ENCINITAS — Residents will give feedback on a map showing where state-mandated housing could be allocated in each of the city’s five communities.
“The sites shown tonight are just to start the conversation,” City Planning Director Jeff Murphy said.
The City Council unanimously approved an outreach plan for the housing element at Wednesday night’s meeting. To obtain input, workshops will be held in Leucadia, Old Encinitas, New Encinitas, Olivenhain and Cardiff, though dates for those workshops haven’t been set.
Additionally, the city wants residents to weigh in on their own time via a structured online forum like MindMixer or Peak Democracy. Increasingly popular among cities, the services allow constituents to submit feedback and ideas.
The California Department of Housing Community Development (HCD) requires that cities submit a housing element every eight years. For Encinitas to certify a housing element, it has to show which plots of land could be rezoned to accommodate “low-income” units.
Residents at the meeting noted that HCD equates building density of 30 units per acre with affordability. But the housing units are often sold at market rate. Duff Pickering said there’s no guarantee the rezoning exercises will result in affordable housing.
“Although it might feel good to preach about the positive social changes that bring more affordable housing to Encinitas, the free market won’t let that happen in this city with its historically high real estate values,” Pickering said.
Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar said she shares that frustration. However, the city still has to comply with the law.
“Whether we like it or not, the state has passed down this requirement to us,” she said.
The map with suggested parcels for rezoning is largely based on two sources.
First, two citizen organizations and the city’s planning commission, which reviewed the city’s housing element, presented recommendations earlier this year for where the HCD units could be located. In addition, more than a year ago, residents identified where housing could go by taking part in a dot-mapping exercise.
Second, the city looked at which parcels would be most likely to receive tax credits for multifamily units. If near transit, grocery stores and other services, the state awards the tax credits to builders for units that qualify as affordable under its definition.
In many cases, the recommendations of the two sources overlapped, Murphy noted. An example of a rezone area suggested by both includes a 1.27-acre plot on Munevar Road, between Windsor Road and MacKinnon Avenue.
While the map suggests areas suited for the housing units, the entire plots that are listed wouldn’t necessarily have to be rezoned.
“The capacity is greatly larger, so you don’t need to look at rezoning this entire block; it could be a portion of it,” Murphy said.
As recent as six months ago, Encinitas was told it needed to plan for 1,300 HCD units. But by assessing the city’s existing housing capacity, that number was reduced — how much lower depends on which approach residents choose.
If residents choose to rezone properties at up to current limits of 30 feet for the housing element, they’ll have to plan for 1,028 units. Or they can restore the pre-Proposition A height limit of 33 feet in mixed-used projects that are in the city’s specific plans. That would result in needing to map out 669 units.
However, based on negotiations with HCD, Murphy noted the unit numbers could be tweaked. If citizens go the latter route, it’s suggested that roughly 153 units would go in Old Encinitas, 101 in Olivenhain, 161 in New Encinitas, 153 in Leucadia, and 101 in Cardiff.
After getting recommendations from residents, each community’s map will be presented to the Planning Commission and then to City Council.
Murphy said he’s “aggressively optimistic” that Encinitas can put a citywide housing element to a public vote in November 2014.
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