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Lagoons, Libraries, and Lessons to Learn

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
May 20, 1999


I'm sure Kathleen Porterfield considers herself an educator, anyone who runs a private school probably would. The question is, what lessons is she teaching the students at the Encinitas Country Day School. I wonder if temper tantrums are on the curriculum.

Last week, after the California Coastal Commission rejected Porterfield's second appeal to an earlier denial of the placement of her business. The school owner filed a lawsuit challenging the coastal commission's authority. I'm sure if the Encinitas City council had denied her project, Porterfield, and her cadre of hired guns, would have been camping out at the Coastal Commission office the next morning.

Talk about being a sore loser. Not only has she begun litigations, she is also trying to prevent the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy from receiving a million dollar grant to open the mouth of the lagoon and restore tidal action. "we do not intend to give up," she said on being denied what she considers her life's work. "we believe we are fighting for something that is really good for the children and the lagoon."

Let's unpack that last statement. She says she is fighting. Who exactly, is she fighting. Be assured it is not tree-hugging environmentalists. Ms. Porterfield's opponents are groups whose sole purpose is to protect the environment. The San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy and the California Coastal Commission are looking at a much bigger issues than the dream of one woman. As for doing "something really good" for the lagoon, the best thing for the lagoon, is to restore it and then leave it, and the currently undeveloped land surrounding it, alone.

I know Ms. Porterfield deals with K-8 educational concerns, perhaps one of the lessons she has yet to learn is that sometimes business ventures don't pan out. Capitalism does have it's downside. This is clearly the case here. If taking care of the lagoon was really important, she would have never considered the spot in the first place. As for doing good for kids, again, the best thing possible is to save some viable open space as habitat for future generations.

Probably the most telling comment made by Madame Porterfield, was that regulators were creating a moving target to "win the game." If this misguided women were truly concerned about protecting the environment she would realize that this is not a game, and a breeding pair of gnatcatchers are not pawns to be toyed with. I'm also sure that those really working to protect the San Elijo Ecological Reserve do not enjoy having to deal yet another of this woman's hissy fits.

Speaking of adults acting like petulant children, if you think things are ugly now regarding enrollment at the San Dieguito Academy, just wait until they place the "New and Improved" library adjacent to it. Talk about fur flying. The fight over the La Posta gates is going to look like a day at Disneyland compared to the battle that would ensue after the placement of the library at the academy.

Then there is the issue of the expense of upgrading the infrastructure surrounding the Academy location. Libraries generate traffic. As it is, trying to navigate the area is near to impossible before and after school. Are the neighbors near the high school prepared to have their neighborhoods disrupted the way Leucadia Boulevard was? Not only will roads need to be widened and sidewalks installed, the freeway underpass would more than likely require widening as well.

I'm sorry, moving the library from it's current location just doesn't make sense, environmentally or fiscally. First of all the current library is a block away from the Encinitas transit station. At least 8 bus routes and the Coaster intersect at this facility. Moving the library would only require transfers and possibly more car trips than otherwise necessary. This would also keep the library next to City Hall, which in turn helps to promote a civic center downtown. Removing civic buildings from an historic downtown is not smart growth.

By renovating and expanding the library at it's current site, the Encinitas City council will also be retaining for the citizens of Encinitas, a library with an ocean view. How many cities can boast that? Well planned civic centers help create an identity for a community. Not only will a state of the art library bring residents downtown, it is also within walking distance of the La Paloma Theatre, the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, and the Pacific Ocean.

My advice to the Encinitas City Council, is that now is not the time to reinvent the wheel. Let's keep the library where it is, and build a facility that best represents the character of Encinitas. Imagine high school kids being able to research a paper on ocean health, while watching the sun set over the Pacific.

Now that's Encinitas.

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