A group of Encinitas residents is accusing a councilmember of rigging the public process in a proposal to construct biking and walking paths along San Elijo Avenue in Cardiff.
The residents feel the Cardiff portion of the Coastal Rail Trail — a project stretching from San Diego to Oceanside — is a waste of time, money, and city resources. Of the estimated $13 million bike-and-pedestrian trail, $5 million would be funded by the San Diego Association of Governments; it would run north and south one block east of Highway 101, a popular stretch of road already complete with bike lanes and a sidewalk.
The group says that the rail trail would waste city resources and do nothing to ensure quiet zones for residents; nor does it promote conservation to protect the bluffs while preserving beach access and parking on San Elijo Avenue.
Some residents say Encinitas councilmember and mayoral candidate Catherine Blakespear is trying to silence them in favor of giving a voice to proponents who also happen to be donors and supporters of her political campaigns. Blakespear has done so, according to members of the No Rail Trail group, by removing members of the opposition from the Mobility and Livability Working Group, a volunteer committee appointed by the Encinitas City Council, and placing supporters in their place.
Julie Thunder, a Cardiff resident and member of No Rail Trail, says her group was initially pleased with the make-up of the working group.
"We were happy with the original consultants list which had one representative from No Rail Trail and one from 'Yes on the Rail Trail'. The other 13 spots on the consultants list were a well-balanced selection of non-partisan residents. We thought that was fair. Which is why we were very surprised to learn at the council meeting that councilperson Blakespear created a new list heavily tipped to the Yes on the Rail Trail side [4 members] and people who have contributed to Blakespear's mayoral campaign [7 members]. Also, Blakespear removed the 1 rep from No Rail Trail and replaced him with one of her own choosing, without notice to us."
"Also," says Thunder, "we would like to see the various agencies recognize what we think is obvious, namely that pedestrians, runners, and bikers want to be next to the ocean on Hwy. 101. If the goal is to serve the most number of users currently and into the future, the rail trail needs to be along Hwy. 101 in Cardiff just as it is through Solana Beach."
Councilmember Blakespear rejects the allegations against her. She says the working group will deal with the project as a whole and not just the brief stretch of San Elijo Avenue.
"I’m proud of the working group that council put together," says Blakespear. "The group represents all communities and city stakeholders and will discuss a number of projects in different project areas. That is why the group is called the 'Mobility and Livability Working Group' and not the 'Rail Trail Working Group.' People from each of those project areas deserve to be heard."
Blakespear says Thunder and others have it all wrong. She says she thought she did recommend the leader of the opposition be appointed. It turned out she was misinformed.
"I have 100 percent confidence in the people that have been appointed. All thirteen established advocacy groups in our city get one seat on the committee.
"When forming this group, I suggested to the council the person I thought held himself out as the leader of the 'No Rail Trail' group. In retrospect, I wish I would have reached out and asked the group who they wanted to represent them. I want their voice to be heard, but they don't get more than one seat at the table. That wouldn't be fair to other stakeholders. They have a specific narrow interest in a section in Cardiff and do not see or understand the broader picture of potential improvements throughout the entire rail corridor and for mobility citywide.”