By Cindy Cremona
On June 23, Mayor Blakespear squandered an opportunity to give Encinitas more affordable housing with less development.
The mayor and council chose to only increase the affordable housing percentages by a mere 5% for low or very low affordable housing on the next slate of up-zoned housing projects.
These Measure U housing projects can now build 30 units on one acre; and the up-zone from one unit per acre to 30 units per acre comes at no additional cost to the developer. What a windfall for them!
It is a wonder that Mayor Blakespear, the self-proclaimed champion of the underserved, did not take the Planning Commission’s recommendations and increase the overall affordable housing percentage to 50%.
It could have easily been done according to the Planning Commission and would have still been acceptable to the State Department of Housing and Community Development. The developers could have still made a comfortable profit, instead of their customary tens of millions of dollars, and many more lower income units would have been built.
Instead, the mayor and council voted 5-0 for 15% low income housing OR 20% for very low income housing. So, instead of reducing the overall amount of building, we can expect 5,000 to 7,000 more units to be required, of which 80%-85% will be market rate, meaning more luxury homes, more traffic and less housing for the folks who need it most.
The mayor and council commissioned an expensive real estate consultant to study developers’ profit and their selected consultants chose to ignore the increased value of the up- zoned land given to developers.
Instead, they recommended less than half the increase the Planning Commission suggested. The consultant’s inexplicable decision not to include the value of the up-zoned acreage frustrated the Planning Commission who pushed back. Nevertheless, our city staff agreed with the consultants and that sealed the deal — less affordable housing but more development and profit for the developers.
Even though the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) had previously said 50% was acceptable, the mayor was still concerned about our liability. A representative from E4E (Encinitas 4 Equality) incorrectly claimed that the four California cities who chose 50%, needed subsidies, waivers, and concessions to build that housing.
Planning Commission Chair Bruce Ehlers did his legwork and phoned those cities. He was told that they achieved 50% without any financial contributions. It appears E4E as well as city staff received the same misinformation, but only Chairman Ehlers did his homework to find the facts.
Mayor Blakespear never once mentioned that the 15 upcoming Measure U density-housing projects, which includes Fox Point Farms, Goodson, and Clark Avenue, will NOT satisfy the state’s requirement for our assigned affordable housing.
This means, even at the updated percentages, Encinitas will still need an additional 5,000 to 7,000 units built to satisfy the State. One cannot help but wonder whose neighborhoods developers will build in next, or what open space may be compromised to feed the state’s demands.
To make it worse, the city has not planned to build more schools, fire stations or roads to accommodate the thousands of extra people and vehicles we can expect.
In fact, the mayor and council continue to explore the inexplicable practice of forcing lane diets on some of our busiest thoroughfares.
Instead of helping those who Mayor Blakespear claims to champion, these zoning concessions and low affordable percentages help no one but developers.
This missed opportunity to give nurses, teachers and blue-collar workers affordable housing in Encinitas has turned into an opportunity for Mayor Blakespear to retain developer loyalty and financial contributions as she campaigns for her next rung up the ladder as a state senator.
Something to think about before casting your vote in the upcoming primary election next year.
Cindy Cremona is an Encinitas resident.