(Above: The proposed 277 unit complex at the corner of Encinitas Blvd and Rancho Santa Fe road by the 7-11 mall).
The inland build-out of eastern Carlsbad and San Marcos has added thousands of additional commuters making their way to jobs in UTC and San Diego. The congestion on I-5 and delays at I-5 on-ramps in Encinitas and Carlsbad have pushed an ever increasing number of these commuters south on Rancho Santa Fe Road (RSF Rd), where congestion regularly causes 30 minute delays on a 2-mile stretch through Olivenhain.
In the morning, commuters approaching the RSF Rd/Encinitas Blvd intersection from the North choose to turn left twice as often as they continue on to Manchester and the I-5, thus putting a heavy toll on Rancho Santa Fe and Solana Beach as they work their way to Loma Santa Fe before finally getting on the I-5. Digital traffic services ever more frequently route commuters through small residential and rural roads. Frustrated by the congestion approaching the Encinitas Blvd intersection, many commuters have chosen to exit RSF Rd even further upstream by turning left at El Camino del Norte, and then working their way south through Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar.
Earlier this year Encinitas completed a long-delayed state-mandated housing element, which for the first time introduced higher density housing (30 units/acre, R-30) in several places around Encinitas. In October owners of one of these parcels (located at Encinitas Blvd and RSF Road) submitted plans for a 69’, 8-level, 277 unit apartment complex surrounding a 538 car parking garage. The project is in its early stages (it is still an incomplete submittal), but the applicant has included enough low income housing to assert use ‘by right,’ which means that by law, the city cannot deny a conforming project, while also receiving an accelerated process of approval and exemption from the California Environmental Quality law (CEQA).
The Olivenhain Town Council (OTC) board voted unanimously to oppose both the up-zoning in June 2018, and this development in November 2019. High density housing is inherently inconsistent with rural communities like Olivenhain and Rancho Santa Fe. The traffic has already saturated RSF Rd through Olivenhain and from the RSF Rd/Encinitas Blvd intersection to the I-5 S. Hundreds of additional commuters trying to get to the I-5 S and hundreds of additional trips up and down RSF Rd in Olivenhain as parents drive their kids to and from their local public schools will make the existing traffic problems much worse if this project is built. This is a particularly frightening problem for our wildfire-exposed communities, threatening to create another Paradise-like tragedy.
Encinitas voters need to encourage city leaders to take back local control of planning. The city and community need to craft a housing element that can obtain voter approval to avoid ceding control to the courts and to a state housing authority that is heavily lobbied by the building industry. However, the traffic problem requires regional solutions to channel folks to the I-5 through the major East/West arteries and use the I-5 for their primary North/South transit. RSF, Olivenhain/Encinitas, and the eastern sections of Solana Beach and Del Mar should work together to persuade SANDAG and our northern neighbors to protect our rural streets from the pressures of increased commuter traffic.
What Can You Do?
Take this OTC-sponsored 5-question survey to register for updates, lodge your opinion of the proposed project, and/or volunteer to help.
Dan Vaughn is President of the Olivenhain Town Council.