March 22, 2017.
OPEN SPACE AND TRAIL ACQUISITION
Kudos to Council Member Muir for suggesting a mechanism to acquire open space and trails to increase connectivity of our trail network. This item consistently is reported in surveys and when I’m out in the community as a high priority for our residents. But creating a way to identify and actually acquire open space is much more difficult. The past council asked staff to come back with a proposal for an ad-hoc committee recommendation.
Streamlining governance is important for transparency and consistency. We have commissions, working groups, committees, sub-committees and now an advisory committee. Adding another form of governance could be confusing. So I welcomed Mayor Blakespear’s suggestion that open space and trail acquisition sit within the purview of the Parks and Recreation Commission, which was passed 5-0. They already have a subcommittee looking at this and adding a few citizens (or other commissioners from the Planning or Environmental Commission) will be a great way to ensure that we move from idea to action on open space.
One thing we didn’t discuss was funding. Open space in high land value cities like Encintias is expensive. If this is a real priority for our city we need to fund it and make sure that the process is as nimble as possible to be able to act when a parcel comes on the market.
Here is a San Diego Union Tribune article on open space/trail acquisition.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANTS
We had several applicants for federal funding through the community development block grant program. While this program is being debated at the national level, these grants make it possible for us to fund local services, capital improvements and fair housing. Only a certain amount can be used for public services and for 2017-2018 we funded five groups:
One organization, ElderHelp, which was meant to connect seniors with improved co-housing situations, did not received renewed funding, due to low performance in 2016-2017. Deciding against continuing funding for any organization trying to do a good in our community is difficult. But funding is limited and we need to make sure that we base decision-making on actual performance. I encourage ElderHelp to keep making progress and apply again next year.
Interfaith Shelter Network was a new applicant and I was very much encouraged by their work they have done setting up shelters in Encinitas with several of our congregations. They keep the shelter small (10-15 people) so as to not place a large burden on the surrounding community and receive most of their funding through church donations and volunteerism. For Encinitas, the CRC serves as the navigator and would recommend homeless individuals who meet the qualifications to the shelter wherever they are in San Diego County.
In addition to the public services, we approved 5-0 capital improvement funding for facility upgrades at the CRC, ADA accessibility in Cardiff and residential rehabilitation program through the City of Encinitas, program administration and funding for fair housing services through the Legal Aid Society of San Diego.
Here is a Coast News article on the CDGB grants.
TREES AT LEO MULLEN SPORTS PARK
Balancing the use of one of our most popular sports fields by youth and families with the rights of adjacent residents to dark evenings has been an ongoing effort. Staff worked with both the neighboring HOA and Encinitas Express to shift the lights and to suggest planting 13 low-water, slope-loving, fast-growing, long-lived Tristania trees to provide a buffer from the field to the adjacent residences. This is a great solution that will make the sports field more compatible with its surroundings and we voted to support staff recommendation 5-0. I suggested that in the meantime, Parks and Rec could look at adding shade cloth to lessen the impact of the lights in the short term.
This is a case where our staff has really taken a collaborative approach and reached a better outcome for everyone. As Mayor Blakespear said, “Director Campbell makes getting to yes look easy!” Kudos to the Parks and Rec Staff and Director Cambell!
Here is the Encinitas Advocate article on our decision.
Here is a Coast News article on the proposal.
FEDERAL REVENUE-NEUTRAL CARBON FEE AND DIVDEND (CFD) PROGRAM
We received a recommendation to support a federal revenue-neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend (CFD) Program. This was brought to us by the Evironmental Commission and is an endorsement not of a particular piece of legislation but rather a concept. The idea is to add a tax at the point of extraction of fossil fuels and then return these dividends via income taxes.
I have a general value of making our world a more sustainable place, and a revenue-neutral CFD is a market-driven mechanism to do just that. It keeps the negative environmental externalities where they belong -- with the extractor and that's the really important thing. We voted 4-1 to support the CFD and have Council Member Muir (who voted no) to help with public outreach to help educate our residents on the nuts and bolts of a CFD. To Council Member Muir’s credit, he said he felt this concept was not well known enough and more education was necessary to be able to support the resolution. I agree that more outreach is a good thing and look forward to the event.
It is also important to point out the dozens of emails and members of the public who took time out of their day to ask us to support this resolution and we had no voices opposed to it. Much like with the plastic bag ban, the more municipalities that support resolutions like this, the more comfortable federal and state lawmakers will be supporting it in the future. This was another way to do our part to make the world more sustainable for our community and the next generation.
DESIGNING THE SAN ELIJO LAGOON DOUBLE TRACK RETAINING WALL
Mayor Blakespear and Deputy Mayor Kranz met with SANDAG recently on the design of the retaining wall that is part of the San Elijo Lagoon Double Tracking Project. The wall, as currently designed, looks much like a freeway retaining wall with little character or aesthetics. Community groups like Cardiff 101 have been trying to influence this process for a while and I am thankful to Blakespear and Kranz for taking this initiative to try to make the project as compatible with our community as possible.
The suggestion had been to get a vegetative wall with plantings that would blend more seamlessly with the surroundings. According to SANDAG staff this was not possible with engineering, the right of way and slope. So the suggestion was made to allow the Commission for the Arts (along with Cardiff 101) to help design that wall, which was passed 5-0. My personal hope is that we can get something that is not just along the top area (like SANDAG suggested), but we can have a more mural-like solution that better integrates the entire wall, which is significantly noticeable from Coast Highway. We also included the rail cap design with letters that spell CARDIFF on one side and local bird images on the other side.
HOUSING PLAN UPDATE TASK FORCE (AND SB 431)
Mayor Blakespear and Deputy Mayor Kranz reported on the Housing Plan Update Task Force. An RFP (request for proposals) has been issued to find someone who can help us to improve our housing plan update. This is great news and thank you to the task force for your constructive, hard work!
Additionally, Deputy Mayor Kranz reviewed a presentation on affordability by design and I hope ways to actually implement this will be coming forward in the coming months.
Mayor Blakespear also reported on our bill for legislative relief for unpermitted accessory units, SB 431 (Bates). One change was the exclusion of these units from counting for our state required low income housing allocation (RHNA) numbers. I suspect this is due to the fact that many lawmakers would be uncomfortable with lower building standards for lower income people. But the good news is that it is going forward, because these unpermitted accessory units form the de facto affordable housing for many young professionals, elderly, and members of our community. Ensuring basic health and safety standards while keeping them as part of our housing stock is important for retaining the diversity and safety of our community.
Here is the Coast News article on our bill for legislative relief for unpermitted accessory units.
Here is the Coast News article on the new lawsuit about our non-compliant housing element.
Thank you very much to Tijuana Council Member Ivette Casillas (also a member of the SANDAG Border Committee) for the invitation to attend the launch of the new Tijuana Tourism Plan on Thursday, March 23 in Tijuana. I was honored to join the outstanding group of officials supporting international economic development and tourism.