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Opinion: Prop A reality check

I am writing in response to an opinion piece in the March 27 Coast News filled with conspiracy theories and false accusations related to the Encinitas housing situation.

The reality is that the main impact of Prop A, or the Right to Vote Initiative, has been to generate enormous legal bills and delay our compliance with state housing law. Most of the development projects that residents are upset about were authorized under the State Density Bonus Law.

Prop A does nothing to prevent developers from requesting waivers of development standards, including height and setbacks, if they comply with Density Bonus requirements for affordable housing set-asides.

This is because state law, in general, supersedes local ordinances. While Prop A passed by a small margin of a small fraction of the eligible voters in Encinitas, the State Density Bonus Law and subsequent affordable housing laws were enacted by representatives who were also elected by the voters of Encinitas and the rest of the state. The real target of anti-density residents should be Sacramento, not Encinitas City Hall.

Mayor Blakespear and the rest of the Council have tried their best to find a solution that retains the elements of Prop A unrelated to the Housing Element sites, while meeting State requirements and a court order to upzone a certain number of sites for higher density housing for the current Housing Element cycle.

Given the requirement from the State that we resolve this conflict for future Housing Element cycles, the best possible outcome would be for a court to rule that Prop A no longer applies to current and future Housing Element updates, but otherwise remains intact. That way, a public vote would still be required to approve any change in density or other zoning provisions for all other sites. This is what the Mayor is trying to achieve.

Prop A advocates can dream up conspiracy theories and call for a change on the Council, but state laws are only getting more restrictive. Neither current nor potential new Council members will be able to resolve outstanding lawsuits and bring the city into compliance with state law without changing or completely repealing Prop A. Like it or not, that’s the truth.

Imagine what we could do if we pulled together as a City and tried to find a solution that maintained the original intent of Prop A as much as state law and the courts allow. Imagine if we tried to find a solution based in the reality that there is an inherent conflict between state law and the desire of local residents to control land use policy.

We failed for twenty years to comply with state laws. That posture has consequences, and we are now paying the price. Let’s keep that price as low as possible by demonstrating our flexibility and collaborative capacity to find the least painful path forward.

Lisa Shaffer is a former Deputy Mayor of Encinitas.