ENCINITAS — Ava Blakespear, 10, and her brother, 9-year-old Oliver stood before a crowd of 250 people on Tuesday evening — including State Sen. Pat Bates, State Assemblyman Rocky Chavez and County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar — inside the Encinitas Community Center after their mother’s 20-minute address, and declared the state of the city strong.
With students dominating the headlines following the Stoneman Douglas High School shootings, participating in protests and other acts of civil disobedience, it was only fitting, Mayor Catherine Blakespear said.
“This is a great city for people, but it is especially great for kids,” Oliver said. “I ride my bike to school, to parks, to the store and to the library. I feel safe and independent. This is a great city to grow up in.”
Ava, speaking with presence beyond her years, concluded the event.
“As I get older, I can see that you adults are setting me up for success,” Ava said. “Encinitas has so many opportunities for us kids to grow up into model citizens that will make our parents proud. Then it will be our time to be in charge.”
The crowd responded with a standing ovation.
Before that moment, it was mother Blakespear who informed the audience of dignitaries, business owners and other key community stakeholders of the state of the city, including advances with housing, green initiatives, rail corridor and transportation projects. Blakespear did it with the help of a slide presentation.
Finally getting the city in compliance with state housing laws, she said, is paramount.
“I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is our most pressing, urgent and critically important issue,” Blakespear said.
Blakespear touted the city’s recent accessory-dwelling unit program and its efforts to increase the number of affordable units developers are required to build in market-rate developments as part of its efforts to come into compliance.
Ultimately, she said, it will come down to the city’s housing plan that voters will weigh in on in November.
“This time it will be simpler, more straightforward, more narrowly tailored to comply with state laws and hopefully more acceptable to residents,” Blakespear said. “With focus and dedication, I have every intention of helping the city reposition itself when it comes to housing.”
Blakespear also updated the crowd on a slew of transportation projects underway around the city, both under the guise of the city and regional authorities. These include projects aimed at improving all modes of transportation, from lane diets and new bike lanes on La Costa Avenue and Leucadia Boulevard to the Interstate 5 expansion, Coastal Rail Trail and related projects.
“To say there is a lot of construction going on in Encinitas is likely the understatement of the year,” Blakespear said. “But once this is done, we won’t likely see this level of construction in our community for multiple decades.”
On the city’s environmental initiatives, Blakespear pointed to a major development in the city’s years-long attempt to stabilize a shaky coastal bluff at Leucadia State Beach.
Blakespear said that she expects the city will begin work to stabilize the bluff at Beacon’s Beach later this year, pending approval from the Coastal Commission.
Additionally, the city’s electric vehicle charging station on the lower parking lot of City Hall should be opening later this spring, and a dune restoration project at Cardiff State Beach that will protect Coast Highway 101 from storm surges is expected to get Coastal Commission approval, she said.
Blakespear also touted the city’s recently passed climate action plans, which she said provides the city with “measurable and attainable goals,” a departure from the city’s first plan in 2011.
And finally, Blakespear discussed advancements on rail quiet zones and the El Portal rail under-crossing, on which construction is expected to begin early next year.
Blakespear invited attendees to a strategic planning session on March 28 at the Encinitas Library.
“We know that Encinitas is a stunning place to live. Nearly everyone I speak with tells me how fortunate they feel to live here,” she said. “Now we want to make it even better, with more ways to enjoy the outdoors, with a commitment to cherish and protect our environment. With respect and gratitude, I look forward to working hand-in-hand with all of you as we press forward on issues that may challenge us.”