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Sunsets Unlimited: Everybody wins

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
March 10, 2005

 

"Parks are at the center of a community's character; they reflect and strengthen the sense of place and identity that makes cities fit places for people." — Unattributed

Two weeks ago, one of Encinitas's well-connected pariahs weighed in on efforts to develop a community park in that city of 60,000+ residents. His proposal was to sell the commercial friendly, and revenue producing, park property fronting interstate 5, to fund the purchase of land zoned agricultural elsewhere in the city in order to create a state of the art park facility in the center of town. Mr. Pariah suggests it is in the best interest of all Encinitas residents to sell the freeway frontage to a developer, who would then build a Costco, mixed use housing, and perhaps a hotel, to generate much needed sales tax revenue,

Good start.

All public decisions have to begin somewhere. Questions are a good place. Does Encinitas have a deficit of park facilities? Yes. Is the concept of a central park linking Quail Botanical Gardens, the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, the Children's Discovery Museum, and the Magdalena Ecke YMCA worth pursuing? Yes. Could Encinitas benefit from the sales tax generated by commercial and hotel development along the I-5 corridor? Hell yes. Considering Schwartzenegger and the Gray Davis democrats are driving California's economy into a multigenerational ditch, Encinitas would be wise to pursue economic sustainability.

In the spirit of full disclosure it should be noted, a long time proponent of parks, I have proudly served as an Encinitas Parks and Recreation commissioner for the past 4 years. Totally biased, I would be the first to admit to a civic philosophy of "when in doubt build a park." Parks are places where people come together. Whether it's playing sports, hanging with friends and family, recreating, or just playing around, parks are all about community. I am very pro-park.

There can never be too many parks.

The City of Encinitas is planning a 43-acre community park on the controversial Hall property. The yet to be named park, located in Cardiff, will one day provide recreation facilities such as sports fields, a teen center, small amphitheater, dog park, native passive space, specialty garden, children's labyrinth, tot lot, picnic facilities, basketball court, par course, and a three acre off leash people and dog zone. This is a very good thing.

Of course there are plenty of Encinitas residents who oppose the park. Most are nearby neighbors who worry about noise, traffic, kids, crime, and excessive night lighting. Some Encinitas residents, the author of the Sunsets Unlimited Proposal included, believe the location, beside I-5, is ill suited for a community park because its a prime commercial location that could easily net the city millions in sales tax revenue…annually. They also cite the need for millions of dollars in infrastructure redevelopment to provide access to the location. Personally I worry about the environmental hazards associated with children playing near a busy interstate.

In a nutshell, Sunsets Unlimited proposes a land swap that encourages commercial development, quiets disgruntled neighbors, and preserves the agricultural character of a historic landmark of cultural importance, while maintaining a living horticultural museum and state of the art greenhouse operations. Sunsets Unlimited also suggests the location near the freeway could also accommodate mixed-use housing, geared towards rental units and first time homebuyers.

The problem is the owners of the agricultural property in question have no intention of selling their property to anyone for parkland. The owners of the property, in spite of a longstanding promise to the people of Encinitas to keep the prime agricultural property in perpetuity, instead wish to rezone the land and build 200 single-family hotels instead. The property owners want to cash out and are willing to spend any amount of money to break its deal with the people of Encinitas.

Let me go on record stating, without reservation, that I believe the City of Encinitas should purchase the agricultural property and convert the historic space into another community park complete with ball fields, 4-H, state of the art greenhouses, a performance arts theatre, bocce courts, and sunset promenade. I also feel a citizens initiative is the best way to counter the traitorous instincts of those who think it is O.K. to lie to the people of Encinitas and sell out the quality of life of future generations for the cost of 200 single family homes.

Personally I'm glad the issue is being brought to a public vote, because given the choice between 200 million dollar homes and a community park I'm certain the people of Encinitas would vote in their interests and vote for more parkland.

The Sunset Unlimited Proposal may be flawed in size and scope, but still warrants serious consideration. And, as they say in the flower industry…it's a good start.

Citizens initiative anyone?

 
 
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