Density bonus projects are destroying our neighborhoods and the quality of life of the residents. You’ve probably seen over-built developments around town and have noticed that they do not fit the surrounding area.
You may even live near one or next to one and may have directly experienced the negative effects of degradation of community character and increases in traffic and noise. Or, perhaps you’ve seen and been disturbed by the “infill opportunities” maps on the City’s website, where the City has chosen parcels throughout all five communities as likely areas for density increases.
Something must be done to stop the proliferation of these destructive residential projects by making it less attractive to the developer to build them. If other cities can do it, we can, too. While the City routinely claims “our hands are tied” and uses the Density Bonus law as a blanket excuse for approving project after project, there are, in fact, steps the City can take to curtail the effects of density bonus projects.
Earlier this year, Council approved the Olivenhain Desert Rose density bonus project, even after our Planning Commission denied it on environmental grounds. In the case of Desert Rose, Council did nothing to help residents and everything to help the developer, forcing the residents of the neighborhood surrounding Desert Rose to go to court to stop the development.
As you may know, the developer lost the lawsuit, and Encinitas taxpayers had to pay the court costs. Council could have ordered the developer to complete a full Environmental Impact Report, but chose not to.
Right now there are density bonus projects being processed on Fulvia and Jason Streets in Leucadia and on Balour in Old Encinitas, none of which will fit the community character and all of which will have a detrimental effect on quality of life, traffic, pollution, and safety. As with Desert Rose, residents neighboring these projects are looking for ways to challenge overly-dense projects that will forever change and degrade these communities.
Too many of our neighborhoods across town are increasingly affected, and it is up to our Mayor and City Council Members to do everything they can to stop proliferation. The City can minimize the detrimental effects of density bonus projects by interpreting and writing our ordinances in such a way as to limit how far a developer can go in packing a piece of property with densely-built houses. I call on all five Council Members to instruct our City Manager and our Planning Department to exercise every option available to stop or at least minimize the effects of density bonus projects. Way back in March, the Council directed Planning Director, Jeff Murphy, to investigate a variety of alternatives and report back to them, but Council and residents have yet to hear the results of his research. What does that say about the City’s will to make changes?
Council will definitely hear more from me and other residents if they do not begin to do everything possible to protect each of the five communities that make up our city. Affected neighborhoods city-wide are already coming together to challenge the City’s inaction and repeated contention that “Our Hands Are Tied.” We know better!
Julie Graboi is an Olivenhain resident.