View looking north; San Elijo Ave. on the right, Coast Hwy 101 on the left
Cardiff by the Sea residents noticed last month the placement of what they described as, “ugly,” “intrusive,” and “view-blocking” barricades along San Elijo Avenue, which has an elevated view of the ocean; over a two-block length, 54 barricades now serve as warning of the bluff top's edge and railroad tracks below.
Multimillion-dollar homes occupy the east side of San Elijo Avenue; residents, surfers, and beachgoers have parked for decades, diagonally, on the west side’s dirt strip. The west side’s sandstone bluff overlooks the railroad tracks, Coast Highway 101, and Swami’s Beach.
The orange-and white barricades were placed between the 1300 and 1500 blocks of San Elijo Ave., spaced about 20 feet apart. The North County Transit District, owners of the railroad tracks and the right-of-way, placed the barricades.
Last week, a City of Encinitas road maintenance staffer said the city has received a few calls complaining about the ugliness and inappropriate view blockage. The staffer said she has to refer callers to the North County Transit District, as the city’s right-of-way only extends to three feet off the pavement.
The barricades can also be seen up on the bluff by travelers on Coast Highway 101; they stick out like an “unwelcomed wall of ugly,” said one passing jogger.
The transportation agency opted to not discuss the issue directly with the Reader. I asked the purpose of the barricades, temporary or permanent, and about any public review or permitting from the city or the California Coastal Commission. A phone call, texts, and emails went unanswered.
The district soon after scheduled a March 11 media conference call to discuss “Rail Safety in Encinitas.” (According to the email list, only one reporter from another newspaper joined the call.)
However, the city’s website also posted on March 11, “According to NCTD, there are documented instances in which drivers have not seen the edge of the bluffs and have driven partially over the edge. The bluffs are also subject to erosion, which could leave a parked vehicle partially suspended and liable to fall into the rail right-of-way.”
The city’s posting also quoted the transportation agency’s chief of planning, Dahvia Lynch, stating, “We are working to identify a low-lying design that will mitigate our liability without obstructing the view or coastal access…. The barriers are not intended to be a permanent solution.”
On March 12, Eric Stevens, the coastal commission planner for Cardiff and Solana Beach, said the area is within 300 feet of the ocean’s bluff, so a Coastal Development Permit would be required by the North County Transit District for any permanent barriers. The City of Encinitas would be the issuing agency, meaning the process will be open to public review and comment.
“Commission staff will plan to coordinate with the City of Encinitas and NCTD to address these temporary barriers and to find a better long term solution,” said Stevens. He added that commission staff would likely support a low-lying design that does not obstruct public views of the ocean or public access.
To the transit district’s credit, while the one-mile-long dirt parking strip along San Elijo Avenue’s western side is posted “NO TRESPASSING,” the district has been pretty lax in parking enforcement, knowing that the community relies on the parking provided to Cardiff’s restaurants and offices north of Birmingham Drive, the Cardiff Elementary School, San Elijo Avenue residents, beachgoers to the San Elijo State Beach and campground, and surfers heading for Pipes or Swami’s.
The transit district says it plans to keep the community apprised of the project’s progress by “coordinating with the City of Encinitas, which will provide updates via its website.”
Footnote: As a lifelong resident of this community, the writer does not remember any incidents involving vehicles going over the bluff along San Elijo Avenue. He does however remember shearing off an unprotected fire hydrant on the same street with a large U-Haul truck while setting up barricades for a “We Love Cardiff Days” parade in the early 1980s.