ENCINITAS — Mayor Catherine Blakespear said in her annual state of the city address that Encinitas is making strides in the “existential reckoning” of meeting its state-mandated housing requirements.
Blakespear, delivering her third address since being elected in 2016, touted the city’s forthcoming adoption of the housing element, its accessory dwelling unit policies adopted last year and successful housing for homeless program as proof the city is emerging from the shadows of its history of reluctance towards the state housing mandates.
The City Council is expected to approve the second reading of the housing element on Wednesday night and submit it to the courts and the state Department of Housing and Community Development for approval by April 15.
“By this time next month we should have a completely approved housing plan with the state and the courts,” Blakespear said. “This is a monumental landmark for Encinitas, that has been many decades in the making.”
Blakespear said that the city is committed to ensuring the additional housing that will likely come as a result of the approved housing plan will match the character of the existing community.
“And our new homes will not come at a cost to community character,” Blakespear said. “So we can and will protest the character of our neighborhoods while adding some new homes.”
One way, Blakespear said, the city can add additional units that blend in with the community character is with accessory dwelling units, commonly known as “granny flats.”
Encinitas in 2018 saw progress in the effort to both develop more granny flats and bring those without proper permits into compliance.
Then-Gov. Jerry Brown passed into a law a State Senate Bill the city sponsored that would permit existing dwelling units based on the codes that were in place when they were built, rather than having to comply with today’s standards.
And the city recently launched its pre-approved accessory dwelling unit program, which gives residents eight options of granny flat plans that are already vetted by staff.
Blakespear said she plans to present the city’s success with the program at the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in June, where she got the idea in 2018.
“Simply put, Encinitas does need more housing, and that’s not only because of state law, it’s also because we need to provide homes for residents at every income level because it’s the right thing to do,” Blakespear said. “That’s what creates a healthy society.”
Blakespear also reported on the success of the city and Community Resource Center’s “Opening Doors” program, which she said has successfully housed 166 homeless people in Encinitas since 2016.
Housing, Blakespear said, is one of the city’s four chief strategic priorities, along with safe and connected transportation for all modes, sustainability and environmental protection and the improved incorporation of the city’s rail corridor into existing neighborhoods.
“In 2019, we will gain momentum and move forward on these critical priorities,” she said.
In addition to housing, Blakespear also praised the city’s proposed overhaul of North Coast Highway 101, the Leucadia Streetscape.
While it has been the subject of a polarizing debate in the community of Leucadia, Blakespear said the project will ultimately create a safer stretch of road for motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and public transit.
“This stretch of Coast Highway 101 is an integral part of our city’s history, and I believe we can reclaim it as the scenic parkway and neighborhood road it was intended to be, not the commuting shortcut it has become,” Blakespear said.
Blakespear’s 30-minute speech also touted the city’s arts initiatives, including the mosaic program at the Encinitas Boulevard and Santa Fe Drive underpasses of Interstate 5; public safety achievements, including the public works award the city received for its Marine Safety Center; environmental achievements, including the Community Choice Energy initiative it is exploring with neighboring North County cities, Cardiff “living shoreline” and sand replenishment projects; rail safety initiatives including the recent upgrades at the Chesterfield Avenue rail crossing, which will ultimately result in the city’s first quiet zone; and the imminent completion of the Cardiff section of the Coastal Rail Trail.
Blakespear’s children, Ava and Oliver, concluded the speech with Ava reciting the lyrics of Ida Lou Coley’s “Encinitas,” and Oliver expressing his pride of living in Encinitas and doing his part to helping the environment.
The address, which is organized by the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, also featured a speech touting the group’s achievements during 2018, and the third year in which the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation diverted nearly 100 percent of the event’s waste from landfills.