During a City Council meeting held at the unusual hour of 3 pm on May 20th, Mayor Blakespear and Councilmembers voted unanimously to close two lanes of Coast Highway 101, between E and D Streets, to allow the businesses to expand out into the street, providing more social distancing for their restaurant or retail patrons. The cost of closing the lanes is partially funded by a county grant.
Tom Cozens, the President of Encinitas 101, a downtown business advocacy group, urged the council to approve the changes via a letter read aloud at the beginning of the meeting. “My wife and I support adoption of the business recovery strategies. As members of E101 and as a commercial landlord we have witnessed firsthand the devastating impact the pandemic has had on nearly every type of business.”
But, the effects of this have been devastating on the very businesses it was meant to help.
I learned about all this when the ugly orange barricades were being installed. We were never consulted and never asked if it would help or hurt.Downtown business manager
The changes involve a new traffic merge from two lanes in each direction down to one lane creating lines of cars idling at both intersections. Word has gotten out through social media that the traffic problems are not worth the visit to downtown, so it seems that local residents aren’t shopping in the area.
Also, all left-turn options at D and E have been eliminated from the 101. This has stopped the left turn back up that has always existed at these intersections. But, now cars are forced to drive through the intersections, then turn onto side streets and come back around to D or E to go east of the RR tracks.
On Saturday, July 4th, we spoke with the manager of a store in this block who was not happy with the changes. He asked to remain anonymous as he wasn’t comfortable speaking out against City Hall. According to the manager, his business received no communication from the City about the lane closures and parking changes. He said, “I learned about all this when the ugly orange barricades were being installed. We were never consulted and never asked if it would help or hurt.” He also said that the installers told him that trees in planter boxes would be set up, but that was days ago and no sign of them yet.
The owner of the business called the City as soon as he learned of the lane closures. He told them they would need a permit to move items out into the now-opened street area in front of their business. So they applied for the permit earlier this past week, but have not yet received approval. When asked how business was since the changes, he said “none of my regular customers are coming in, only the tourists”.
Another business in the affected block is the 101 Diner. Owner Scott Smith said he was contacted by a member of Encinitas 101 who told him that the City is considering on-street dining and asked if he would be interested. She told him they would block off “some spaces” for restaurants. He thought it was a good idea. He received nothing from the City so he was shocked when they started closing the lanes on Tuesday. He called the City and was told how to get a permit and that it would be a quick process. He filed the three required items that afternoon. As of today, his permit shows “50% approved”.
His frustration is visible. One of the problems is that the permanent curb outside his diner is 6-8 inches high, clearly not handicapped accessible, and a trip hazard for busy food servers. He told us his number one concern is that the City did not include merchants in their planning and he doesn’t know when it will be reversed. He recently said in a social media post, “Congrats to the City of Encinitas for shoving a plan down our throats without asking ONE SINGLE MERCHANT for input.”
This Resolution shall remain in effect until three months after the local emergency is lifted. The City Council will evaluate if the regulatory reliefs authorized under this Resolution remain necessary to support the recovery efforts and may choose to extend the requirements of this Resolution as they see fit.The agenda item that the Council voted 5-0 to approve without any comments by business owners