ENCINITAS — The city, a property owner and an affordable housing developer are in early discussions about a potential land swap that could pave the way for the city to build affordable housing on a parcel along Quail Gardens Drive.
No, not L-7, the controversial 7.6-acre city-owned parcel also along Quail Gardens Drive that the City Council abruptly removed from its affordable housing plan in April.
But the discussions revolve around, among other things, swapping the entitlements of L-7 with a property owned by Newport Beach-based Baldwin & Sons, which owns land at the intersection of Quail Gardens Drive and Encinitas Boulevard.
If all parties were to come to an agreement, the city would take ownership of Baldwin’s property and partner with Community Housing Works to build a 140-unit affordable-housing complex, and Baldwin would own L-7, which would be upzoned from its current rural residential designation to one that would allow them to build three units per acre.
Community Housing Works had been tied to a similar project at the L-7 site before the council voted to remove it from the housing element discussion.
But a Baldwin representative said the conversations are in their infant stages, and the sides would have to clear several hurdles in order to make the deal work.
“I’m generally not optimistic when you have so many obstacles you have to clear, but it’s one of the options we are discussing for the property,” said Nick Lee, Baldwin & Sons vice president.
Baldwin & Sons, until this point, had been pursuing a density-bonus development on the property, which the City Council has included as one of the sites in the housing element, which will map out where Encinitas plans to zone for and build its state-mandated allotment of higher-density housing.
Lee said the company could continue to pursue approval for the density bonus project, pursue a market rate development on the property under the new housing element zoning, or pursue the land swap.
The swap would be well-received by the residents who have urged the city to not pursue a 190-unit upzoning of the L-7 parcel, which proponents said was the best opportunity for the city to make progress toward meeting its affordable housing mandates.
Encinitas, one of the few cities statewide without a certified housing element — the document that outlines the city’s plans for meeting regionally mandated affordable housing goals — has struggled to find a plan that would pass muster with voters.
The city’s most recent attempt, Measure T, failed at the ballot in November 2016. A City Council subcommittee has been working since last February on a plan that would succeed in the November 2018 general election, but the current attempt has been frustrated by recent changes in state law.
City officials declined to comment on the ongoing discussions, citing confidentiality of real property negotiations. Community Housing Works deferred comment to Baldwin & Sons.