City updates low-income housing plan

CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad City Council made required updates Dec. 23 to a planning document that identifies how the city could accommodate the state estimate of needed moderate- and low-cost housing units. State law requires every city and county in California to update its plans for each housing cycle. The current housing cycle began July 1, 2005 and ends Dec. 31, 2012.
The city of Carlsbad needs more housing for moderate and low-income persons and families to meet state-mandated targets. With existing standards, developers have constructed several thousand units in Carlsbad that contribute toward meeting the state’s targets. However, Carlsbad’s existing policies and requirements, combined with its available land inventory, are not adequate to provide the number of homes necessary for persons and families in the lower and moderate income categories. The city is 3,566 units short of meeting the projections for these two income groups.
Called the General Plan Housing Element, this policy-level document does not result in the approval or construction of housing, change in land use designations or an increase in residential densities. Development projects and changes to zoning must still go through their own processes, including opportunities for public input.
In the updated Housing Element, the city will continue some previously approved programs that are underway, such as inclusionary housing. Other programs are new, and their implementation requires amendments to the General Plan, Zoning Ordinance and other city requirements before they are effective. These amendments would be subject to their own public review and hearings.
The changes to the Housing Element include programs to consider designating specific properties to higher densities and allowing mixed-use residential at shopping centers. The proposed high-density sites are distributed throughout the city, including in the village and Barrio areas, and in the Ponto area, as already anticipated by the approved Ponto Beachfront Village Vision Plan.
One of the areas to be considered for higher density is a former hard rock mine known as Quarry Creek in the northeast part of the city. The change would allow up to 500 residential units instead of the present land use designation of 165 units on the 100-acre site. Of the 500 units proposed to be allowed, 300 would be considered high-density at 20 units an acre, and 200 would be considered medium-high density at 12 units an acre. A significant percentage of the land will be set aside for open space.
According to the city, Housing Element preparation has taken place over several years and involved opportunities for public involvement. Public input opportunities began with workshops before the Housing Commission in 2004 and 2005. City staff’s request to submit the initial draft of the Housing Element to the state was also considered by the Housing Commission and approved by the City Council in 2007. Additionally, three drafts of the Housing Element were released for public review in 2007 and 2008.
“Despite the need for amendments to various land use documents, Carlsbad is a significant producer of affordable housing,” the city release said. More than 2,000 affordable units have been constructed throughout the city since 1993. A 2007 report, “Affordable By Choice: Trends in California Inclusionary Housing Programs”, reportedly identifies Carlsbad as one of California’s top producers of affordable housing.

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