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Leucadia wants attention, too
Town council, merchants plan help in business area
By Dana Littlefield
April 12, 2003
ENCINITAS Freudians might call it "Streetscape envy."
Now that downtown Encinitas has its glossy new signs, benches and mosaic sidewalk medallions, some Leucadians say it's time their beach-side business district got some needed attention.
Although they seem to enjoy browsing the motley collection of surf shops, restaurants, bars and bistros that line North Coast Highway 101, some say the area is looking somewhat worse for wear.
"We want the whole strip to look nice now," said Annabell Janssen, president of the Leucadia Town Council. "(Downtown) Encinitas looks so good now that it makes Leucadia look pretty bad."
So the Leucadia Town Council and Leucadia Merchants Association teamed up to address the problem. They're co-sponsoring community meetings to discuss street and storefront improvement projects in Leucadia, a community within the city of Encinitas.
The first meeting is scheduled Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Paul Ecke Central School, 185 Union St.
Mayor Jerome Stocks, Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan and Community Development Director Patrick Murphy are also expected to attend.
Community leaders in Leucadia have turned to the Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association for insight on how to make Leucadia more attractive and economically vibrant for small business.
Last year, the association helped spearhead the city's $5.2 million Streetscape program, which brought new sidewalks, light posts, benches and landscaping between A and F streets. The second phase of the project would extend south from F Street to K Street.
"For a while now, Leucadia merchants have been looking to the south and seen the marketing we do . . . in conjunction with the Streetscape program and said, 'We want some of that,' " said Peder Norby, executive director of the MainStreet association.
Norby will be on hand Tuesday to discuss the Main Street model created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation's National Main Street Center. It focuses on creating promotional materials and events, preserving historic buildings and recruiting new businesses.
Norby said he'll also invite Leucadia merchants to take part in a new building-facade program. He has been working with the town council and merchants association in Leucadia to set up a committee to help business owners obtain up to $2,000 from the city for painting or other structural improvements.
About 40 businesses have made use of the matching grants to spruce up building faces in downtown Encinitas, Norby said.
Committee member Morgan Mallory, owner of the Corner Frame Shop in Leucadia, said the facade grant program is intended to bring new life to older businesses and new business to the area.
"Hopefully, this meeting will be the beginning of what we planned nine years ago," said Mallory, who was part of the nine-member committee that helped draft the North 101 Corridor Specific Plan.
The document outlines zoning codes and development standards for the coastal area between Encinitas Boulevard and La Costa Avenue, along both sides of the railroad tracks.
Janssen called the collaboration between all the groups a "golden opportunity" to improve the Leucadia's business district.
"We really do not want strip malls and franchises and other urban ugliness," she said. "We want the eclecticness and the small scale of Leucadia to be carried through."
"We are very vested in making sure that it gets done right," she said.
It's a pity, but Ponto's too prime to survive
April 5, 2003
Poor little Ponto.
The funky 12-acre hamlet is one baby step closer to extinction.
Three years ago, the city of Carlsbad sentenced Ponto to Slow Death Row by including it in a sweeping 555-acre redevelopment zone extending south from the Encina power plant.
Tuesday night, the City Council approved a $176,000 contract with RBF Consulting of San Diego to develop a land-use plan and vision statement for Ponto, the Highway 101 cul-de-sac just north of Batiquitos Lagoon.
No one spoke against the contract. No one spoke for it. No one cared. The stages of Ponto's execution have become pro forma. Unworthy of comment.
Though it's too early for a weepy eulogy and probably too late for protest on behalf of a cluster of bungalows and blue-collar businesses with zero clout at City Hall I keep coming back to this vision thing.
RBF will produce a predictably utopian blueprint with parks, bicycle paths, improved traffic circulation. The focus will be on the wonderful (read: tax-producing) fruits of redevelopment.
Stripped of its bull meat, here's the vision statement the city is likely to receive:
"Ponto is a dump, plain and simple. Blighted? You bet. It's a ramshackle throwback to the '30s, the beach version of Tobacco Road. While the rest of Carlsbad's land values have skyrocketed, the worth of this embarrassing eyesore has declined.
"Ponto's businesses junk and firewood yard, sheet metal shop, upholstery repair, self storage do not belong this close to the shoreline. The land is too valuable for light industrial
"When modern planners use the term 'mixed use,' they mean Starbucks down below with $800,000 condos on top, not run-down bungalows beside kennels and such.
"What can you say about a commercial area that has the biggest wood pile in North County with this sign: 'Green Wood Not For Sale'?
"Scrape Ponto down to the dirt and the upside potential is HUGE. What this southern neck of Carlsbad wants is a hotel and conference space. The California Coastal Commission endorses tourist-serving businesses, not dilapidated blue-collar burgs. The future is in a hotel, condos, time shares, town houses.
"It's bad enough that the city has to accept scores of mobile homes excuse us, manufactured housing to the north of Ponto, but, of course, these residents have political muscle. Can't stir up those gray-haired hornets. But Ponto is a 98-pound weakling that can be bulldozed without blowback. Let's just do it!"
Though it might be perverse at this point, I believe Carlsbad needs Ponto and should take steps to preserve it.
The city already is a hotel-tax superpower. Sales tax? It makes Oceanside look like a pauper.
Carlsbad doesn't want money, but it does want soul.
Ponto should be embraced as a reminder of Carlsbad's humble roots. Just to the north is the upscale Hanover Beach Colony and a new Hilton hotel. Does the city have to gentrify the whole stretch of Highway 101 (that the city insists upon calling Carlsbad Boulevard)?
In my view, Ponto should be designated as a historic commercial district. Property owners should be given incentives to keep it just the way it is.
Save Ponto, green wood and all.
Tourists could come by after visiting Legoland and the Flower Fields. Promote it as SoCal's answer to an Amish village on Old Highway 101.
"Ponto: How the Other Half Lives . . . and Works."
Carlsbad has a variety of coastal treasures St. Michael's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, Army and Navy Academy that don't bring in much tax revenue. Ponto is the working-class hero of that healthy cultural mix.
Time was when Ponto was home to a racetrack, a chinchilla ranch and a bar called The Boomerang. Those crisp salad days are gone, of course.
Still, Ponto is worthy of the coast's highest compliment: It's cool enough to be in Leucadia.
We'll surely miss it when it's gone.
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