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Meeting on ‘vision’ draws a big crowd

ENCINITAS — The vision of the city’s five distinct communities was discussed at length during a citywide meeting Nov. 16. With people outnumbering available chairs to sit on, residents lined the walls to get a glimpse of the presentation that has been in the works for almost a year to update the General Plan.
Diane Langager, a principal planner for the city, said she was pleased with the turnout. “We have a wonderful citizenry that love Encinitas and are very involved in this process,” she said. “Overall we feel the process was very successful, we’re always doing everything we can to get more participation.”
Beginning in January 2010, a general plan advisory committee, along with city staff and a consulting firm began the first phase of updating the general plan. Over the next six months, the group facilitated five community specific workshops and a citywide workshop on May 1.
The general plan should be updated within a two-year period according to Planning Director Patrick Murphy. The city’s blueprint will be updated to address new policy issues such as sustainable and healthy communities, green building codes and storm water cleansing according to a staff report.
The plan will also speak to traffic circulation, walkable communities, economic and environmental sustainability and recycling. The existing general plan was adopted in 1989.
The advisory committee is one of the crucial elements to a successful process. In October 2009, City Council approved the creation of the planning body. There are a total of 24 members representing various organizations within the city. Nineteen members must be residents. In addition to committee meetings, nine public workshops are scheduled along with other public hearings throughout the two-year period. All of the committee meetings are open to the public.
Various groups are represented within the committee including social services, the real estate industry, town councils, mainstreet associations, affordable housing advocates, commercial interests and New Encinitas resident and Planning Commissioner Virginia Felker.
The city’s consultant, MIG, Inc., will continue to facilitate the committee meetings with only a consensus taken from the members rather than a vote on any issues. Murphy said the structure was designed to avoid divisiveness.
The committee is merely advisory in nature. “The public workshop process will steer the public policy,” Murphy said.
Several themes were common at each discussion. There were concerns about improving railroad crossings for pedestrians, intensifying development density and maintaining building height limits. Others encouraged an increase in open space, maintaining a small town atmosphere and conservation of the natural environment.
Participants were asked to describe the city’s assets and the best ways to build upon them in the next 25 years. Several people responded that supporting local businesses is key to maintaining a unique, noncommercialized culture. The city’s six miles of beaches and extensive trails and two lagoons were touted as gems that should be preserved.
The first meeting of phase two in the process was structured in the same way as previous public workshops but aimed to “fine-tune” the input from the community according to Langager. “We are now zeroing in on policy changes that we’re looking at,” she said. “There are a lot of updates and refinements to be made.
The specific focus was on land use issues in the larger context of building a sustainable community. Areas for potential land use change included the Santa Fe Drive I-5 Interchange; the Encinitas Boulveard corridor; North Coast Highway 101; and the El Camino Real Corridor.
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