So far, 2009 has been a bumpy road for city council members in Encinitas. Several issues have damaged relations between city officials and the public.
During the past several months, public outcry over cutting down healthy trees for the sake of open views at Orpheus Park and the chopping down of 100-year-old eucalyptus trees on Highway 101 have been to blame for the divisiveness
More recently, a project to construct three underground railroad crossings and five roundabouts on a 2.2 mile stretch of Highway 101 (the “North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape Improvement Project”) has created controversy.
At a Wednesday, April 8, Encinitas City Council meeting, the streetscape project was addressed.
The plan for the Leucadia business corridor has been in the works for over a decade. In addition to the five roundabouts, the project includes reducing the four-lane road to one northbound and two southbound lanes, placing a continuous bike lane on both sides of the highway, slowing traffic to 25 mph, adding parking, and planting over 1000 trees.
Since April 2008, three public workshops have been held, as well as stakeholder meetings with business leaders and members of the local town council. So far, the city has allocated $2.2 million for the improvements.
However, public opinion appears to be heading in different directions.
According to a survey conducted by project consultant MW Peltz and Associates, more than half of the participants that attended the last of three public workshops did not support the streetscape proposal.
Some believe the project has gone too far beyond simply beautifying the surrounding area with landscaping, benches, sidewalks, and lighting; others believe the plan should include traffic calming and additional parking, making businesses more accessible to the public.
To get things rolling again -- after a year of listening to the public and devising a plan -- at Wednesday’s council meeting, city staff recommended an additional public workshop and an additional traffic study by MW Peltz. The cost: nearly $86,000.
“You’ve got the whole community upset. You should just stop the whole project now,” said one Leucadia resident during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Another Leucadian, a retired firefighter, told the council the five roundabouts and reduced lane size would be an emergency-response worker’s nightmare and would put substantial delays in response time to area residents.
“I don’t understand where you guys are coming from,” said the resident.
While some residents opposed the project (mainly the roundabouts), others supported holding an additional workshop to see the project proceed. Some residents were chastised for using scare tactics to convince residents to oppose the project.
Despite the rage over the road improvements, city council members unanimously agreed to pay the consultant for an additional traffic study and to host an additional workshop.