ENCINITAS — Encinitas officials need to begin planning for several major infrastructure projects now before they become prohibitively expensive in the future, Mayor Kristin Gaspar said in her state of the city address Tuesday.
Gaspar, the city’s first elected mayor, said the council might not have the funding to tackle big-ticket projects on the city’s list unfunded projects — which totals $393 million. But it can do small things to start working toward solutions toward those big issues, such as troublesome rail crossings in Cardiff and Leucadia, drainage issues in Leucadia and the reconstruction of Fire Station No. 1.
“We need to focus in on doing something and coming up with a plan and executing that plan,” Gaspar said to the crowd of local officials, business representatives and others on hand for the event, which was held at the Encinitas Community and Senior Center.
Gaspar’s speech touted many of the city’s recent accomplishments, including the opening of the Encinitas Community Park; renovations at Moonlight Beach; the reduction of response times at the city’s Olivenhain Fire Station and the reduction of crime and the successful pension reform measures the city adopted that will ultimately save the city millions in pension liabilities.
She also touted the improved financial footing of the city, buoyed by a 6 percent increase in sales tax revenue and a 3 percent increase in property tax revenues, which have led to budget surpluses.
Gaspar also made several key announcements:
- The city is going to start work on the $3 million renovation of the Moonlight Beach Lifeguard Tower on Labor Day and complete it by Memorial Day of next year. The new station will include a first aid station and discharge center, a sheriff’s workstation and room for the lifeguard administration center.
- City officials have drafted a plan they hope will past muster with the state Coastal Commission for stabilizing the shaky bluff above Beacon’s Beach, a popular surfing area. The six-pronged plan includes treating the lower part of the bluff with a soil-based cement, which is seen as an alternative to a seawall because it is not permanent in nature. While state parks officials recently voiced support for the city’s plan, the Coastal Commission has already signaled some concern about the use of soil cement, Gaspar said.
- Gaspar also gave a brief update on Pacific View and the city’s search for an architect to get the former school site up to code.
But looking forward, Gaspar said, the city has several major projects it must tackle on a long list of unfunded capital improvement projects.
The bulk of the $393 million in unfunded projects deal with solutions for the rail crossing issues in Leucadia and Cardiff. While many of the projects — including undercrossings in both communities — will take years and millions to complete.
But some interim solutions, such as a $2 million project to install wayside horns, are doable if the council makes them priorities, she said.
She spoke pointedly about the need to renovate Fire Station No. 1, which the city has assessed as in failing condition.
“It is crumbling apart,” she said.
In addition to Gaspar’s speech, Tuesday’s event also included the announcement of the winners of the “Love My City” youth video concert, as well as presentations by a representative of the city’s 101 MainStreet Associations, the Encinitas-El Camino Real corridor, the Olivenhain Community and the Chamber of Commerce.