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Local beach access in jeopardy

ENCINITAS — The council voted unanimously to request a transfer of a $2.75 million state grant intended for bluff stabilization and improvements at Beacon’s Beach to Moonlight Beach.
City staff brought the issue to the council June 9, in light of an October 2009 letter from the state’s department of parks and recreation that said the Beacon’s project was inconsistent with the State Park General Plan. The creation of a seawall to stabilize the eroding bluff was cited as an overriding concern in correspondence from the state.
Through a 20-year operating agreement, the city maintains both state owned beaches.
Councilman Jerome Stocks was incensed by the choice before the council. “Today, what we have is commonly known as a Hobson’s Choice … ” he said. The “take it or leave it” option puts the council in a difficult position, Stocks said, because the expiration date on the state’s proposal is June 30. “We have an opportunity to have it reallocated.” He said the only option is to ask the state to keep the funds locally.
He supported a future discussion on alternative funding strategies to stabilize Beacon’s Beach.
Leucadia resident Tom Frank told the council that the city’s greatest asset is the beach. “The highest priority for Encinitas residents is the coastline,” he said. There are three beaches with direct access in Leucadia, including Beacon’s.
“I refer to Beacon’s as the pavement slab,” Frank said. The “gauntlet” pathway is unsafe for pedestrians and its amenities pale in comparison to Stonesteps and Grandview beaches.
The rugged switchback path down the bluff to the beach is eroding rapidly. “It is an imminent failure,” he said. “There is a great possibility Beacon’s Beach is going to disappear.”
“The failure to address this issue is going to affect the financial health of our city,” Frank said. Moving the grant money to improve Moonlight Beach seems reasonable under the circumstances he told the council.
Frank recommended a steering committee be formed to address the issues of Beacon’s Beach. Citing the amount of funds earmarked for Moonlight, Frank said he would like to see a dedicated effort to enhancing Beacon’s Beach. “I’ve got Moonlight Beach envy,” he said with a laugh.
Mike Murphy, a Leucadia resident, suggested the creation of a “contingency fund” to shore up beach access at Beacon’s in the event of a bluff failure. “It’s been my local beach for 35 years,” he said.
John Giotta, another Leucadia resident, supported more focus on Beacon’s Beach. “Tonight you guys are in an untenable situation,” he told the council. “My concern here is that where the money goes, the political will goes. I want to make sure this (Beacon’s) stays a priority in your minds,” he said.
“There might be other ways we can solve that problem,” Giotta said, referring to the criteria set forth by the state that does not allow for a seawall to stabilize the bluff.
Encinitas City Council candidate Tony Krantz said the funding transfer was another example of shifting priorities. “This is another time when Leucadia is getting the short end of the stick,” he said. Krantz also questioned why staff waited so long to bring the issue to the council. The first state notification letter citing concern over the project came to the city almost a year ago.
Deputy Mayor Maggie Houlihan supported the idea of creating a steering committee to tackle the issue of access at Beacon’s Beach. She said having some state representation on the panel would be useful.