Residents oppose proposed bluff fencing

Residents oppose proposed bluff fencing
North County Transit District sign posts warn residents against trespassing on the bluffs. Photo by Lexy Brodt

DEL MAR — The North County Transit District is pursuing a plan to install fencing along the Del Mar bluffs, with no small resistance from Del Mar residents.

NCTD has received a grant from the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program to erect a continuous, 1.4-mile-long fence along the Del Mar Bluffs, as well as separate fences on bluffs in Encinitas and Oceanside. The cost estimate for all three portions is estimated at $1.68 million, which will be covered fully by the grant, according to NCTD media representative Kimberly Wall.

The fencing is intended to “support re-vegetation and reduction in the occurrence of trespasser events,” according to an NCTD press release published in early September.

Details of the project have not been finalized, and NCTD has not determined a timeline for when construction of the fence will begin.

“It is our hope that the project will be completed by the end of 2019,” said Wall, in an email to The Coast News.

A handful of Del Mar residents have responded by starting a petition to oppose the fencing. The petition was started on change.org by active four-year resident Frank Stonebanks, and City Council candidates Dan Quirk and Terry Gaasterland. The petition has acquired about 400 signatures.

“I’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of emails and voicemails alike saying people would chain themselves to the tracks before allowing (fencing),” said Stonebanks, who promotes better bluff access and eventual transfer of the train tracks inland via a community Facebook group.

Stonebanks said he became the “de facto” leader on the topic two years ago, after he was cited for trespassing while crossing the tracks by an NCTD enforcement officer. In the summer of 2016, NCTD had assigned nine law enforcement officers to patrol the tracks in order to address ongoing safety concerns. The fencing project is NCTD’s latest effort to keep the bluffs safe, after a series of recent bluff collapses have raised questions about their viability.

City Councilman Dave Druker, a member of the NCTD’s board of directors, said that fencing might not be the right solution.

“There may be some other ways that we can solve that,” he said, referring to bluff-related safety concerns.

Druker said the city is “working diligently” to create bluff access in Del Mar. There is currently only one legal crossing at 15th street. He said the city is considering crossings at 8th and 11th streets.

According to Mayor Dwight Worden, the city was contacted about the fencing before NCTD’s announcement, but “they didn’t reach out to us to discuss it,” he said.

Worden said the topic will be agendized at the Nov. 19 City Council meeting, where the council will discuss the fencing project and solicit public input.

“We will be investigating all of our options,” Worden said.

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