CARLSBAD — To meet state housing requirements, City Council approved a series of land use and zoning designation changes in the Barrio area of Carlsbad to allow for higher housing densities.“The changes could lead to future development, but none is being considered tonight,” said acting assistant City Manager Gary Barberio while presenting before City Council at its Feb. 26 meeting.
The housing density changes didn’t propose any new development to the Barrio, which is generally located west of Interstate 5, east of the railway and north of Tamarack Avenue. Yet the alterations make it possible for future developers to add up to 759 new units to the area if every property owner developed their land to the revised maximum density.
The city initiated these changes in order to meet housing requirements before Carlsbad’s current housing cycle ends April 30 this year.
State Housing Element law requires that the city plan for its regional share of estimate housing needs by income group. To achieve Carlsbad’s share, the city must make zoning changes to designate enough residential land at densities that can accommodate those housing needs.
If the city doesn’t make accommodations for its required share of housing needs, the city will be penalized and the requirements will carry over to the subsequent housing cycle.
The Barrio was selected for increased housing densities because much of the land already exceeds the density currently allowed, according to city officials.
SANDAG designated the Barrio as a smart growth area, according to Carlsbad Senior Planner Jennifer Jesser.
Jesser also said that the area’s proximity to public transportation and shopping makes it “an ideal place for additional housing.”
Currently the Barrio area consists of 1,272 residential units, and is considered by residents a small, family-friendly neighborhood.
Most of the Barrio area is zoned for two- and multiple-family residential dwellings. With the new amendments, most of the area will be zoned for residential dwellings with higher densities.
To permit the increase in housing density in the neighborhood, City Council unanimously approved amendments to portions of Carlsbad’s General Plan, Zone Change, Zoning Ordinance, Local Coastal Program, and Housing Element.
Some of these amendment changes will be enacted March 28, but because a portion of the Barrio falls in the Coastal Zone, changes made to that portion are pending approval from the California Coastal Commission.
In addition to meeting state housing requirements, advocates said that the higher housing density could attract private investment to the area.
“To see some motivation to get people to put more money in that area, I think that’s great,” said councilmember Keith Blackburn at the meeting.
A number of Barrio residents attending the meeting said they were optimistic about the amendments’ potential to bring more investment to the area to support local businesses.
But several residents also expressed concerns about the housing density’s potential to increase traffic and parking on the neighborhood streets.
While she acknowledged the importance of the amendments to the Housing Element, councilmember Farrah Douglas expressed concerns that city officials were not considering how the changes would affect the neighborhood’s character or the downtown area nearby.
“The Barrio needs to first of all remain Barrio as far as the character is concerned. But also, you cannot look at (the) Barrio in isolation. The Barrio is attached to the Village and everything we do, these two areas need to…be perceived as one,” said Douglas.