Cardiff by the Sea residents to Mayor Blakespear: “Don’t tear down this wall!”
That’s the battle cry from 40 neighbors on the private streets of Caretta Way and Starlight Drive, and a public street, Warwick Avenue. Separating their homes from the south side of the 44-acre Encinitas Community Park is a long, six-foot-high concrete block wall. The City of Encinitas plans to punch through the wall for pedestrian access to the park.
Construction of the park was initially held up for years over concerns of traffic, drainage, and lighting affecting the narrow street of single-family homes just north of Birmingham Drive. As part of a settlement ten years ago, there was to be no park access into the neighborhood.
The neighbors want to keep it that way. And to get the city’s attention, a 15-page lawsuit was filed on January 8 to stop the city’s plans.
“When there are big events [at the park], even with signs posted reading ‘No Park Access,’ Siri and Google Maps still takes them down our streets,” said neighborhood leader Greg Hagen. “And they make U-turns in our driveways.”
Early last year, the Cardiff School District came up with the idea of cutting a pedestrian walkway through the wall. The goal was to have an alternative route to better link the district’s two elementary-school campuses via pedestrian access through the south side of the park; this would allow students and parents in other neighborhoods to walk through the park and down the hill to Cardiff School.
“We held meetings with the superintendent, the principal, a school-board member, and a city planner,” said Hagen. It was understood by the residents that there would be more meetings before any plan was discussed or formalized.
“With only five days’ notice, I found out the item was on the October 11th city-council agenda,” said Hagen; it was a proposed $66,000 cut in the concrete wall, right in front of his house, on a private gravel street. “The school district apologized, saying they were not involved in proceeding with the project.” Hagen found out then that city officials were driving the project.
Hagen explained the plan is also to take right-of-way from their private gravel street to build a sidewalk out to the paved Warwick Avenue. “We’d lose all the parking on one side of our street,” said Hagen’s wife Suzanne.
At the October city-council meeting, only councilman Mark Muir spoke up for the residents. Muir was fire chief for the city when the park plans were finalized and the only one on the council who had direct knowledge of the city’s 2004 park plan. He said the city made an agreement with the neighbors back then to not have an access point. “I value park access, but I also value an agreement,” stated Muir.
Muir asked, “Why didn’t the council, at the time, allow the access point?” City staff said they could not produce any written agreement on the issue. “Why did they put up the wall?” Muir again questioned city staff.
“There’s got to be correspondence,” said Hagen from the audience.
The council voted 4 to 1, Muir opposing, to go ahead with the pedestrian access through the wall, with the instruction that city staff was to meet with the residents to address concerns.
“We were never contacted,” said Hagen. “Our attorney tried three times to set up a meeting.”
The group has spent about $30,000 in research and legal fees in preparing filings for declaratory and injunctive relief — the legal way to stop someone from doing something. “It should be heard in the next 90 days,” said Hagen.
At the council meeting on January 10th, Suzanne Hagen spoke to the council about the lawsuit. “They had been in private session prior to the meeting, talking about it,” she said. “Now our attorney has heard from city attorney Glenn Sabine,” said Greg Hagen.