A group of people who've asked the state Coastal Commission to block Encinitas' plans to eliminate two vehicle lanes along much of Leucadia's part of Coast Highway 101 now have filed a lawsuit against the city, seeking the same ends.
The group's attorney, Escondido lawyer Everett DeLano, said that the lawsuit, which was filed Monday, April 30, in Superior Court, is a backup plan for the group, which is led by Encinitas resident Christine Wagner.
"It's kind of the classic preserving your rights (situation)," he said.
In order to mount a court challenge to the City Council's recent approval of what's called the Leucadia Streetscape project, his clients need to meet city filing deadlines and get their court paperwork in now, even though they'd rather wait until the state commission rules on the appeal they filed last month, DeLano said.
However, he added, that doesn't mean the court case will move forward at this time. The judge will likely issue a stay order until after the state commission has had its say. That's what typically happens in these cases, he said.
Encinitas city officials have a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.
After hours of public testimony at a March 21 hearing, the City Council voted to certify environmental documents for the project, which has been in the planning stages for more than a decade.
Plans call for overhauling a 2.5-mile stretch of Coast Highway from La Costa Avenue to A Street, giving the roadway six traffic circle roundabouts, as well as bike lanes, sidewalks and many beautification measures. To create space for the various improvements, the city is proposing to eliminate one vehicle lane in each direction for much of the route.
In their appeal to the Coastal Commission and in their new lawsuit, the members of the Encinitas Residents Coalition contend that the vehicle lane eliminations will make the highway's already troublesome traffic congestion far worse. These extensive delays will reduce people's ability to visit the beach or enjoy a drive along the historic coastal route, they write.
Their 23-page lawsuit contends that the project's environmental assessment fails to adequately address the project's likely impacts to air quality, noise and traffic conditions among other things.
It asks the judge to issue a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction or permanent injunction, and it seeks reimbursement of attorney's fees and any other relief the court "deems just and proper."
The Coastal Commission has received several appeals related to the Leucadia Streetscape project and its staff have indicated that a hearing could occur later this year, but not before June.
---Barbara Henry is a writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune