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The city has designated the L-7 plot along Quail Gardens Drive as "surplus land" for high-density affordable housing. File photo/The Coast News
The city has designated the L-7 plot along Quail Gardens Drive as "surplus land" for potential affordable housing. File photo/The Coast News
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Encinitas task force to explore alternative sites for 100% low-income housing

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council will assemble an affordable housing task force to explore alternative sites for a 100% low-income housing project after residents expressed concerns about the potential impacts of a development at the L-7 site on Quail Gardens Drive.

In February, the council agreed to conduct an economic study exploring options for a low-density affordable housing development at 634 Quail Gardens Drive. Proposals for the 7.86-acre site, known as L-7, included a 30-45-unit residential subdivision with accessory dwelling units or a 60-plus-unit low-income senior apartment complex.

However, during its June 26 meeting, the council agreed to pause design work for those specific proposals and will instead start the first phase of a three-part public engagement plan to continue gathering community feedback about a future housing development at L-7 through a series of discussion groups.

The outreach effort will consist of three phases: Phase 1: sharing project information and gathering initial input; Phase 2: presenting design concepts based on community feedback; and Phase 3: refining these concepts with additional public discussion.

The plan will include meetings featuring educational and informational material about state affordable housing laws, the city’s housing element and online community input forms.

The estimated schedule is for Phase 1 to occur this fall, Phase 2 in winter 2025 and Phase 3 in spring 2025. The council voted to reconvene in six months to assess the progress of Phase 1.

The task force, proposed by Councilmember Allison Blackwell, will include Mayor Tony Kranz, Blackwell and a number of “qualified” residents who must submit an application to join.

“This motion ensures we don’t lose traction on affordable housing,” Blackwell said. “And it ensures the city explores all alternatives of accomplishing this goal.”

According to an economic study prepared by Kosmont Companies, the city identified a $4-6 million funding gap in each of the proposed development scenarios. However, council members did not provide staff direction on how to close the funding gap at the meeting.

More than two dozen residents spoke during public comments. Some supported the project, addressing the need for more low-income housing in Encinitas. However, the majority spoke in opposition, fearing more development along the road would cause congestion, posing safety concerns for pedestrians and bike riders on the two-lane, 35 mph street.

The council declared the L-7 site “surplus land” on Nov. 8, 2023, making it available for prospective developments that would meet the city’s housing requirements.

The proposed senior housing projects would join four residential developments – Fox Point Farms (250 units), Sunshine Gardens Apartments (140 units), Moonlight Apartments (202 units) and Quail Meadows (485 apartments) – in various stages of completion along Quail Gardens Drive.

If approved and constructed as proposed, all of these projects will bring more than 1,100 residential units along a 2.5-mile stretch of roadway, including Quail Meadows Apartments, easily becoming the largest apartment complex in the city’s history.

In February, the developer of Quail Meadows Apartments, a proposed 485-unit apartment complex, requested more time to reassess the project following hours of negative public feedback.

Luke Shaffer, a candidate for the District 1 council seat, said the 100% low-income senior housing project would cause traffic pollution along Quail Gardens Drive, making the road unsafe for cyclists along the road, many of whom are children.

Shaffer added that driving from his house in the northwest portion of Encinitas to the southeast portion where he grew up can take him up to 40 minutes when it should only take him eight.

“This feels like a rush job,” Shaffer said. “To hurry up and get these projects in. I don’t know what the rush is, but we’re putting people’s lives at risk.”

Oliver Pratt, a 10-year-old fifth grader at Capri Elementary, said he discovered a snake in his family’s front yard in Encinitas Ranch and decided to relocate it to the “big, beautiful, open field” at L-7.

Pratt then requested the city leave L-7 untouched to give local wildlife a suitable habitat.

“We should not be building houses on every available piece of land,” Pratt said. “This is Encinitas, not New York City.”

June Hansberger of Encinitas said the council should move forward with the proposed development at L-7 to ensure all residents have access to housing.

“I realize every part of Encinitas is being impacted by housing all over town and this,” Hansberger said. “Again, housing is coming and it is important that we try to build housing that can accommodate all of our community members, not just the wealthiest of our community.”

L-7 has been the subject of debate for housing on and off since the city purchased the land in the late 1990s. Councilmember Bruce Ehlers said during the meeting that the city originally purchased the site with city park funds.

“The discussion around this parcel of land has been very lengthy and always a lot of passionate opinions on both sides,” Kranz said at the meeting.

2 comments

concernedvoter July 12, 2024 at 12:48 pm

What happened to Prop A to stop all this high density and let the voters decide?

steve333 July 3, 2024 at 3:15 pm

All the more important to get rid of Kranz and Blackwell before they can do even. more damage to Encinitas
Bruce Ehlers for Mayor
Luke Shaffer for D1
Jim O’Hara for D2

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