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For Better or Worse, Encinitas Celebrates First Year of Cityhood

October 11, 1987|ERIC BAILEY | Times Staff Writer

"It's really amazing how much we have accomplished. We started with nothing a year ago, and now we have a fully operating city doing lots of significant things that the county still hasn't managed to accomplish in the unincorporated areas."

--Councilman Gerald Steel, on what's right about Encinitas after one year of cityhood.

"What is there to see? They aren't doing anything. They're doing a lot of planning. At the drop of a dime they'll spend money to hire a consultant or sue someone, but they won't sweep the streets. I haven't seen a street sweeper in my neighborhood since we became a city."

--Incorporation foe Fred Schreiber, on what's wrong about Encinitas after one year of cityhood.

Encinitas had a birthday party recently.

The drinks flowed, platters of food from a wide slate of local restaurants were served to celebrants, a cake was ceremoniously cut. From all corners of the community, residents came to raise a glass and toast Encinitas, which on Oct. 1 completed its first full year of cityhood.

To many at the fete, it seemed like only yesterday that four distinct communities--Cardiff, Leucadia, Olivenhain and Encinitas--joined hands and rose up in revolt, voting overwhelmingly to throw off the shackles of county rule and set course as a self-sufficient municipality.

Champions of cityhood maintained that the county Board of Supervisors, ensconced in their chambers in downtown San Diego, were out of touch with the area's residents, heedlessly approving high-density residential projects that violated the character of the coastal region.

Now, however, the county is no longer a part of the picture. Encinitas is being run by Encinitans.

Pros and Cons Since Incorporation

While the community's founding fathers can point to numerous achievements over the past year as evidence that life is better since incorporation, critics contend the new regime has failed to adequately tackle some of the area's most vexing problems, from clogged traffic to a lack of park space.

"I've been disappointed by the fact that there seems to be no physical evidence of us being a city," said Betty Knutson, president of the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce. "I felt they could have

placed some trash cans around or done some type of spectacular cleanup effort in some area. But there isn't anything we can point to and say, 'We got that because we're a new city.' "

Such gripes sting leaders of the new city of 44,000.

Among the most fervent promises made during the incorporation campaign was that cityhood would give residents more bang for their tax buck. But if some Encinitans feel they have yet to reap the fruits of self-rule, it's only a matter of time before the benefits of incorporation will be obvious to all, city leaders stress.

"Right now, the average person might be a little disenchanted," said Richard MacManus, a Cardiff resident and chairman of that area's newly instituted planning advisory board. "He or she still sees major development going on and traffic jams in the streets . . . But the city is beginning to make headway against the problems we inherited from the county. We're moving in the right direction."

New City Diverse

Spread over 26 square miles of coastal terrain straddling Interstate 5, Encinitas is a hodgepodge of neighborhoods, from a mix of high-priced condominiums, single-family homes and old-time beach bungalows to a dense sea of tract houses that have spread across the eastern frontier, gobbling up flower fields and hills of chaparral.

While sharing similarities, each of the four communities that linked up to form the city maintains a particular identity that residents guard jealously.

On the northern coastline is Leucadia, where winding streets are typically devoid of curbs or gutters, where the commercial squalor of budget motels and small shops along Old Highway 101 bumps headlong into neatly tended homes that often fetch far in excess of $200,000.

Just to the south is Encinitas, a grid of streets surrounding a bustling commercial core of sun-baked buildings. Meandering inland along Encinitas Boulevard, the homes get progressively newer, and at El Camino Real they stop altogether. This is the commercial heartland of the city, a solid stretch of shopping centers, restaurants, movie theaters and bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Along the southern coast lies Cardiff, where older beach houses are steadily giving way to mammoth duplexes and condominiums, prompting complaints from residents irked by the flip-flop in character as well as the loss of their ocean views.

Sprawling on the eastern edge of the city, Olivenhain is the section of Encinitas least touched by the bulldozer blade, a bucolic stretch of ranch homes and horse farms set amid grassy hills and arroyos.

It was from those disparate characteristics that a city was formed. Though the ambiance of their communities varies, residents throughout the region began in recent years to share common gripes about their out-of-town rulers on the county Board of Supervisors.

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