Fifteen people, including two state coastal commissioners, have filed appeals asking the state Coastal Commission to weigh in on Encinitas' decision to proceed with an overhaul of Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia.
"It is a project that fails to consider public access to the coastline, that fails to adequately consider public safety, and fails to give adequate consideration to environmental concerns," said Christine Wagner, an Encinitas resident and one of the appellants, as she informed the City Council on April 18 about her group's appeal.
While several opponents told the council they're hoping the state now will put a stop to the project, proponents urged city leaders to continue pushing forward. Kellie Shay Hinze, executive director of the Leucadia 101 Main Street Association, said she was "so grateful" that the council had voted to certify the project's environmental documents last month and looked forward to the start of construction.
Known as Leucadia Streetscape project, the proposed overhaul of the coastal highway route has been in the planning stages for more than a decade. Plans call for adding up to six traffic roundabouts along a 2-1/2-mile stretch of the highway from La Costa Avenue to A Street, and eliminating a vehicle lane in each direction along much of the route.
Project proponents, including many area business owners and some avid cyclists, stress that Streetscape will greatly improve conditions for pedestrians and bicycle riders by adding new sidewalks along the west side of the roadway, as well as striped crosswalks, buffered bike lanes in each direction and a decomposed granite pathway between the roadway and the railroad tracks.
"It is a big step forward towards allowing the streets to be used by all modes of transportation," Councilman Tony Kranz said April 18, adding that Interstate 5 ought to be the preferred route for automobile traffic.
Kranz said he doesn't think that Streetscape will worsen the route's traffic congestion, saying roundabouts have worked well in La Jolla's Bird Rock area.
Opponents focus on Streetscape's proposed elimination of the two vehicle lanes and the addition of the six traffic roundabouts, saying they're likely to make far worse what is already a very bad traffic congestion situation during the daily commuting periods. In paperwork filed April 11-16 with the state, various appellants argue that the Coastal Commission should consider how the project could impact people's ability to visit the beach or enjoy a drive along the historic coastal route.
The appellants include a group of Encinitas residents with longstanding objections to the project and two state coastal commissioners — Steve Padilla, a Chula Vista city councilman, and Effie Turnbull-Sanders, a Los Angeles attorney specializing in land-use issues.
Padilla wrote that the proposed roadway changes, including plans to reduce vehicle speed from 40 mph to 30 mph, are of concern.
"The increase in travel time has the potential to deter the public from traveling to Encinitas beaches from inland destinations," he wrote. "If it will take significantly more time to travel to and from the beach, people may be less likely to use the public beaches in the city."
The state Coastal Commission has not yet scheduled a date for hearing the appeals, commission Public Information Officer Noaki Schwartz wrote in an e-mail Friday, April 20.
"At the earliest, the appeals could be heard in June, but commission staff is aware of the community interest in this proposal and will keep that in mind relative to when the matter is ultimately agendized," she wrote.
-- Barbara Henry is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune.