ENCINITAS – The two-and-a-half-mile stretch along Quail Gardens Drive is changing, and not all residents are happy with what is to come.
Four by-right developments, approved by the Encinitas City Council as part of the city’s housing element, are in various stages of completion along Quail Gardens Drive — from concept to construction — including a 485-unit apartment complex, the largest residential development in the city’s history.
All four projects, if approved and finalized, will bring a total of more than 1,000 residential units to the area.
Now, a number of neighborhoods and homeowners associations, collectively known as the Four Corners Consortium, are hoping to work with the council to reassess some of the projects’ potential impacts on the area.
The Four Corners Consortium consists of different Quail Gardens Drive HOAs, including Encinitas Ranch Community Association, 1 Channel Island, Quail Park, Quail Run (Kristen Court), Quail Pointe and Quail Gardens Lane.
The local conglomerate, informally led by Dick Stern, president of Encinitas Ranch Community Association, and Steve Gerken, a representative of Quail Run, claims to represent over 1,500 homes and 3,000 residents. The group’s stated goal is to work with city officials to help them better understand these developments’ toll on the community by presenting facts and firsthand experiences.
“A couple of key issues are the safety of pedestrians, people, bikes, and vehicles,” Stern said. “It’s quality of life too, and I think one of the things that we’re encountering, and it’s not unique to Encinitas, is that it’s all about the loss of local control of housing. We’re all in favor of housing, so it’s not like we’re opposed to adding more for Encinitas. But it’s doing it in a reasonable, pragmatic manner and in the right places too.”
The consortium also works with E-3 Collaborative, a group of organizations consisting of Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA, Seacrest Village Retirement Communities, San Diego Botanic Gardens, San Dieguito Heritage Museum, Encinitas Union School District and Farm Lab and Leichtag Foundation, many of whom share concerns related to Quail Gardens Drive.
According to the state Department of Housing and Community Development, housing should be evenly distributed throughout a city for fairness and full integration. However, 40% of the city’s housing sites are found along a one-mile section of Quail Gardens Drive, which the group says is an inequitable distribution of the city’s housing, creating an overconcentration of development in a relatively small area.
In particular, Four Corners is the most concerned about Fox Point Farms (250 units), Sunshine Gardens Apartments (140 units), Moonlight Apartments (202 units) and Quail Meadows (485 apartments).
Each of these projects is considered by right, offering at least 20% affordable units to lower-income households.
Fox Point Farms, the city’s first so-called “agrihood” on a 21-acre plot at the intersection of Leucadia Boulevard and Quail Gardens Drive, and Sunshine Gardens, located at the corner of Encinitas Boulevard and Quail Gardens Drive, are already under construction.
The Planning Commission met on June 15 for a final review of the Moonlight Apartments project.
But the group’s primary concern is the Quail Meadows apartment complex currently working its way through the approval process.
“We are adamantly opposed to the current plans for the development of five and six-story apartment buildings that are monstrosities and are the largest developments in the history of our city,” Gerken said. “There are better ways to meet the housing needs of our residents with attractive, new housing designs that also meet the local requirements that residents approved with Proposition A, a citizen’s initiative for new development standards.”
The city hosted a Citizen Participation Program on May 31 for residents to learn more about Quail Meadows and engage in a dialogue with the developer. According to the Encinitas Ranch Community Association, the meeting was “disorganized and was very disorienting to attendees.”
Aside from that meeting, Gerken and Stern both said the council has listened to their recommendations for Quail Gardens Drive.
“Back when Tony was on council, he gave us our first guidance since part of this corridor is in Leucadia, where he was representative. (Kranz) guided us and recommended that the staff listen to us through the city manager and give us an audience,” Gerken said. “Since then, every council member has met with us and listened. Allison Blackwell is the Leucadia representative now, and she immediately came in and listened. Overall, they’ve come back to us in a way that lets us know they heard what we were saying.”
The council has considered all the opinions, but the most important that has been brought up is the traffic situation.
“The one thing I will say is that we have to be careful not to calm traffic on Quail Garden Drive and force it elsewhere, such as Saxony,” said Councilmember Bruce Ehlers. “We need to do some traffic calming now and not wait for all these projects to come in by doing short-term, medium, and long-term mitigations like stop signs or traffic circles.”
In an email to the city’s Traffic and Mobility Commission, Julie Burton, Farm Lab development coordinator at the Encinitas Union School District, noted traffic improvements were needed as more development comes to the area, voicing support for a proposed roundabout at the corner of Quail Gardens Drive and Ecke Ranch Road.
“The need for a reduced speed limit and an upgrade to the crosswalk that connects our facilities is critical for safety. The recommended roundabout would be an excellent and welcome solution,” Burton wrote. “As a commuter that enters and exits a driveway at that intersection almost daily, it has become increasingly difficult to make a left turn onto Quail Gardens Drive from Ecke Ranch Road. The volume of cars using Quail Garden Drive has increased exponentially — and will continue to do so as more and more housing units are built in our area.”
Other than traffic mitigation, the group has said it would like to see more community parks, particularly at the “L-7” site on Quail Gardens Drive. In March, Councilmember Kellie Shay Hinze requested staff explore options to develop a 100% affordable housing project at L-7 — a site the council previously removed from the housing element in 2018 due to residents’ concerns over increased density in a rural area.
For Stern and others, the housing plans for Quail Gardens require infrastructure improvements to support a better quality of life.
“One of the things we’ve also talked about is the lack of amenities, like parks,” Stern said. “There’s the Los Verdes Park, but beyond that, many of these families that are going to move in might have young children. Where will they go with their children when only one community park is nearby?”
Mayor Tony Kranz and Hinze did not respond to requests for comment.
CORRECTION: This article previously included older renderings of the Quail Meadows apartment project. Those images have since been updated to include the most recent conceptual designs. We sincerely regret the mistake.