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Since incorporation, the city of Encinitas has advocated for maintaining control over its growth and development through land use decisions. Stock photo
Since incorporation, the city of Encinitas has advocated for maintaining control over its growth and development through land use decisions. Stock photo
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Encinitas considers local control in discussion of legislative priorities

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council discussed setting legislative policy priorities during its Oct. 11 meeting, outlining the city’s position on various subjects, including support of state legislation that protects local control over land use decisions.

The city’s stance on legislative issues does not necessarily impact the fate of prospective bills, and the city is still legally bound to the law regardless of its support or opposition.

For example, the city recently issued a letter of opposition to Senate Bill 423, which extends Senate Bill 35’s existing provisions encouraging mixed-income housing developments through an accelerated and streamlined approval process.

“Specifically, SB 35 allows qualified multifamily infill projects to go through a simplified and expedited housing approval process in jurisdictions that are not on track to meet their housing production goals,” according to UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Innovative Housing. “Eligible projects must provide a minimum share of affordable units, follow certain labor provisions, and be consistent with local planning standards.”

While the bill sunsets in 2026, SB 423 extends its tenets to 2036 and removes the current coastal zone exemption. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 423 into law on Oct. 11, so the city is obligated to approve housing projects that meet the criteria in the law.

The letter from the City Council said SB 423 would prevent proper evaluation of projects with local guidance from the city’s housing element and zones based on Regional Housing Needs Assessment data, which reflects their listed priority of local control.

The topic that got the most attention from residents and council members during last Wednesday’s meeting was the issue of local control, a tenant that Encinitas has prioritized since its incorporation.

“The City of Encinitas incorporated in 1986 so that the residents of our community, through their elected City Council, would be able to establish the parameters for local land use decisions,” Mayor Tony Kranz wrote in his 2022 letter of support for the “Our Neighborhood Voices” initiative to amend the California Constitution and reestablish local control over housing and zoning decisions.

Since it passed in 2013, Proposition A, the Right to Vote Initiative, has also contributed to the city’s stated goals of maintaining local control over development and growth by forcing increases to zoning density or building height beyond what’s outlined in the general plan to require a vote of the people.

Ehlers, the principal author of Prop A, asked the council to change some of the guidance in the local control section of the legislative policies and priorities, notably this line under the “Local Control” category: “Support legislation that provides opportunities to support efforts of compliance with state housing laws.”

In November 2019, during state Sen. Catherine Blakespear’s tenure as mayor of Encinitas, the guidance at issue was added under the “Protect Local Control” subheading of the council’s legislative priorities. Unlike previous and subsequent legislative priorities updates, Blakespear’s name is listed as a co-author, or “prepared by,” alongside a senior city management analyst at the top of the document (For reference, see 2018 Legislative Priorities).

Ehlers and residents said including this line under “Local Control” is an oxymoron. Previous versions of the legislative priorities list said, “Protect local control of land use decision-making and oppose legislation that would hinder or threaten local control,” which Ehlers said makes more sense.

While no official action has been taken to update the language in the priorities, all council members expressed they were open to changing the point.

Council members were also in agreement over adjusting its support of “legislation and efforts that remove barriers and promote access to the full enjoyment of society by all people regardless of sexual identity, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity,” also to include “age” and “ability.”

“I know that those on the far ends of the spectrum, young ones and our elders, need special consideration and I don’t mind calling that out as part of our goals,” Councilmember Kellie Hinze said. “I also support language around those with different abilities.”

City staff will “review the tape” and give insights on the conversation and where council members found common ground as the City Council continues to review the legislative policies and priorities.

“The legislature’s not in session right now,” Kranz said. “We are not in a situation where we need to rush this.”

1 comment

JohnEldon October 22, 2023 at 2:27 pm

Local control over land use and zoning is the central issue for the smaller coastal cities in southern California. They are already built out to reasonable, livable population carrying capacity, yet the state insists on destroying them with one-size-fits-all mindless upzoning to accommodate population growth that is no longer forecast in any reasonable demographic trends.

Note that former Encinitas mayor Catherine Blakespear is a big part of the problem. She has been in office only a few months, but has voted for abominations such as SB423, against the interests of her own city of residence. Kranz has paid too little / too late lip service to pushing back against the state. With Ehlers on the council, maybe he’ll find the courage to join the multi-city legal action to restore local control before we lose everything that makes Encinitas and other small coastal cities so special in the first place.

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