The Coast News Group

Encinitas sued over density-bonus ordinance — again

ENCINITAS — The city of Encinitas has come under fire once more over its often debated interpretation of state laws that govern the development of so-called “density bonus” projects.

This time, a density bonus developer made good on his threat to sue the city over the recently updated ordinance when he filed the lawsuit in state court last week.

The City Council unanimously adopted the revised ordinance at its Oct. 14 meeting. The new rules essentially defer to the state’s density bonus statute in the cases of any ambiguity.

State law allows for developers to build extra, or “bonus” homes on land if one or more of the homes are earmarked for low-income residents.

Developers have built a proportionally large amount of density bonus projects in Encinitas, which has caused a number of residents to complain that the city was too lax with its approval of projects, which they said altered the character of the community with oversized and super-dense units.

The city’s revised ordinance was part of a settlement of an earlier lawsuit by the Building Industry Association of San Diego, which claimed the city’s previous interpretation violated state law.

One thing the council did not give up as part of the settlement was the requirement that a project’s base density — which is used to calculate the density bonus — should be rounded down in the number of base housing units.

The new ordinance states that base density will be based on the city’s applicable general plan and zoning provisions, which officials said state law allows. City staff, in its presentation on Oct. 14, presented a chart of the county’s incorporated cities, most of which round down in some form or fashion.

David C. Meyer, the principal of DCM Properties, however, challenged the city’s decision to continue to “round down,” and threatened the city with legal action during the fall.

He made good on his threat when he filed the lawsuit earlier this month.

The City Council voted in closed session at Wednesday’s City Council meeting to defend the lawsuit.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar did not participate in the vote after receiving oral advice from the Fair Political Practices Commission about a potential conflict of interest between she and Meyer’s attorney.