ENCINITAS — City officials have added several new sites to its affordable housing plan, several weeks after removing a site in Leucadia that residents opposed.
Community leaders have grappled over a number of issues with the latest attempt at drafting a housing element that would pass muster with voters in November. Housing elements are plans that outline how and where the city would zone for its regional share affordable housing as mandated by the state.
The city’s plan, which was submitted in April to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for review, includes the designation of properties around the city that would be zoned for denser residential development, between 25 to 30 units per acre. The properties need to yield at least 1,600 higher density units — the 1,086 units the state has required Encinitas to plan for, as well as a buffer if property owners opt to not build affordable units on the sites.
Following the removal of the Leucadia site known as L-7 and another site along Manchester Avenue known as the “strawberry fields,” the yield fell to 1,100 units, which required the city to revisit sites previously rejected or other sites where property owners had recently expressed interest in being included in the plans.
The sites include:
- Armstrong Garden Centers property on El Camino Real
- A property along South El Camino Real near Tennis Club Drive known as “El Camino Real South” parcel
- A property in Leucadia where Roberto’s is located know as the “DeWitt Property”
- A vacant lot owned by Seacoast Church
- Three parcels near the Manchester on-ramp to Interstate 5 called the Manchester Avenue West sites
- A property on the northwest corner of Rancho Santa Fe Road and Encinitas Blvd
- A site in Old Encinitas on 2nd Avenue called the “Harrison Sites”
- Several properties along Clark Avenue and Union Street just east of Interstate 5 called the “Meyer Sites”;
- A site on Garden View Court that currently houses an Eos Fitness center called the “Frog’s Gym Site” after the popular gym that previously occupied the space.
“I see it as a messy compromise,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “But a necessary one so that we can move forward.”
The City after nearly an hour of public testimony rejected a tenth site near the intersection of Leucadia Boulevard and Orpheus Avenue, which residents said would exacerbate traffic issues caused by a nearby Starbucks Coffee.
Council members took votes on removing or keeping each of the sites and several advanced with divided approval.
Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath objected to the Manchester West and Meyer sites because of their proximity to the freeway, but was overruled by her colleagues.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear briefly attempted to bring back L-7 with a smaller number of houses 60 units compared to the 190 units previously discussed – but the trio who voted against L-7’s inclusion voted against the plan.
The council also voted against considering a property owned by the Mavis family at the corner of Manchester Avenue and El Camino Real, which the family has offered several times, because of its proximity to the San Elijo Lagoon.
Damien Mavis said he could offer 50 percent affordable units through a partnership with Community Housing Works, but the council declined to include the property.
City staff will now submit a revised plan to the state, and on May 17 the council will meet to discuss the development standards for the housing element. Previously, these standards were not going to be submitted to the state, but state officials are now requiring the city to include them in the plans to ensure the standards don’t create obstacles to development.
Encinitas is one of a handful of cities in California without a certified housing element update. Its most recent attempt in 2016, Measure T, failed at the ballot, and several entities have sued the city over its lack of a housing plan and a city law that requires the public to vote on such plans.
A Superior Court Judge recently stayed the lawsuits until a week after the November 6 election, giving the city one more chance to adopt a plan that the public would support.
What is being ignored is how each new apartment means another car competing for the same lane-miles. Unlike other cities that provided mass transit along growth corridors, this is not planned, and may not be feasible. The decision makers are largely living closer to I-5 so are not personally threatened by this increased congestion that must result from higher density.
There are traffic engineering companies that have simulators that can show how many person-hours waiting in lines of cars can be anticipated. And it’s not only cars, but increased pedestrian traffic that will be vying to cross the same intersection. While this increased density is based on the fiction that it will provide housing for lower income families, the reality of cost of housing in highly desirable areas refute this.
To succumb to state law that is not grounded in reality, no matter what the consequences of defying it, is a travesty.
The “Public Interest Law Project” is asking for 1578 Very Low and Low Income Units. They have a strong case for it and most of the public speakers at that May 9 Council meeting spoke for this level of affordability. This means apartments, not expensive luxury condos. Going up to 9 foot ceilings adds a bit to the cost. Going above 30 feet high adds additional cost. Each little cosmetic amenity increases the price but also increases the builder’s profit. Encinitas needs to make the building industry provide what we need, not what they want to sell.
The Council isn’t thinking about low income housing. Staff and the consultant are leading the Council into a precipitous situation that will provide developers with properties with increased densities for market rate condos. One issue – the height of ceilings. Developers want 9 feet ceilings. Probably 75% of the housing in Encinitas has 8 feet ceilings. It takes more energy to heat or cool a larger room. Why should the Council agree to 9 feet ceilings? The developers want larger apartments which require more acreage to be upzoned to a higher density. The reality is that low income apartment aren’t large apartments. Some cities allow studio apartments to be 300 sq. ft. or less total area and one bedroom apartments less than 600 sq. ft. total area. If the Council would require these smaller apartments, the number of properties upzoned would be closer to 20 acres at 2 stories in height instead of the 235 acres at more than 3 stories in height that the staff is putting before the Council. The upzoning that is proposed is for market rate units with an obligatory low income unit that would disappear if the developer pays an in-lieu fee. The Council must stop this give away to developers.
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