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Op-Ed: Affordable housing task force may resolve L-7 divide

There has been much attention again on the city-owned parcel in Encinitas known as L-7. Ever since the City Council purchased this nearly 10-acre parcel divided by Quail Gardens Drive, the plans for what to do with this land have been controversial.

Purchased in 1999 during a push to increase land dedicated to parks due to burgeoning development, the city paid approximately $2 million for the parcel. Two acres will be used to improve Quail Gardens Drive as part of the Encinitas Ranch Development Agreement.

The controversy started soon after the purchase and has been ongoing ever since, including in 2015, when the city considered developing this parcel as part of its update to the city’s housing element.

Most recently, I have been at the center of controversy as the council explores whether to build a low-density, 100% affordable community on this site.

On June 26, the council formed an Affordable Housing Task Force to find an alternative location for building housing that would meet all the state-mandated low-income affordability requirements.

Public opinion on L-7 is divided. Quail Gardens Drive — a two-lane road — will see more than 1000 new units of housing (mostly market rate), and many feel it cannot handle even one unit more.

On the flip side, the average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $3000 per month, according to Zillow, hardly affordable for a teacher, firefighter or lifeguard. Many Encinitans have shared that their own adult children with good-paying jobs can no longer afford to live here.

Yet, there is common ground in the controversy over L-7 — everyone agrees we need more affordable housing in Encinitas.

More affordable housing helps people who work hard to serve us every day live here, it helps Encinitas maintain some economic diversity consistent with our community character, and it significantly helps us maintain compliance with state housing laws.

The private sector is not going to solve our housing affordability problem on its own.

Although they are required to meet the minimum threshold of affordable unit percentage under the city’s inclusionary ordinance (15-20%), the courts have determined that property owners and developers are entitled to a “fair and reasonable return” on new development, and the city cannot require more deed-restricted affordable units without providing additional incentives like financial subsidies or increased density.

I have heard from many residents that the city should do more to lead the way on affordable housing. By leveraging city-owned land or public-private partnerships, we can increase the affordable housing inventory.

Recent state housing laws, such as AB 2011 and SB 6, provide potential paths to this goal. Although L-7 is an option, it may not be the only feasible option.

This is why I recommended forming the Affordable Housing Task Force, consisting of engaged residents and city officials, to take another look at alternative sites before committing to development on L-7.

This action, which was supported by a 4-1 council vote, keeps momentum on city-led affordable housing while broadening the exploration beyond L-7.

The Task Force may uncover sites more suitable than L-7 for affordable units for our residents, and we owe it to Encinitas residents to explore all reasonable options.

Deputy Mayor Allison Blackwell represents District 1 on the Encinitas City Council.

5 comments

Aubrey July 16, 2024 at 8:41 am

I take Allison Blackwell at her word. It is so curious that there is a very vocal minority that thinks the council is all selected by Catherine Blakespear. There is a component of folks who want no development for affordable housing – yet they don’t mind the 5,000 sf homes being built left and right. Evidently if you’re very rich those folks welcome you. If you work in Encinitas they prefer you live in Temecula. Yes, change is difficult. They hate any beautification projects, they don’t trust the current council to make wise decisions and they sure are a complaining lot! But, the majority of Encinitas residents like the beautification projects, like 101 Streetscape and Pacific View Art Center, and would like to see affordable housing. Allison Blackwell is an excellent representative for her constituents. She advocates for storm drain enhancement in Leucadia and has worked within the City Council to get money to pursue these projects. Check out Allison’s website as well as Destiny Preston and Tony Kranz. They are the best candidates for Encinitas, keeping it the best place to live in North County.

steve333 July 13, 2024 at 12:39 pm

Allison Blackwell, like Density Preston, like Joy Lyndes prior, are all Blakespear acolytes, chosen for their fealty to the developers that control Blakespear and the rest of the Developer Puppets currently controlling what used to be The Democratic Party.
They have been throwing around the nonsense of affordability while they gentrify Encinitas and San Diego with ever more expensive apartment complexes, refusing to increase the number of ‘affordable’ units because developers don’t want that.
Blackwell was appointed deputy mayor even though she was appointed, not elected!
Tony Kranz needs to go, as does Blackwell.
Take Encinitas back by voting for:
Bruce Ehlers for Mayor
Luke Shaffer for D1
Jim O’Hara for D2

JB July 12, 2024 at 6:50 pm

Questions!

For the Coast News.

Since when are candidates running for office allowed to write opinion pieces for the Coast News? Has the policy changed?

For candidate Blackwell..

Do you really believe 40 low income units will have an impact on our housing affordability issue? Why not listen to your constituents and by pass another pointless task force and restore this city property to its original intent? Who’s side are you on, the residents or your party?

Jordan Ingram July 13, 2024 at 9:44 pm

Thanks JB. We have always allowed submissions from candidates in an election year until September 1. After that, The Coast News will not publish candidate commentaries for the Op-Ed page or online. There is a possibility of candidates paying for advertising that includes commentaries. However, it will not be featured on our editorial page and it will be labeled as advertising.

concernedvoter July 12, 2024 at 11:02 am

There is that developer wiggle word “affordable” to get market rate housing pushed through on land that should be used for parks for all the residents. Council member Blackwell seems to be an expert at using the “affordable” word. Count up the number of times she uses it. The city’s dealings with the state is about low income housing that is mandated by the state legislature and their agency HCD. Even HCD uses grant money for parks as the carrot on the stick to get cities to build more low income housing. Four on the council (Kranz, Blackwell, Hinze, and Lyndes) don’t seem to understand this. Listen to them at council meetings. They use that wiggle word “affordable” to hide the fact that most of the developer housing has a small percentage of low income housing to meet the density bonus law. A couple of low income housing units allows the building of more market rate units. This is caused by the legislature’s bills which become law and replace land that could be used for low income that become market rate units. Yet, the four on the council continue to use the wiggle word “affordable” to hide all the market units that will be built. Insult to injury the council is now going after our parks. L-7 ( it did have a name before our city staff changed it to the impersonal and cold designation of L-7. It was a park where anyone, including children could play on the grass. Replace Kranz, Blackwell this election time. But, Density Preston is another Blakespear clone. No to her being on the council.

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