Encinitas approves sketch of housing strategies

City accepts first of community’s alternative strategies

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council unanimously approved a draft of a series housing programs that it will use to ensure that it achieves its allotment of affordable housing units and also accepted the first of the community’s alternative housing element strategies.

The programs were part of the policy document that will guide execution of the city’s housing element, and demonstrate the city’s commitment to, among other things, ensuring there are enough properly zoned sites to meet the city’s regional housing requirements and that the city is providing affordable housing to low-income residents and conserving existing affordable housing stock.

The council’s vote came after several hours of discussion on the individual programs, which will be analyzed as part of an environmental review of the city’s housing element proposal and will be submitted to the state Department of Housing and Community Development to determine if it complies with state law.

Some of the proposed programs are legally required, while staff recommended several others, such as design review of affordable units to ensure they blend in with the community and adopting zoning code changes that will ensure that smaller, cheaper units are developed within projects.

The council’s vote does not set these programs in stone, nor does it go into the details of each program’s execution. The programs will be individually fleshed out as part of the continuing housing element process.

The city adopted its last Housing Element in 1992 and is the only city in the county that has not updated it since. Currently, the city is being sued for not having an updated housing plan as part of a lawsuit by the Building Industry Association of San Diego.

Before the council’s discussion on the policy document, the city received its first community-based alternative housing strategy from the Encinitas Taxpayers Association, which was delivered by longtime community strategist Bob Bonde.

The taxpayer group’s plan aims at achieving the 1,300 affordable units through a series of actions, including:

• Public-private partnerships aimed at creating low-income housing on city land or other public land that the city leases to an affordable-housing developer at no cost.

• Requiring developers of so-called “density bonus” projects to double the number of affordable units they build in their projects.

• Conducting a citywide housing survey that will accurately account for the number of affordable units actually exist in the city.

• Encouraging the development of accessory units, or “granny flats,” using the city of Santa Cruz’s successful promotional program as a road map.

• Developing affordable housing on the sites currently designated in the General Plan for low-income housing.

The council asked city staff to analyze several of Bonde’s recommendations and received and filed the report.

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