In Encinitas, in what is supposed to be a nonpartisan race for city council, the battle lines are now clearly drawn for November’s elections, with a slate of three candidates on both the conservative and liberal sides.
Months ago, the city council voted 3–2 to approve a bike and pedestrian railroad-track-side Rail Trail on San Elijo Avenue, instead of Coast Highway 101. The residents of the 1500-1700 blocks of San Elijo Avenue, homes that look out over the ocean, Coast Highway 101, and the railroad tracks, rallied against the council’s vote.
Now, in an uncommon show of political alignment, almost every home has yard signs posted for the slate of three candidates: mayoral candidate Paul Gaspar (the current mayor’s husband), first-time candidate Phil Graham (former governor Pete Wilson’s stepson), and the reelection of councilman Mark Muir. The Republican Party has endorsed all three.
San Elijo Avenue resident Denise said, “We’re all against [the Rail Trail] being on our street.”
“There’s already a bike lane on Coast Highway,” said neighbor Bill. “That’s where people want to walk and ride, on the Coast Highway blufftop, overlooking the ocean, not up on the hill on a busy residential street,” he added.
However, several months ago, it was mayoral candidate and current councilwoman Catherine Blakespear, a fourth-generation Cardiffian, who changed her vote of support for San Elijo Avenue alignment after seeing what the project coordinator, SANDAG, was actually planning. Along with up-for-reelection councilman Tony Kranz’s switched vote, the council became a 4-1 majority in stopping SANDAG’s proposal for the concrete trail to be placed on San Elijo Avenue.
“Too little, too late,” said one neighbor on the Blakespear/Kranz reversal.
Stating the Rail Trail will affect the entire railroad area from Cardiff through Leucadia, Blakespear has formed the Coastal Mobility and Livability group, calling all stakeholders along the corridor to consider not only the trail’s placement and design, but the necessary fencing, track crossing points, and the finishing of double-tracking through the city.
“My hope is for all sides to have education and responsibility [for coordinating the Rail Trail project,]” said Blakespear.
According to Blakespear, who now publicly prefers the Coast Highway 101 placement, the issue will end up at the California Coastal Commission. Commission staff supports the San Elijo Avenue alignment, says Blakespear. “I’m confident we can get them to change their minds,” she said.
However even with the intensity of the campaign signs on San Elijo Avenue, in most parts of the city, with individual yard signs loosely scattered throughout neighborhoods, Blakespear seemingly leads the way. (Campaign signs in a neighbor’s yard generally carry more political clout than the same-sized signs along the side of streets; it personalizes an endorsement.)
Joining Blakespear for mayor, the slate of candidates backed by the Democratic Party is Kranz and current planning commissioner Tasha Boerner Horvath.
One has to wonder about the one remaining candidate for council not endorsed by either political party. This will be current planning commissioner Tony Brandenburg’s third try to get a seat on the council. He seems to be working a grassroots campaign with longtime locals, but so far, he doesn’t seem to have yard signs.