Encinitas City and Neighborhood Profile
by McCormack's Guides - 2005

A COASTAL-INLAND CITY THAT MIXES THE OLD with the new and is moving upscale. Situated between Solana Beach and Carlsbad. Population 62,586.

Encinitas incorporated in 1986, drawing together the towns of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Leucadia, Olivenhain, and old and new Encinitas. To soothe feelings, the old towns were encouraged to keep their identities and frequently you'll run across brochures or news articles that talk about Cardiff or Leucadia as if each stood alone. To be accurate, these are now neighborhoods of Encinitas.

School rankings generally in 80th and 90th percentiles, indicating strong support for education. Children attend Cardiff Elementary District, about 800 students and two schools, and Encinitas Elementary District, about 5,400 students and nine schools.

Encinitas Elementary district passed bond to renovate schools and wire then for high-tech. Cardiff Elementary District, which serves one of the coastal neighborhoods, won approval of a $5 million measure. The money was used to rebuild Harris Intermediate and renovate Cardiff Elementary.

Teens attend schools in San Dieguito Union High District, which has rankings hitting the 98th percentile, tops in state, and serves several towns. La costa Canyon High School opened in 1996 in Carlsbad but it draws many Encinitas students. It includes library, performing arts center, two-story gym. San Dieguito High School, popular because of its high scores, is open to Encinitas students but uses a lottery to determine some admissions.

Mira Costa Community College runs a satellite campus in Encinitas. Community colleges offer many classes and activities.

Crime rate low. Zero homicides in 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999 and 1998, one in 1997. Counts for previous years are two, zero, zero, one, three, three, zero, three, four. Patrolled by sheriff's deputies. Sheriff's substation.

In California, cities rarely spring out of the blue. Usually they start as hamlets or villages governed from the county seat by the board of supervisors - politicians representing the whole county. By and By, the locals start disagreeing with supervisors over the quality of municipal services or, more than likely, planning and the pace of development. The villages then incorporate as "cities," a legal entity in California, and take over their own planning and services or contract with agencies to provide certain services. Encinitas followed this pattern, with the result that for an upscale town its housing is quite diverse. Prior to incorporation, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Leucadia, and Old Encinitas had completed a good deal of their home building.

Leucadia, founded in 1885 by English settlers fond of Greece - some streets have Greek names - is located on the north and tends to narrow streets and cottages and small to medium homes. Many of the homes have been remodeled; very few are new. Homes on the beach have ocean views; the rest don't. Curbs and sidewalks almost nonexistent. Residents shop and dine at stores an d restaurants along Highway 101, which is lined partially with eucalyptus. Leucadia is pinched by the rail line, which runs next to the highway. Some upscaling, in the form of a restaurant and luxury hotel with 126 rooms. Residents distrust new, love old and fight vigorously what they dislike. "like being nibbled to death by a duck," one fellow described residential tactics.

Old Encinitas, located near Moonlight State Beach, is laid out on a grid with much wider street. It has the true feeling of a town: stores, civic buildings, a post office, a hospital, a library (to be replace in 2006 with larger facility), movie house, antique shops, cafes, restaurants, some with ambitious menus - trattorias instead of pizza parlors. Curbs and sidewalks. East meets West: The Self Realization Fellowship is just up the street from the Church of Christ. On one block, a homeowner planted two old cabin cruisers into his lawn and converted them into small houses - the SS Encinitas and the SS Moonlight. Old Encinitas has charm and injects some buzz into the city. Nice place for a weekend dinner and a stroll to the beach. Small homes on the beach. Historical Society has renovated an old school for a town meeting hall and an archive center.

Cardiff-by-the-Sea is removed from the ocean. At this point, the highway and the rail line run so close to the beach that no housing was built along shore, which was purchased by the state (San Elijo State Beach). The community starts just east of the rail line and rises into hills with views of the Pacific. Cottages, two-and three-bedroom homes, most of them well over 50 years old. Many remodelings with view porches added. Well maintained. Stores, restaurants, cafes clustered at base of hill. New library. Charming neighborhood. One developer was a music publisher and composer. Streets are named after Beethoven, Mozart, Haydin, Verdi, Rossini.

To a great extent, the allure of Cardiff and Old Encinitas lies in the terrain. It rises, falls and rises again higher, creating great vistas of the Pacific and San Elijo Lagoon. Many of the homes have added balconies or windows pointed toward the water. Perversely, many residents have planted trees, which block some views and drag the city into fights over pruning and cutting down.

At Crest Drive, Encinitas descends into a deep valley and at the bottom of this valley, El Camino Real, the old King's Highway and a major thoroughfare, runs north-south. Office buildings, supermarkets plazas, office complexes and large modern stores: Office Depot, Barnes and Noble, Home Depot.

Moving east from El Camino Real, the terrain rises again and here you will find modern suburbia: miles of upscale tracts, many four- and five-bedroom homes, one and two stories, planted median strips, four-lane thoroughfares that move traffic to the freeways, street designs that buffer the homes from the arterial traffic, and for some, views of the Pacific and the setting sun. Lawns mowed, trees and shrubs trimmed, lawns decorated with roses and other flowers. Curbs and sidewalks. Utility lines buried. Handsomely done.

Moving further east, the terrain drops again into Olivenhain. No views. Some old farm houses. Some historic buildings (old meeting house) and some of the most opulent homes of the region. In this area, Encinitas borders Rancho Santa Fe, one of the richest towns in the U.S. When you hugger=mugger up to the wealthy, folks, you rarely build shacks. And this section hasn't. Large homes, lovely appointments, custom designs, some on ranchettes (few acres), others on large lots. Horse country. Golf courses nearby.

The state in 2004 counted 25,178 housing units - 14,194 single-family detached, 4,535 single attached, 5,680 multiples, 769 mobiles. Of the total units, about 60 percent were built between 1970 and 1990 and about 10 percent in 1990s. Encinitas has its old but it is very much a modern city.

Commute to downtown San Diego is 20 to 25 miles. When traffic is congested, those are long miles. About 10-miles to Sorrento Valley and University of California, major job centers. Commute rail between Oceanside and downtown San Diego. Stops at Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Sorrento Valley. At Oceanside, connection can be made to commuter service to Orange and Los Angeles counties. Called the Coaster.

About 20 parks (including three large sports parks), 10 beaches open to public, trails, Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, skateboard park, sports for kids, adults, Little League, soccer, etc. Bicycle stunt park. Bocce. Two dog parks. Museum. Meditation garden on ocean. Botanical garden. Community-seniors center-gym. Marine refuge. Six miles of coastline. Golf courses. Batiquitos Lagoon marks northern boundary, San Elijo Lagoon (preserve), southern border. Bird watching. Chamber of commerce (760) 753-6041.

  • In 2002, Surfer magazine placed Encinitas in the top ten surfing cities in US.
  • Hotel tax buys sand to replenish shore.
  • Horse ranchette on south side, Manchester Avenue. Strawberry fields.
  • Noise from Marine helicopters off coast. See profile of Mira Mesa.
  • New school program: Kids start with Spanish and a little English and expand English and reduce Spanish until 50-50 ratio is reached.


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