ENCINITAS – Next week, the city’s efforts to develop the El Camino Real Specific Plan will take another step forward following a 25-day public comment period earlier this month.
The El Camino Real Specific Plan Task Force will meet from 4 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 2 at Encinitas City Hall to present and evaluate draft concept renderings and begin the environmental review process, leading to the preferred alternative design for the mixed-use stretch.
The meeting is the second gathering of the council-created advisory board.
Following the second community workshop, residents shared comments on design and land use alternatives and the El Camino Real corridor’s visual preference — all of which the nine-member advisory task force will review and consider next week.
Rick Engineering, the city’s contractor for planning El Camino Real, opened an interactive online portal from June 22 through July 15.
The exercise also included several “this or that” comparisons of commercial building types, setback allowances, height and other zoning and building variations residents prefer on El Camino Real.
Some comments included interest in building housing units above box stores on either end of the streetway – such as those between Encinitas Boulevard and Leucadia Boulevard/Olivenhain Road.
One commenter wrote, “Here [at Town Center Plaza], we have a commercial space that has proven to be unsuitable for large, big-box businesses. The space would be better used as residential, and it could take advantage of the huge, underutilized parking lot to maximize residential use instead of more car spaces.”
Several comments centered on reworking underutilized parking spaces into developments or mixed-use areas. Similarly, commenters seemed interested in building up trails in wooded buffer areas so that pedestrians may avoid vehicle traffic.
While there are no new construction plans related to the El Camino Real Specific Plan, many encouraged planners to ensure the consideration of landowners and renters who currently live in the mobile home park or other existing affordable/senior housing.
One commenter wrote, “do not obliterate existing affordable housing here.”
Many residents also shared feedback on their votes for the best places for outdoor areas, mixed-use buildings and housing structures.
Over a mile and a half stretch encompassing over 380 acres, the city initiated a plan to revamp the busy, commercial El Camino Real corridor.
“But as we’re thinking about the El Camino Real corridor, we always want to look at alternatives and different options,” said Diego Velasco at the June 20 community workshop that addressed similar planning preferences as the online survey.
Community members were offered a hands-on approach to city planning at that meeting.
Velasco, an urban design lead for Citythinks and part of the workshop team, said that while the El Camino Real Specific Plan has the opportunity to address the city’s required new units under the Housing Element, it must also stand against the times.
“It’s about attracting investment to the area,” Velasco told attendees in June, “letting the market dictate the change, recognizing that what we’re doing here is setting conditions but for change, but really the change is going to happen based on what the market might say and what landowners might decide to do with the property.”
In spring 2021, the Encinitas City Council passed $315,000 in funding for the development of the El Camino Real Specific Plan – in addition to a $300,000 grant. At the end of phase one of creating the site plan, the Opportunities and Constraints Memorandum was published. This 258-page document details the community characteristics along the corridor identifies land use possibilities, etc.
The first workshop on Nov. 15, 2021, was followed by a developer roundtable representing affordable and market-rate housing in December. The third and final community workshop considering the El Camino Real specific plan will be held later this winter, alongside one for the city planning commission and council.