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Highway 680 - A Developers Wet Dream

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
September 2, 1999


It is nice to know that Marion Dodson, currently the Mayor of Solana Beach, is not serious about her run for the County Board of Supervisors. If she was, she wouldn't be leading the chorus to revive the long dead monstrosity known as Highway 680. Or continue pandering to the desires of the North County Transit District.

Two Weeks ago I attended a meeting of the SANDAG North Coast Transportation Policy Advisory committee which was, to say the least, interesting. Sitting front and center was Mayor Marion as she welcomed the idea of placing Highway 680 in somebody else's backyard. Under the guise of reducing traffic on Interstates 5 and 15, this ribbon of highway will bisect prime coastal sage scrub habitat, and only encourage yet another feeding frenzy of developers and land speculators.

Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game have recommended that the all arterial street alternatives be dropped from further consideration. They do this because the arterial street alternative would "result in significant fragmentation of habitat blocks which are vital to maintaining the biological integrity of the Multiple Habitats Conservation Program, and the Multi species Conservation Program.

All one has to do is look at Highway 78 to see that if this road were to be built, commercial development will follow. And the last thing the people of North County need is yet another McDonalds, Starbucks, or Kwiki-mart. As things are now, all coastal cities are indistinguishable. Why is it so hard to understand that once the biotic community known as coastal sage scrub is eradicated, the system wide extinction will bear our names. Granted past generations started us on this road, the fact still remains that we are the ones refusing to leave the drivers seat.

Members of the public that are asking for better regional planning are finally being heard, it is a shame Mayor Dodson is not one of the people listening to them. If builders, developers, and people to selfish to get out of their car had it their way, existing roads would be widened as much as possible and new roads would be built until the entire region was laced with a web of asphalt. Did I mention that Highway 680 bypasses Solana Beach, forcing it's impacts on communities to the east.

If Ms. Dodson was authentic in her desire to reduce traffic on the region's single occupancy transportation infrastructure, she would work with Supervisor Slater, Encinitas Councilman Dennis Holz, and the residents of Del Mar to force the North County Transit District to conduct a comprehensive Environmental Impact Study for the entire LOSSAN rail corridor. Up to this point Mayor Dodson has been a supporter of the piecemeal planning favored by NCTD.

Piecemeal planning is exactly what Highway 680, or any new arterial roads, represent. The only people who think it is smart growth to slash through prime endangered coastal sage scrub habitat, protected only by it's inaccessibility, are those who find living in a vacuum comfortable. Instead of building more roads and promoting urban sprawl, perhaps we as a community should find ways to better use our existing infrastructure.

The general public is also in favor of mass transit, those that oppose double tracking and the improved service it will allow, do so because North County Transit District is more concerned with increasing the number of tracks, to service freight traffic, instead of expanding commuter rail service. The reason I oppose double tracking through Encinitas is because NCTD refuses to meet the needs of our community. Double tracking should be situated below grade, this handles the noise pollution. The rail should be moved slightly east, to protect the fragile bluffs of Cardiff. And walkways should be in place to accommodate the needs of local surfers and pedestrians.

Speaking to the North Coast Transportation committee, I think Evelyn Alemanni, Chairwoman of the Elfin Forest Town Council slightly missed the mark when she said "The purpose of Highway 680 is not to solve traffic problems, but to appease voters." Closer to the truth is that promoting such a project, appeases only those willing to make sizable campaign donations. Thereby insuring that their voices will be heard above all others.

Things are changing in coastal North County, and the era of growth for the sake of growth is behind us. And politicians pandering to development interests will soon find themselves out of office with no where to go. Instead of thinking about the next election, elected officials should be thinking about the next generation, and the next, and the next, and the next.

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