Encinitas City Council members on Wednesday, Feb. 20, rejected an attempt by two regional agencies to force a major redesign of the municipality’s plan to overhaul Highway 101 as it runs through the northern part of town.
After a decade working on the creation of the North Coast Highway 101 Leucadia Streetscape project, city officials believed they had come up with a viable plan that could go to construction by the end of the year.
The city aims to beautify the 2 1/2 mile corridor through the community of Leucadia while improving traffic circulation, parking and bicyclist and pedestrian safety.
Planners with the regional transportation agency — the San Diego Association of Governments — and the North County Transportation District — which has authority over the railroad right-of-way adjacent to the highway, had other ideas
After the approximately $30 million project recently received council approval, association officials issued a letter last week requesting a redesign of the blueprint for the east side of the plan encompassing northbound 101 and adjacent improvements.
The proposed revisions, the letter states, are needed because of plans to add a second railroad track that can only be located east of the existing track. Also a drainage ditch is proposed to accommodate flooding that occurs east of the rails along Vulcan Avenue.
As a result, officials contend, SANDAG’s coastal rail trail project through Leucadia must be rerouted to the west side, forcing dramatic revisions to the city’s streetscape concept.
Also, the transit district now wants to require a 20.5-foot separation between the existing track and the streetscape improvements, further constraining the city’s plan. Parking, which had been envisioned on the east side to consist of two lanes of pull-in spaces would be converted to one lane of parallel parking and about 40 mature trees along the highway would be lost.
Councilman Tony Kranz said he was floored by what he described as unexpected demands, particularly the relocation of the rail trail path. SANDAG-hired-contractors are currently building the extension of the existing rail trail through Cardiff on the city’’s south side and east of the railroad, so somewhere along the line, the rail trail would have to transition to the west side.
“To have this kind of dropped in our lap is shocking,” Kranz said.
Eight residents waited nearly four hours to speak on the streetscape issue, the last item on the agenda, other than council housekeeping matters.
“It’s not fair and I think we deserve something better,” resident Russ Levan said of the redesign mandate.
“Don’t move forward with this,” he said. “I’m begging you, it’s just wasting our time.”
After a prolonged back-and-forth discussion about how the redesign could derail the city’s streetscape vision and delay completion, Councilwoman Kellie Shay Hinze offered an alternative resolution. She proposed rejecting the redesign, while going forward with the existing plan, except that instead of installing permanent parking on the east side, the city would put in temporary gravel spaces.
That would enable the design to be revised at a later date, should officials ultimately decide the coastal rail trail can only be placed on the west side of the tracks.