ERAC challenges state housing requirements

ENCINITAS — At Wednesday night’s Council meeting, The Element Review Advisory Committee (ERAC) put forward its vision for housing growth. 

And part of that presentation included challenging figures from the state that say how much housing could be built in Encinitas.

ERAC is one of the three groups that reviewed the General Plan Update, which will steer land use and housing in Encinitas for the next several decades. The citizen group was formed after Council rebooted the stalled General Plan Update about a year ago.

One of the group’s goals: determine where 1,300 state-mandated housing units could be built. The state demands cities build a certain number of housing units based on population growth. But the 22-member ERAC pushed back, arguing that the figures are based on data from 2007 that overstate local population growth.

“We questioned the data from day one,” said Robert Bohrer, a representative from ERAC.

Additionally, the state requires that cities build housing at a density of 30 units per acre to create “affordable housing” for cities. However, Bohrer said the ERAC agreed that 30 units per acre wouldn’t necessarily translate into affordable housing.

“Thirty units to the acre does not address housing affordability,” Bohrer said.

Bohrer said ERAC spent much of its time fighting mandates from Sacramento. But eventually, the group conducted mapping exercises and settled on locations where state-mandated housing could be built, as well as places that can accommodate general housing.

Some of those areas include the El Camino Real corridor from Leucadia to Encinitas Boulevard, “four corners” in Olivenhain, near the strawberry fields on Manchester Avenue, Encinitas Boulevard from Coast Highway 101 to Quail Gardens Drive and the Cardiff commercial center. Bohrer noted some of the areas were chosen because of the potential for mixed-use development.

Also, those areas were picked for other reasons: they’re near transportation corridors, public transportation, retail services and schools, ERAC’s report stated.

Some residents at the meeting were concerned that ERAC’s recommendations included selectively putting four or five story housing units in certain locations. The current cap for much of Encinitas is three stories.

“What we need to be about is creating livable communities here within the city,” resident Sheila Cameron said. “Please keep that in mind. Do four to five story buildings and 45 units per acre reflect that? I don’t think so.”

But Bohrer emphasized that four to five story units would only be put in certain areas.

Council accepted the report and thanked ERAC for its work.

Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar said she sympathized with residents who don’t like state-mandated housing requirements.

She added she’s heard similar objections from other cities, and was hopeful citizens could “bottle-up” that frustration and direct it at Sacramento.

Mayor Teresa Barth said many of the suggestions were encouraging, including “flex zoning,” a type of zoning that allows for a wider variety of land uses.

In the last few weeks, two other groups also presented housing recommendations for the General Plan Update.

With ERAC being the last, City Manager Gus Vina said city staff would find points of consensus among the groups and report back to Council.

Council won’t formally address the General Plan Update until the fall, after Council has had a chance to revisit its goals for the process.




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