In case you haven’t noticed, San Marcos is growing in a variety of ways. New stores such as Hobby Lobby and Winco are opening, construction on the new Creek District is underway, and all around the city infrastructure improvements can be seen. San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond came by to update club members at our monthly meeting on Saturday.
Mayor Desmond began by describing the “Innovate 78” program and how it came about. The mayors of the 5 cities that border Hwy. 78 originally began by discussing their concerns that North County communities were not getting their fair share of funding for transportation from SANDAG. SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments, is a public agency which “serves as the forum for regional decision-making” primarily on transportation issues.
These discussions were productive and showed the five mayors of Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido that they could and should collaborate on other issues as well. Rather than competing with one another, why don’t the five cities work jointly to foster better economic development all along the freeway corridor? They quickly realized that each city had a unique complementary niche to offer. The “Innovate 78” program was born.
Specifically for San Marcos, we are the regional hub of education as the home of Palomar Community College and Cal State University San Marcos, with roughly 45,000 students between them and growing. The goal is to keep the talent that is educated in our area and the businesses that employ them in our neck of North County.
A prime example cited by the Mayor is that of Stone Brewery. Stone was originally located in San Marcos, but once they outgrew their facility and could not find a big enough space within San Marcos, the city worked with Escondido to find a still local home for Stone to move into. Even though the business itself is now technically within the Escondido city limits, Stone still contributes a great deal to the local economy, employs the same people and more for the local cities, and still makes large contributions to the Boys and Girls Club of San Marcos. This is much better than if Stone had relocated much farther away.
The Mayor admitted that there hasn’t yet been a “big hit” coming out of the program per se, yet they have already realized its value. They now have other levels of government of the five cities also coming together to share ideas and best practices. City managers, economic development managers, school superintendents and even the police chiefs/sheriffs have all been regularly meeting in a similar fashion. This has lead to more efficient policies such as streamlining building permits across the region and discussions on how to better prepare students to enter the local workforce, for example.
The Mayor also provided an update on the Creek District development. The first phase ongoing in the vicinity of Bent and Discovery street areas is construction of affordable housing units and infrastructure upgrades. Between now and 2017 roads will be widened, bridges over the “creek” will be build on Bent and Via Vera Cruz, and Discovery Street will be built out to four lanes. Once that is completed the further build out of the creek area will continue. Ultimately there will be a mix of retail storefronts and 2,300 living units in a “walkable downtown” environment along with a parking structure.
The Mayor concluded by mentioning a litany of other things the city has accomplished including:
- constant efforts to maintain decent roads which will now be funded through a direct annual budget allocation of $6 million rather than just relying on “whatever is left over”.
- continuing water conservation efforts. City Hall is getting a new drought tolerant landscape overhaul, medians in the roads will no longer be watered are examples.
- two additional developments along the lines of the Creek District are also planned in later years. 2,500 living units will be built in the Quad area by the university and another on Mission Ave. between Palomar and City Hall.
- more improvements to Rt. 78 are planned, including overhauled interchanges at Woodland Pkwy and the “Barham hook” on ramp.
- working with SANDAG to add an HOV lane to the 78 that will connect to the same on I-15;
- working to connect hiking trails between the various city parks where feasible.
- considering how to add bike lanes to San Marcos Blvd but the main goal for now is how to get traffic off of that thoroughfare, link Sprinter stations and find the funding from developers to provide other public transit options.