ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to deny the controversial Goodson Project on Encinitas Boulevard but the fight between Olivenhain residents and the project developer has likely only just begun.
After hearing from Fire Chief Mike Stein, city staff and a multitude of residents opposed to the 277-unit apartment complex, the council was united in their vote to uphold the decision made by the city’s planning commission denying the project.
One of the concerns of Olivenhain residents, and those of neighboring Rancho Santa Fe, is the impact the development would have on wildfire evacuation.
The council acknowledged the importance of fire safety in its decision to reject the project.
“Many of you have described the traumas that you’ve felt just having to leave your homes and not know if you’ll ever come back,” Councilmember Kellie Shay Hinze said. “And so I want to honor those experiences that you’ve shared with us tonight and I believe it is our utmost responsibility to keep you safe and to take every precaution that we can to make sure our actions don’t further impact a very scary situation that we face with this portion of our city in the face of climate change.”
Stein presented a report in response to one submitted by a third-party consultant hired by the group Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development who opposes the project.
The consultant’s report states that the roads surrounding the project in Olivenhain have very low vehicle capacities, as low as 250 vehicles per hour on Manchester Avenue, but Stein strongly rejected that notion.
“All of those roadways have a minimum of 1000 vehicles per hour capacity,” Stein said. “In fact, the 1,000 vehicle-per-hour capacity is a conservative number and the licensed city traffic engineer states that the roadway capacities of those roadways are likely even more.”
Stein also pointed to other assumptions made within the consultant’s report that he felt were unreasonable, such as the assumption that every resident would evacuate at the same time.
Despite this new analysis from the city’s fire chief, the council still apparently took the concerns of Olivenhain residents to heart.
“I think we’re all better off from having had that deeper analysis and I know sometimes it can be difficult to call into question other professionals and the assumptions that are made in reports but I think going deeply into those is really important,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “There is nothing more profound, I think than that desire to feel safe in your home.”
However, the years-long battle for Olivenhain residents over the project is presumably far from over. The developer, Randy Goodson, is expected to sue the city over its decision and Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development expects the California Department of Housing and Community Development to aid his legal battle.
During his testimony Wednesday night, Goodson implied that denying the project will have legal ramifications for the city.
“There is no basis to deny this project,” Goodson said. “And it’s going to have very dire consequences to the city. You just announced you’ve had two closed sessions with your attorneys, I hope you do the right thing and enforce the law.”
Olivenhain residents are prepared for the fight to continue with legal action from Goodson.
“That would be my working hypothesis as well as probably refiling a new project that goes up to 150 percent density bonus, from 277 to 308 units,” Dan Vaughn, vice president of the Olivenhain Town Council Board of Directors and a representative of Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development told The Coast News. “This is just a chapter. We’re going to be in this for the foreseeable future.”