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Cardiff specific plan sent back to drawing board

ENCINITAS — City Council voted 3-1 on April 21 to send the Cardiff-by-the-Sea specific plan back to staff for further revisions.
Councilwoman Teresa Barth recused herself from the deliberations because she owns property within 500 feet of the commercial district addressed in the specific plan document. Before being elected to public office, Barth served as co-chair of the Cardiff Consensus Conference, a group of citizens who convened over two weekends in 2001 to hammer out the details of a zoning plan.
The plan presented to council called for the six-square-block district of residential and commercial properties north of Orinda Drive, south of Mozart Avenue, east of San Elijo Avenue and west of the alley between Newcastle and Manchester avenues to be separated into four zoning areas.
The first draft of the plan crafted by the San Diego-based M.W. Steel Group was rejected outright by the council in March 2007. The consultant veered too far from the goals of the conference held years earlier and in subsequent public workshops.
As a result, the council called for the creation of a citizen advisory committee facilitated by Peder Norby, Coast Highway 101 corridor coordinator. The group met several times for a year. A second draft was reviewed by the Planning Commission earlier this year.
The height limit on buildings and the proximity of residences and businesses to each other and the street was a major focus for the citizen review panel in 2001. Landscape height limits were also discussed. However, the commission recommended eliminating any language that limits landscape height or blocks views.
Lola Larsen, a longtime Encinitas resident, said she was concerned about fire safety in Cardiff. She said the prevalence of off-street parking reduces the ability of fire engines to travel down narrow residential streets. “Go and look, go and see what the situation is,” she told the council. Larsen warned of a tragedy in the making if cars were allowed to continue to park on the street and a fire occurred.
John Spencer, a Carlsbad resident, had nothing but thanks for everyone involved in the laborious process of crafting the specific plan. “I agree, it’s not exactly what both sides want but I think it’s a good compromise,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Maggie Houlihan lauded the process of gaining community support. “People are saying ‘make it happen,’” she said.
She raised concern about preservation of ocean views. “At the very least there needs to be some review through design review process (of landscaping),” she said. She alluded to a loss in property tax values if landscaping blocked ocean views. “Other than that, I say go for it.”
Councilman Jerome Stocks said that he doesn’t agree with restrictions on landscaping height. “I don’t want to start that fight,” he said.
He said his concerns centered on the restrictions for second-story construction of new buildings that would require them to be smaller than the first floor. “When we’re trying to do good, we get too specific in our specific plans,” he said. “I want to preserve the charm and the scale (of our community).”
Planning Director Patrick Murphy said that while nonconformities in setbacks, which are present in the plan, are not ideal, they are necessary to reach the goals of the plan. An increase in lot coverage from 30 to 60 percent incentivizes building low-profile buildings he told the council. “That’s a unique feature of this plan,” Murphy said.
With the exception of Houlihan, the council voted to require staff to compare the various specific plans in the city, investigate the requirements for setbacks and lot coverage and expansion.
“I feel bad that it’s gone on this long,” Houlihan said. “I feel we really need to respect the goals … The community has made it (beach views) a priority.”