We are close to finalizing the state-required housing plan that Encinitas residents will be voting on this November.
Last week, the Encinitas City Council went into considerable detail on what’s called “development standards,” which include the height, massing, scale, unit size, setbacks and parking associated with sites selected for upzoning.
There are four main reasons why we are doing this housing plan, which will add the zoning for 1,600 units of housing to the 25,000 homes we already have in Encinitas:
1. Having more high-density housing in Encinitas is state law, and we’re the only city in the county that is out of compliance.
2. Creating housing for people of all income levels is the right thing to do. The state housing crisis is every city’s responsibility.
3. Eliminating costly lawsuits based on Encinitas’ lack of compliance with state law is fiscally responsible management of taxpayer money.
4. When we have a state-approved plan, Encinitas will qualify for bike, pedestrian and road improvement grants to enhance our streets, resulting in easier ways to get around.
It’s simply not an option to say no to more housing. Some residents write to me with concern about the housing plan, expressing an exclusive focus on their particular driving commute. But California’s housing laws are focused on the well-being of our entire state population.
These state laws that require every city to zone for more affordable housing are driven by many factors, which include the following: excessively long commute times because of the affordable housing shortage; the homelessness epidemic; many people having to spend far more than the advised one-third of their monthly take-home pay on housing because housing costs are so high. It’s a supply problem.
This housing plan is designed to provide more homes for families earning up to $65,000 a year. Because we have a median family income of $81,000 in San Diego County, families who live on $60,000 a year, for example, are considered “low-income.” The homes they can afford to buy or rent are generally smaller and in developments that are “high-density,” because there are between 25-30 homes or apartments on one acre. These are more likely to be affordable by their design.
Since 2013, Encinitas has only built 145 housing units in this low income category, but the city is supposed to have constructed 1,141 of those units. One of the reasons for this discrepancy is that we don’t have the land zoned to accommodate 25 to 30 housing units per acre. So the housing plan we’re putting together moves some parcels into that higher zoning. The total amount of housing that could be added under this plan if every site is built is slightly more than 1,600 units, which is 6.4 percent more housing throughout the City of Encinitas.
Our housing plan is under intense scrutiny by state housing regulators because of our historic difficulty in complying with housing laws. Prop. A’s requirement that all upzoning be approved by a vote of the people is unusual. After the voters rejected the last plan, state regulators have taken an even greater interest in Encinitas. Every week, the attorneys who are suing us write to the regulators, we have residents both for and against more housing submitting comments, and we have our staff, consultant and attorneys going back and forth.
It’s truly a tempest of fierce examination and diverse, passionate opinions.
When I think back on the last year and a half of guiding this effort, I believe we’ve taken every step possible to make the process inclusive, fair, transparent, and comprehensive.
The effort to get this long-simmering, complex, controversial and expensive problem solved has heavily involved your elected officials – far more than anything I’ve seen while in office. It boldly and specifically includes the viewpoints and participation of the group that opposed the previous plan. And it has been intensive, involving a trip to Sacramento to meet with regulators, reviewing lengthy documents and holding dozens of public meetings.
At some point, every person involved has felt unhappy that his or her opinion on some aspect didn’t generate the majority support, including me. But overall, I think it’s a strong compromise plan, transparently crafted, with an outcome that is reasonable.
Every housing project will be required to do a traffic study to identify and address traffic impacts on a project basis.
The Planning Commission will consider the entire proposal on June 7; the City Council votes on June 20, and you’ll have the final say with your vote in November.
And as a final reminder before the primary on Tuesday, major decisions are made by the people we elect to sit at the table. Please make sure your voice and values are reflected at that table. Vote in the June 5 primary!
Encinitas Mayor Catherine S. Blakespear can be reached with questions or comments at [email protected]