Name: Catherine S. Blakespear
Occupation: City Council Member and practicing attorney
Previous governmental experience: Encinitas City Council Member for two years, including one year as Deputy Mayor; Traffic & Public Safety Commissioner for four years, including one year as Chair. President of the San Dieguito Water District; Chair of the San Elijo Wastewater District.
Family: Jeremy Blakespear, husband. Oliver Blakespear (age 7) and Ava Blakespear (age 9)
1. What prompted you to run for Encinitas mayor?
I’m running for Mayor because Encinitas deserves a Mayor who reflects residents’ values. As a member of the City Council for the last two years, I’ve seen from the inside how important the Mayor’s role is in setting the tone for the city and guiding the direction of the city’s policies. I want to protect Encinitas from over-development, focus on traffic and mobility, especially biking, walking and better trails, and make the city more environmentally oriented. With a family history going back nearly 100 years in Encinitas, the city is literally in my blood. I’m a pragmatist and a problem-solver who listens.
2. What do you feel are the three biggest priorities for the next city council, and how as mayor or council member would you help the council achieve those objectives?
- Housing Element Compliance: The city needs to be compliant with state housing laws. We are in the middle of three lawsuits related to our housing element. If voters pass Measure T, we will stop wasting money on lawsuits we can’t win and for the first time in the city’s history, we’ll have a state-certified housing element. If we don’t pass Measure T, as Mayor I’ll help lead the City Council and the public toward compliance. We have to get there one way or another.
- Better Mobility: It should be easier to bike and walk around in Encinitas. We need better sidewalk connectivity, bike lanes that make sense and a more robust trails system. I am a strong advocate for those issues as a cornerstone of preserving our paradise in Encinitas.
- Environmental Issues: My priorities include restoring the tree canopy, using less water as a city, having 100% recycling compliance for businesses, becoming a net zero city (having solar panels provide all of the energy used at all city facilities), acquiring more open space and eliminating Styrofoam containers that pollute our beaches.
3. Do you support Measure T, Encinitas’ proposed housing element update? Please explain your position. If you do not support Measure T, please provide your alternative plan to address the state and regional housing needs allocation.
I support Measure T. The city needs to have a housing plan that complies with state housing laws. We have already thrown out past plans and gone back to the drawing board. The result was Measure T. This is the “environmentally preferred alternative” because, of all the possible plans, it provides the least amount of additional traffic by putting any new housing in areas that are already developed, such as downtown Encinitas and downtown Leucadia. The city is not going to be able to avoid providing the zoning for every income level, which is the requirement under state law. This plan provides alternate zoning for a total of 13 sites, which is less than 1% of Encinitas. The sites are scattered throughout the five communities instead of lumping them exclusively in one community.
As a member of the Encinitas City Council, I went to Sacramento to testify and advocate against housing laws that don’t serve Encinitas. My basic message was that not every city needs to be urban. We are a low-density city and we should be allowed to determine our own community’s character.
Despite this testimony, the state’s housing laws exist and as a city it’s irresponsible to thumb our nose at the law. Developers have sued the city, and will continue to do so, until we have a compliant housing element.
4. Outside of the housing element, what can the city do to promote the creation of actual affordable units throughout the city?
One intriguing idea is to create a public-private partnership with an existing apartment complex to turn the units into deed-restricted affordable units. When the state continues to assign more housing units to the City of Encinitas in future cycles, we may be able to meet our housing obligations through the creation of new affordable units. We also need to make granny flats, or accessory dwelling units, easier to permit and to build through streamlined regulations
5. What are the biggest issues facing the city’s rail corridor? What approach, if elected, what steps would you take towards addressing those issues?
We need to better use the corridor that bisects our city – more crossings, less train horn noise, and a continuous pedestrian and bike pathway. The improvements need to be sensitive to context, and have a small footprint.
I’m proud of my advocacy for greater public involvement in deciding the future of the rail corridor through creation of the rail corridor working group. Every city stakeholder group gets one seat at the table, and we’re having multiple public meetings to engage the public. The city doesn’t make the decisions unilaterally in the rail corridor, and has to work collaboratively with other regional agencies to accomplish anything. A focus on improving the rail corridor is a top priority of mine and I will provide ongoing leadership and a path forward as Mayor.
6. The purchase of Pacific View was completed two years ago, but the process of transforming the property into an arts center has been slow. What, as a council member or mayor, would you do to stimulate or move the process forward? (Please note, I am not asking you to debate the merits of the purchase, please refrain from doing so).
I will do everything possible to help transform Pacific View from a dilapidated old school into a vibrant arts center. We need milestones and deliverable dates and a process of requiring ongoing accountability. The unequivocal commitment of the Mayor to make Pacific View a success can help move the process along.
7. The city has had plans such as the Leucadia Streetscape and the bicycle master plan that have languished for years after approval and community consensus. What would you do to move those plans forward?
This is a real issue. We need leaders committed to seeing these projects through. I’ll be a hands-on Mayor, working closely with the City Council and the city manager to make sure these priority projects are accomplished. I suspect that past city leaders or city staff members were not as committed to the Leucadia Streetscape project or the bicycle master plan, and that’s why they have not been implemented as expeditiously as they could be.
8. There has been some debate over the concept of how the city should implement complete streets, a state mandate. How should the city satisfy its statutory requirements to accommodate multiple modes of transportation along its street network, and what would you do on the council or as mayor to accomplish this?
We need to re-create our streets for every type of road user, not just for cars. This takes leadership, commitment and hard work. Our street network is largely built-out, and a close re-evaluation is required. We need more crosswalks, better sidewalk connectivity, bike lanes that make sense, and more access points across the railroad tracks. The city has to build the infrastructure to make biking and walking feel safe and comfortable or people won’t do it. It’s incumbent upon elected leaders to make this happen.
9. What should the city be doing to address the rise of homelessness within the community?
Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis that needs attention at all levels of government. We need to work in partnership with mental health services, the county agencies, law enforcement and our local partners like the Community Resource Center. We recently put an additional $100,000 into the effort to help our homeless veterans find permanent shelter. We need to do more for this vulnerable population and to help the housing insecure avoid becoming homeless.
10. Why should Encinitas voters vote for you?
Encinitas residents often tell me that they want a Mayor who reflects their values and sensibilities. With my long family history here, the soul of Encinitas is a part of me. I will be a Mayor who is truly of and from the people.
I’m a proven and trusted leader with a clear vision of our future, as demonstrated by the large number of sound, considered and thoughtful decisions that I’ve made on the Encinitas City Council over the last two years. I’ve spearheaded initiatives related to protecting farmers and promoting urban agriculture, improving our city processes through creating a mediation program, fighting for road improvements around schools and grappling with the financial realities of unknown potential pension obligations. I also strongly support Pacific View turning into a vibrant arts center. I’m a balanced, thoughtful leader who listens. I am both environmentally oriented and fiscally responsible.
I am also an ethical problem-solver who embodies transparency. After every City Council meeting, I send out an email newsletter highlighting the decisions we made and the reasons for my votes. This is done on personal time, without additional compensation. I do it as part of my understanding of what civic responsibility means. Residents deserve to know the inner workings of their local government. My only motivation is what is best for Encinitas residents as a whole, to preserve our paradise.