After more than a decade of planning, legal setbacks and debate, the long-planned Encinitas Community Park, known as the Hall Property, will move forward.
With nearly 200 residents at the for a , the Encinitas City Council voted unanimously to approve funding for the Encinitas Community Park, a 44-acre site west of Interstate 5 and south of Santa Fe Drive.
The park will include a skate park, a dog park, a playground, five parking lots, a soccer field, multi-use athletic fields and restroom facilities. Construction is scheduled to begin next month, and the park will be open to the public at the end of next year.
Dog park, skate park and sports field advocates lined up to speak in favor of the Hall property plan.
Referring to Encinitas as “skateboard heaven,” resident Thomas Barker said Encinitas is long overdue for a skate park.
“If we created a professional baseball player every few years; we have dozen of locals going to work in the baseball industry; we have four retail establishments devoted just to baseball; and if we created the first ever baseball PE class, would we only have one baseball diamond?” Barker asked.
The city will take on an $8 million loan to fund the park and Moonlight Beach improvements.
The city has set aside $7.8 million for the park, which will cost $19.3 million. To close the funding gap, based on staff recommendations, the city will reallocate around $7 million from a list of 15 capital improvement projects. Of the 15 suggested projects, council members largely concurred with staff, but said they were reluctant to take money from one fund that's used to purchase open space and from another project to update . Council members will decide which capital improvement projects to reallocate funds from at an undetermined date.
The city originally planned to build the park in phases, or a “pay-as-you-go” approach. for phase one led the city to favor building the park in its entirety, according to City Manager Gus Vina. While building the whole park requires a loan, Vina said the city is financially stable, citing the city’s solid credit rating and low bonded-debt ratio, which is under 10 percent. And because of low interest rates, he also argued the timing of the loan is ideal.
But some speakers at the meeting voiced concerns that the city is piling on unhealthy levels of debt. To help fund the park and improvements at Moonlight Beach, the city approved revenue lease bonds, which are usually for projects that generate some form of income. At Moonlight Beach, that revenue will likely come from concession stand sales, though some speakers questioned if the bond made sense for the park.
“I and may others feel that issuing a lease revenue bond without a revenue stream derived from use and occupancy of the property, to which improvements are to be financed, would constitute sleight of hand,” Lynn Marr said.
Echoing some residents’ concerns, Jean-Bernard Minister, a geophysics professor, said the city’s plan to bury 46,000 cubic yards of toxic soil at the Hall property would not prevent nearby beaches from becoming contaminated. Further, he said those who live in proximity to the park are also in danger.
But Ed Deane, senior civil engineer with the city, said environmental reviews show current plans to bury the toxic soil are safe.
The city also unanimously approved a $4.8 million project to .
The overhaul calls for new restrooms and concession buildings, an expansion of the sand recreation area, and the addition of a garage that will double as storage space for lifeguards and as a public overlook.
As part of the $8 million loan, the city will borrow $2.9 million to finance the project. The rest of the funding will come from a $1.9 million grant from the State of California.
Construction on the Moonlight Beach improvements will begin in September; the facilities are set to open next May.