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Carlsbad tackles Housing Element, approves committee

CARLSBAD — Housing is arguably the most pressing issue for any city in the state.

Carlsbad is no different and the City Council addressed its Housing Element during its Sept. 10 meeting.

Scott Donnell, a senior planner with the city, presented the next steps for the city’s Housing Element and update including addressing the county’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).

He said the Housing Element maps out the housing plan and requires regular updates. The next cycle begins in 2021 and the update must be delivered to the state by April 15, 2021.

“The discussion about the General Plan-Housing Element was something that was considered along with the Growth Management Plan,” Donnell said. “The City Council recognized that there’s a pretty close relationship between the Growth Management Plan as well as the Housing Element. The Housing Element, for example, could potentially impact the dwelling unit caps.”

Growth Management Plan, which the Housing Element falls under, will undergo a “ground up review” starting this fall as directed by the council, Donnell said. The work plan consists of two phases, one appointing committee members and implementing a public outreach plan along with the work phase, which includes committee recommendations and approval by the council.

David de Cordova, a principal planner with the city, said the capacity for housing not yet built in each quadrant varies. In the northwest quadrant there are 665 units, with 546 reserved for the Village; the northeast has room for 102 units; the southwest’s number is 1,232; and the southeast has 318 for a total 2,317 under Proposition E not accounted for under the General Plan land use designations.

“The caps are both by quadrant and citywide,” de Cordova added. “The cap by quadrant varies. We’ll need to consider the quadrant capacities as we go forward.”

Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, though, pointed out the city may go over those caps due to the county’s new RHNA numbers.

“Rough numbers, we are going over our caps in this next Housing Element,” she projected.

However, Don Neu, the city’s senior planner, said the RHNA numbers don’t carryover, so the city may stay under its caps. Additionally, the vacant sites may have to increase density to reach goals for the Housing Element and RHNA.

“I wouldn’t totally rule out that we have a cap problem this cycle, but it’s very possible,” Neu said.

Due to the complexity and, at times, controversy, Donnell recommended a Housing Element Advisory Committee (HEAC) to sift through ideas and present the best options to the council. Donnell’s proposal for the committee would have consisted of seven members — three from other commissions (senior, planning and housing), and four resident representatives by quadrant rather than the city districts.

Schumacher proposed to increase the total to nine members, adding a mobility commissioner, while the council settled on retaining the senior commissioner along with each council member choosing one resident from each quadrant and one mayoral appointment.

Each commission will select a representative for the committee and the representative must have at least 18 months remaining on their term.

The council also approved a $335,000 carryover of General Fund surplus funds for the Housing Element costs.