The Coast News Group
affordable housing
The Encinitas City Council is expected to approve the draft Housing Element. File photo
Cities Community Encinitas Encinitas Featured News

Encinitas Planning Commission approves Housing Element update

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Planning Commission unanimously approved the city’s Housing Element update last Thursday, sending the plan to city representatives for adoption before the April 15 deadline.

The commission approved a revised version of the Sixth Cycle Housing Element, a blueprint for the city’s current and future housing plans required by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) every eight years.

However, commissioners expressed little faith the state-mandated plan for the 2021-2029 housing cycle will actually help the city.

Commissioner Susan Sherod believes the state will approve the plan, but she isn’t thrilled because it is unlikely to bring Encinitas the affordable housing it needs.

Planning Commission Chair Bruce Ehlers agreed.

“I feel like we are being hurried and coerced by the state and (California Department of Housing and Community Development),” Ehlers said. “I’ve been defending the city and community character from over-development for over 20 years and I feel more so tonight than any other meeting in the past 20 plus years that the state has a gun to my head. Our choice is between a bad choice and a worse choice.”

The state housing agency provided feedback on the city’s most recent draft and required several changes before the April 15 deadline. Failure to meet the deadline could result in litigation and missed opportunities for funding at the state and regional levels.

Commissioners made minimal changes to the plan — updating housing unit numbers to more accurately reflect past, present and future projects — to ensure approval from both the council and state.

The commission-approved Housing Element will likely bring six competitive, market housing units for every affordable housing unit.

Housing plans are supposed to ensure the city is prepared for growth by creating housing for the entire spectrum of potential residents, from very-low-income individuals and families to the more affluent.

The city sits on a “buffer” of various housing plans, allocating sites and approving projects to meet requirements set by the state. But the commissioners believe the city will be back in the planning phases soon, as the approved plan keeps Encinitas in compliance but doesn’t solve many of the city’s housing problems.

Commissioner Amy Flicker said the population of Encinitas is projected to grow by 11%, with about 7,000 additional people in the next eight years. The city is working to provide housing for soon-to-be residents, including low-income units, but it is almost impossible to convince a developer to create a community with more affordable housing.

The updated Housing Element will be brought to the Encinitas City Council on April 7. The council will likely approve the plan so it can be submitted to the California Department of Housing and Community Development for approval before the deadline eight days later.