The city of Carlsbad is years late in completing its mandatory state Housing Plan, or HP, for 2005-2010. Because the city does not have an approved HP, SANDAG is withholding funds and more are in jeopardy. The draft HP now being considered will achieve what the state wants — more housing and more affordable housing. But it is not what the citizens of this community want. Who wants more growth, more high-density development and continued loss of important open space areas? In the meantime, the city continues to approve developments, large and small, that are built below the growth management target point density. If a project builds fewer housing units than allowed, the difference goes into the Excess Dwelling Unit Bank, or EDUB. More than 6,300 housing units have been placed in the EDUB in the last 10 years. In the state’s eyes this has led to a shortfall of low-income housing units. Carlsbad saw an easy out in attempting to site 500 of these units in the (still contaminated) Quarry Creek site that Hanson Aggregates owns (off College along Highway 78, on the border with Oceanside). The contaminated soil and ground water on this old quarry site will require years of clean-up before it is safe for residential use. The Quarry cannot possibly be decontaminated by July 2010 so it makes no sense to include in this HP.
With direction from City Council, staff could take the creative and fair approach and spread this housing out across our city. These units could be sited in the historic downtown area, the airport corridor, the south end of town — there are many unexplored alternatives, including creating mixed-use developments, near transportation corridors. Westfield Mall recently held community meetings about updating that shopping center. The city has said it plans to add housing to this shopping center — along a major public transit route — yet there was no mention of this. Last month, City Council removed affordable housing from the La Costa Town Square development while also allowing a single tenant up to 100,000 square feet — enough for a Wal-Mart super store. An apartment building seems a better fit than opening the door to big box retail.
The fundamental principal of “smart growth” is to locate housing near jobs and transportation corridors. The Quarry Creek site, assuming it can ever be decontaminated, has no public transit service, few jobs, would rely on Oceanside and Vista for emergency services and doesn’t have appropriate ingress and egress. In the northeast quadrant of Carlsbad, requests for emergency medical services are usually answered by Oceanside and Vista, because these three cities have a “reciprocal” agreement to send whoever can get there first. Carlsbad has twice the budget and half the people as Oceanside — do we really need to stretch their services by dumping a conglomerate of low/moderate income housing on their doorstep?
Do you remember passing Prop. C in 2002? It provided for city funds to be allocated for open space and trails. Yet our city leaders have vainly ignored the will of the people on Prop. C and still have not bought one single parcel for open space. They have not negotiated in good faith even when there is a willing seller and now they have several problems. As the supply of vacant land dwindles they face increasing pressure from the state to build more houses. Buying land for open space takes it out of the potential pool for building houses. Either they listen to the state or to their residents — or they find a solution that accomplishes both the goals for housing and open space for both conservation and recreation.
The city has failed the public, especially we northeastern quadrant dwellers. They need to acquire Village H (listed No. 2 for acquisition by Citizens’ Committee) and they need to leave Quarry Creek with the original 149 housing units. Staff can find creative locations for the low-income homes needed to meet the current housing element cycle. There just has been no direction given by our policymakers to do so. There are good reasons why Quarry Creek was never intended for those 500 more units, and the city needs to “get that.”
A longtime North County resident, Kasey Cinciarelli lives with her family in Carlsbad.
She is a board member of Preserve Calavera.