to serve as vice chair. I look forward to working with Mayor Vaus and our new executive director on planning and construction efforts that improve transportation options for bikes, pedestrians, cars and trains, while enhancing environmental sustainability.”
SANDAG is widely considered the most powerful of the regional agencies because of its power to allocate regional dollars, propose tax measures for regional projects and plan regional transportation projects and land-use plans.
Coastal North County has had a history of leadership on some key regional boards. Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott is the current SANDAG chairman. Outgoing Encinitas City Councilman Mark Muir recently chaired the 36-member San Diego County Water Authority board. And former Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks chaired SANDAG before leaving office in 2012.
The 23-member SANDAG board is composed of mayors, council members and county supervisors from each of the region’s local governments.
Encinitas frequently deals with SANDAG on a number of issues, including the upcoming regional housing needs assessment, which will determine how many additional units of affordable housing the city must provide during the next housing window.
The two agencies saw their relationship strained two years ago during the planning of the Cardiff section of the Coastal Rail Trail, which SANDAG oversees, but officials from both agencies said the issues are in the past.
SANDAG dealt with upheaval of its own in recent years over a failed sales tax proposal in which the agency overestimated the revenue that it would generate and high-ranking staff members ordering the deletion of emails on the subject that were part of public records requests.
SANDAG’s longtime Executive Director Gary Gallegos resigned amid the controversy.
In response, the state passed a bill proposed by local Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher that, among other things, changed the board’s voting structure, created an audit committee, required the agency to provide annual reports to the state about the region’s transit issues, permitted MTS and NCTD to propose tax measures for their own projects and required regional transportation plans to address greenhouse gas reduction rules and the needs of disadvantaged communities.