Leucadia group protests reduced budget for improvements
By: ADAM KAYE - Staff Writer NCT.com
ENCINITAS -- A Leucadia group is objecting to plans to reduce funds budgeted to improve North Coast Highway 101, though the Encinitas City Council could reverse the proposed $900,000 takeaway when it meets tonight.
The Leucadia 101 MainStreet Association, which represents merchants and property owners in the Leucadia community, wants more than that.
The group has called for increased funding and for planning of the North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape Program to begin immediately.
"We are frustrated by the fact that other capital improvement programs in the city seem to be once again taking planning and funding priority over our project," board members from the group stated in a letter to the City Council, which was copied to the North County Times.
The planned highway, sidewalk and landscaping improvements between A Street and La Costa Avenue are among nearly 50 projects on the city's capital improvement program. City staffers have proposed funding reductions or increases to 16 of the projects.
The proposed capital program budget reduces funding for the North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape Program from $3.2 million to $2.3 million. The proposal trims $500,000 allocations to $200,000 during the 2008, 2009 and 2010 fiscal years.
Leucadia 101 wants the council to set aside $1 million for the streetscape program during each of those years and wants planning to begin immediately.
"Every day of delay in starting the planning is a day of delay in completing the project," said Charles Marvin III, a Leucadia 101 board member. "So let's go."
A business district striving to improve itself needs sidewalks so that visitors can walk safely to the stores, art galleries and restaurants along the highway. Long segments of the highway have no sidewalks at all.
Encinitas City Manager Kerry Miller said Tuesday that the proposed funding reduction is a "budget exercise," and that the project's budget ---- even if left untouched ---- would fall far short of what is needed to improve nearly three miles of highway.
"We all know that when it comes time to build that project, it will be underfunded," Miller said.
Construction of the full streetscape program is years away, he said.
In the meantime, officials are planning sidewalks along portions of the highway, and a construction proposal should be ready for the council's consideration this summer, Miller said.
"It's not acceptable for Leucadia to have to wait for years for fundamental pedestrian improvements to take place," he said.
The MainStreet group has spearheaded some sprucing up of the highway. It recently coordinated efforts to landscape medians near Leucadia Boulevard and also planted a garden around a newly installed entrance sign.
Elsewhere in Encinitas, Marvin notes, the city has invested substantially to beautify South Coast Highway 101 and Santa Fe Drive.
Merchants and city officials say the $5 million Downtown Encinitas StreetScape Program has paid dividends with increased business and sales tax receipts.
"What about us?" Marvin said. "I've owned property here (in Leucadia) for 30 years and I'm tired of waiting."
The City Council meets at 6 p.m. at 505 S. Vulcan Ave.
If Leucadia received half the love Santa Fe Dr does the community would be improved dramatically. Keep Leucadia Funky does not mean weeds and dirt. Please city council, share the wealth. Imagine, with a little friendly landscaping Leucadia could be a cross between coastal Laguna and Solana Beach's Cedros Design District. It's not rocket science or brain surgery, it's just sidewalks and flowers (last I heard we were still the flower capital of the world, I'm sure we could find some to plant around here somewhere).