ENCINITAS — The City of Encinitas has initiated discussions on new design standards for projects that are expected to come as a result of Senate Bill 9, one of two new state housing laws.
The bill, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September of last year, adds new sections to California state law allowing for urban lot splits within a single-family residential zone, if certain criteria are met. The bill was signed in an effort to create more housing as the state grapples with an ongoing shortage of affordable housing.
The Encinitas City Council met in a special joint session Wednesday night with the city’s Planning Commission to discuss a number of important topics as they work on new design standards in compliance with SB 9.
Of the topics discussed, fire safety was one touched on by several of the council members and commissioners, particularly for the high fire danger zones of Olivenhain. The concern being adding more residents to the area with lot splits could make fire evacuation of an area that is already prone to congestion during evacuation even more complicated.
According to Jennifer Gates, the city’s planning manager, lot splits within high fire hazard zones are allowed under SB 9 under certain specified requirements.
“As long as it meets the fire code and any building code then you could potentially do an urban lot split in those zones,” Gates said.
There are other situations in which a project would not be allowed under SB 9 including if the project would demolish or destroy any deed-restricted affordable housing, rent-controlled housing or any housing that has been occupied by a tenant in the last three years.
In an urgent ordinance passed by the council in December 2021, the city has already allowed for one accessory dwelling unit, ADU, or junior accessory dwelling unit, or JADU, per primary unit on a lot. Meaning one lot split into two could have a maximum of four new potential housing units.
The city has relied heavily on the construction of ADUs to meet the state requirements for affordable housing and continues to promote those housing units in Encinitas.
“I think in the big picture ADUs are very compatible with single-family zoning,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “I think some of the highlights are that it allows multi-generational families to live and people to have a social safety net that takes care of the family units by allowing both independence and connectivity.”
A major point for all those involved in the conversation Wednesday night was the issue of short-term rentals. Per the state law, none of the new units created under SB 9 are allowed to be used as short-term rentals of 30 days or less.
The council and planning commission spoke on ways to enforce that part of the code. Encinitas requires a permit to operate a short-term rental in the city and recently adopted new regulations for short-term rentals.
However, there are still a number of unpermitted short-term rentals in Encinitas and code enforcement on the issue has been difficult for the city and its neighboring municipalities.
The discussions Wednesday night were preliminary and another session on SB 9 will be brought to the planning commission at a later date where it will approve its recommendations to the City Council for final approval.