As 2017 heads toward a close, your city and elected officials are busy winding up several important projects.
I’m headed to Sacramento with a city delegation in mid-December to meet with housing regulators to gain more clarity on questions related to recent changes in state housing laws.
The city will be bringing voters a new state-mandated, long-term housing plan in the 2018 election. We need to make sure we are working closely with the state to achieve the city’s housing goals within the legal requirements. The new housing plan will provide the development potential for at least 1,600 units of housing in Encinitas. The city currently has about 25,000 total housing units. Based on recent state law changes, more of these new units must be on vacant or under-utilized land. California is suffering from what’s called a “housing crisis,” particularly for lower-cost housing units. Every city is required to do its part to address the housing shortage.
On Saturday, Dec. 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Encinitas Senior and Community Center, I’ve scheduled a “Housing Meeting” for the City Council and the ad hoc housing task force to discuss in a round table format where new housing is best placed in the city. We’ll also hear a presentation on how the changes in state law affect us in Encinitas specifically. Please join us to learn more or offer comments.
After three months of intense discussions about moving from citywide to district elections, we have adopted a final election map.
State law is written to allow jurisdictions the chance to move to district elections after receiving notice of a potential lawsuit from a potential plaintiff under the California Voting Rights Act if the city completes the process within 90 days and adheres to other requirements.
As your elected mayor, I make many decisions based upon concern for the city’s budget and my commitment to a prudent use of public money. Avoiding this costly, expert-intense lawsuit is responsible governance. While there are circumstances that require battling it out in court, this is not one of them. I believe we would not be doing our jobs serving you, the public, if we got the city embroiled in a lawsuit because we were trying to be the test case in an effort to avoid electing councilmembers by district, which is a legitimate governance model used successfully in dozens of California cities.
There are times when we need to recognize the dominance of state law over local law, evaluate the legal landscape, prior case history, chances of prevailing and position the city to avoid wasting money.
There is more than one voting structure that supports the principles of democracy and good governance. District elections allow you to have your own City Council representative who represents about 15,000 Encinitans.
In 2018, residents who live in District 3 (which includes Cardiff and parts of mid-Encinitas and is currently represented by Councilmember Mark Muir) and District 4 (which includes Olivenhain and parts of New Encinitas and is currently represented by Councilmember Joe Mosca) will vote in that district’s election. If you live in Districts 1 or 2, which include parts of Leucadia, Old Encinitas and New Encinitas, your representatives (Councilmembers Tony Kranz and Tasha Boerner Horvath) are not up for election until 2020 because they both won four-year terms in the last election.
All residents of the city, regardless of district, will vote in the mayor’s race in 2018.
On Habitat for Humanity
We’re moving forward with a Habitat for Humanity project for between two and four units of affordable housing on the northeast corner of Urania Avenue and Leucadia Boulevard. This remnant of city land is adjacent to a planned 13-home subdivision, and the construction cost of these affordable homes would benefit from moving forward at the same time.
After much discussion, the Council agreed it was feasible to structure this transaction as a lease, instead of a gift of our city-owned land.
Holding on to our property in Encinitas – by organizing our transactions as long-term leases instead of gifts or sales – positions the city better for the future. The amount of land available is fixed and the cost of acquiring land only goes up. While many cities may donate land to Habitat for Humanity for affordable housing units, we preserve our flexibility by keeping it and leasing it. Additionally, a long-term lease allows us to make these housing units affordable in perpetuity instead of having them escalate to fair market value after 55 years, which is the typical arrangement.
On the future
In 2018, expect to see movement and hear more discussion on the following topics: accessory dwelling units, affordable housing, the homeless, Community Choice Energy, bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements, and pension liability. Stay tuned!
During this holiday time of gratitude and celebration, I want to say thank you for what each of you does to make our community better. Our collective commitment to the common good is the best reflection of our shared humanity.
I love our city from the bottom of my heart. I can’t wait to see the progress we can make together in 2018.
Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear writes a monthly column for The Coast News. She can be reached at [email protected]