Neighborhood groups have previously fought proposed developments on a large sloping parcel on the northwest corner of Birmingham Drive at I-5. So, there was much concern on Thursday, August 18, when a green-canvas-covered fence was erected at the site.
By Tuesday morning, August 23, bulldozers were clearing the overgrown sagebrush, weeds, and cacti from the property. Over a decade ago, a high-density condo development, like the three-story Cardiff by the Sea Apartments across the street, was proposed. It was turned down by the City of Encinitas, which was not willing to change zoning from “visitor serving” commercial to residential.
Later, a local developer bought the parcel and proposed a Residence Inn hotel; it was never built. In 2006, the City of Encinitas bought the 2.15 acre parcel to expand the Cardiff fire station, which borders the property at the corner of Birmingham Drive and MacKinnon Avenue. The eastern side of the parcel borders the southbound off-ramp of I-5.
As Caltrans has long-range plans to widen the freeway to a possible 16 lanes, the fire department took that into account in siting the future station. The station’s access will change from the small driveway on MacKinnon Avenue to Carol View Drive, where a traffic signal already exists.
Approximately 15,000 cubic feet of dirt will be moved, and retaining walls will be built to level the hillside.
Unclear is the future of the infamous “Animal House” at 603 Birmingham Drive — a dilapidated, but still occupied home that has been the scene of college parties for many years. The structure will remain in between the existing station and the new project. It is a separate parcel that was not offered to the city.
Also of concern are the two large, mature Torrey pine trees on the new station's acreage. They will remain, according to deputy fire chief Scott Henry.