Lexy Brodt contributed to this story.
ENCINITAS — Encinitas is prepared to become the region’s first city to oppose a pair of State Senate bills aimed at easing the housing crisis that city officials said further erodes local jurisdictions’ discretion over housing projects.
Senate Bill 50, authored by State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would allow developers to build taller and denser buildings than allowed by local zoning codes near major transit stops, such as train stations and ferry terminals, and “job rich” areas.
The bill has been hotly contested across the state, as local control advocates have decried it as a massive overreach by the state, while housing advocates have argued that it reduces the red tape that developers face in jurisdictions aimed at limiting new housing development.
A recent amendment would exempt counties with less than 600,000 people and coastal communities with less than 50,000 people. Encinitas has more than 63,000 people, per the latest census counts.
The second bill, Senate Bill 330, authored by State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), has been less discussed. The legislation declares a statewide housing crisis and prohibits cities from imposing parking requirements, adjusting impact fees, imposing impact fees on affordable housing developments and limits new design standards for a period of 10 years.
Encinitas on its consent agenda Wednesday could vote to send letters to state legislators opposing both bills.
“SB 50 would greatly undermine locally adopted General Plans, Housing Elements (which are certified by the Department of Housing and Community Development), and Sustainable Community Strategies (SCS),” the letter reads. “By allowing developers to override state-approved housing plans, SB 50 seriously calls to question the need for cities to develop these community-based plans in the first place.”
The letter also calls out the exemptions included in the bill.
“SB 50 allows some communities to be exempt; however, all jurisdictions need to have the ability to have a community-led planning process that considers local needs and input as long as State objectives are still met,” the letter states.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear said Tuesday that both bills go too far in their attempt to spur affordable housing development at the expense of community character and local control.
“It’s just too extreme,” Blakespear said of SB 50. “It would change the character of our community too much, too quickly and limit our ability to control our land use, so we oppose it.”
SB 50, which was introduced in December, is working its way through the senate, and despite the debate surrounding it, has passed two committees with close to unanimous support.
Blakespear said the city waited until the bill was further along before announcing its opposition because it was likely going to be amended.
“The bill was modified quite substantially, so we wanted to see what was going to happen to it,” Blakespear said. “We didn’t want to take a position until it was in a more final format, because we would be blowing our opportunity to effect it.”
The Coast News reached out to cities across the region to gauge whether they had taken positions on the bill. Oceanside was the region’s first city to send a letter of opposition in late March, and Carlsbad joined them in April.
Escondido and Vista both have not taken positions, while San Marcos has currently taken a “watch” position on the bill.
The bill drew strong opposition from elected officials — past and present — in Solana Beach, the county’s second smallest city.
Although there is a train station serving the city’s downtown area, Mayor Dave Zito wrote in a letter to Sen. Mike McGuire that the infrequent headways of the commuter train do not meet the standard for “high quality” transit options.
However, alterations to the bill applied in late April now exempt coastal zones within a city of less than 50,000 people. Solana Beach has a population of about 13,400.
Regarding SB 330, the city’s letter argues that prohibiting locales from imposing parking requirements would lead to congestion and parking conflicts as more residents compete for limited parking.
“SB 330 would prohibit local agencies from imposing any type of parking standard allowing developers for new residents to compete for a dwindling parking supply,” the letter states. “This will also lead to congestion and parking conflicts because people resist giving up their vehicles.”
The limits on developer fees, the city contends, would hamper the city’s ability to provide the new residents in those developments with adequate public services and improvements.
“Freezing fees for a decade will make it difficult to adequately service the needs of a community,” the letter states.