ENCINITAS — A proposal in its infant stages to place low-income high-density housing on city-owned land along Quail Gardens Drive has the surrounding neighborhood up in arms.
The neighbors argue that the plan, which hasn’t been submitted to the city and has only been discussed as part of the city’s housing element process, would damage the character of the neighborhood and rob Old Encinitas of the last vestige of rural-zoned property.
“That’s it; there is no more Old Encinitas left,” said Richard Boger, a resident of Quail Gardens Lane who is spearheading the opposition to the project. “We are just confused because the project doesn’t make sense here.”
The council voted earlier this year to have the site included on one of three draft housing maps currently being vetted by the state as part of the city’s housing element process. The housing element is a state-mandated process in which cities identify sites where low-income, high-density housing could be developed to satisfy regional affordable housing requirements.
Even after the state completes its environmental impact studies, any change to the city’s current housing element will have to go before voters in 2016 because it involves wholesale zone changes throughout the city to accommodate greater density in the areas earmarked for high-density housing.
Between the state’s completion of its environmental impact study and 2016, the council will have the opportunity to remove sites from the draft maps before settling on final maps for the voters.
Boger said there are multiple signature drives underway in the surrounding neighborhood to have the Quail Gardens site removed from the housing element process, including one drive in Encinitas Ranch, one of the largest communities in the city, which has nearly 300 signatures.
Neighbors said the community is not against the city meeting its affordable housing requirements, but feel the Quail Gardens location is inappropriate for several reasons: it would add to the narrow street’s well-documented traffic woes, puts seniors on a street where there is no public transportation and it will devalue adjacent properties.
“We just want them to choose the proper place that meets the proper parameters,” Boger said.
Boger said that neighbors would like to see the city turn the land into open space, or possibly sell it to a developer who would build what is currently allowed on the site — 10 homes on one-acre lots. The city could use the proceeds of the sale to purchase land in a more appropriate area to develop the denser housing, Boger said.
Councilman Tony Kranz has championed the concept of building senior apartments on the land as one of the ways the city can meet its affordable housing mandates.
Boger said that residents, many who voted for Kranz in previous elections because of campaign promises to protect the city’s rural heritage, said they feel betrayed and confused by Kranz’s support and advocacy of the project.
“We were all like ‘what happened,’” Boger said. “They are suddenly forgetting that these are our last rural-residential lots (west of El Camino Real).”
Some have questioned Kranz’s motivation for actively promoting the idea.
“Doesn’t it seem unusual that none of the other lots have gotten this attention from Tony?” Boger said. “Why has a council member been talking to a developer and making plans on something that hasn’t even gone through the process?”
The plans that Boger referred to were a concept that was drawn up by Paul Barnes, the San Diego division president of Shea Homes and Habitat for Humanity board chairman.
Kranz, who was audibly frustrated when asked about the opposition, said he has been up front with the public about his desire for the city to explore the possibility of housing on the land, mainly because the city could control the number of affordable units that would be developed.
Kranz said the proximity to the Heritage Museum, the San Diego Botanic Garden, bus routes along Leucadia and Encinitas boulevards and nearby grocery stores and other services, as well as that flexibility allotted by controlling the property outweighs the lack of a bus route.
“The fact is that this particular property is owned by the city and would therefore allow the city to control the amount of affordable housing that goes there,” Kranz said. “Instead of getting 10 percent, we could say we want 100 percent affordable housing there.”
He said he has also been up front with the public about his conversations with Barnes, which he disclosed at earlier council meetings.
“People love to cast aspersions, it’s politics,” Kranz said. “They are going to make any effort to try to create an ulterior motive, and it is ridiculous.
“The theory is to kill it in the crib, so they won’t have to worry about it down the road,” Kranz said about the neighbors’ intentions. “This is so premature that it is kind of silly.”