ENCINITAS — Longtime Cardiff resident Julie Thunder said she is running for mayor of Encinitas because she’s fed up with the direction she sees the city going in.
She announced her bid during a contentious marathon City Council meeting last month where she was one of more than 100 people who addressed the council regarding the overnight homeless parking lot they were set to approve.
“To everyone here tonight please join me right here and right now in keeping Encinitas a beach town as I hereby announce my candidacy for mayor,” she said at the end of a three-minute impassioned speech at the meeting on Jan. 22, as the crowd erupted in applause.
During that speech Thunder said she sees the city moving away from its small beach-town feel due to a long list of projects the council has approved, including chopping down hundreds of old trees in Leucadia to make way for road diets, parking lots and roundabouts; bringing high-rise apartments to “our peaceful, backcountry jewel” in Olivenhain; building a concrete rail-trail in Cardiff “that becomes a beach boardwalk in the summertime” and approving a regional homeless parking lot and slapping it “right in the middle of one of our cherished agricultural properties.”
“For renouncing the historic Ecke growing grounds you should take that poinsettia off our emblem,” she told the council, referencing that the city’s Safe Parking Program lot is on a site that was previously part of the Paul Ecke Ranch.
In an interview on Feb. 10, Thunder, a mom of four adult daughters who’s lived in Cardiff with her husband for more than 35 years, said the current mayor and council have been fast-tracking projects and bringing in development that takes away from Encinitas’ small-town vibe and she wants to slow that down.
“If we keep going in the direction the mayor and City Council are going we’re going to end up with four- and five-story buildings all over town, and with each one of those buildings is going to come a bunch of cars and a bunch more traffic and it’s just going to add a little bit of tension to everybody’s day and that’s not why people live here,” she said.
Adding to the problem, Thunder said, is that she feels as though the council approaches projects backward. She said council and staff decide which projects they want to do, draw up the plans and then present them to the public without listening to resident input.
“I would reverse that,” Thunder said. “I would start with the residents who are most impacted and go forward from there because I certainly don’t think that I know what’s best for anybody, especially people who live in an area that I don’t live in.”
Thunder said that as mayor, the main thing she’d like to do is find a new path to the housing requirements that are being “shoved down our throats” by the state. She said it’s disheartening because the state of California’s population has flatlined but yet the state government is forcing high-density projects.
“Other cities are pushing back and they’re making headway, I’d like to work with them,” she said. “I’d like to form a coalition with other coastal cities that have the same housing problems we do. We’re basically built out, so I’d like to find a way to be more reasonable with what the state is trying to force us to do.”
Thunder said she’s also interested in long-term projects like undergrounding the railroad tracks through Leucadia. She said Carlsbad has been leading the charge on that issue and she’d like to work with them.
“Our city hasn’t been working with Carlsbad, they don’t seem to be interested, but I am and I’d like to explore that,” she said, adding she’s interested in the possibility of a trench, as Carlsbad and other California cities have proposed or utilized, which could allow for a park, and/or pedestrian and vehicle overpasses to be built on top of the undergrounded tracks so that “everybody on both sides of the highway and railroad tracks can get to the other side safely.”
Thunder, who said that during her campaign she’ll be stepping away from her duties at The Encinitas Current, the newsletter she runs with former City Councilman Mark Muir, said there’s so much divisiveness in the city, evidenced by the number of lawsuits happening throughout the city, and she’d like to work to change that.
She said as mayor she would be accessible to people and to their ideas and be willing to compromise.
“I could not be more sincere and honest when I say I have no agenda except to slow things down and to keep Encinitas more like it’s always been instead of something new and flashy,” she said. “I would have compassion for homeowners and renters, and if a project is about to change the way they do things, change their access to things, change the values of their home, that matters to me. And I think people would appreciate that, I think it would really change the tone of our city if we had someone like that running things.”
Tawny McCray is a native San Diegan and graduate of San Diego State University. She has known she wanted to be a journalist since writing for her Jr. High School newspaper in 1991. She has worked at The Star News in Chula Vista, The San Diego Union Tribune and ABC 10News San Diego. She has recently freelanced for Scripps Ranch News and The Poway Eagle and is a longtime freelancer with creators.com. She is working on authoring books with her twin sister, Nyla. She and her husband have two kids and live in South Park.