The ABCs of Encinitas housing policy

Housing policy in Encinitas has been a challenge since long before I was elected to the city Council in 2012.

There is a lot of confusion and concern in the community about what’s happening now.

In less than 600 words below, I will try to explain.

The starting point is acknowledging that having housing choices at different price points is good, and that change is happening.

Because we have not kept up with state requirements, the city is now under court order to update its plans to accommodate projected growth, whether we like it or not.

With constructive public input, we can create a plan that will lead to more affordable housing options that fit well in our communities.

In 2012, the city abandoned its contractor-led effort to update the whole General Plan, and decided to re-start the process by focusing first on the Housing Plan (HP).

Once the HP is approved, the remaining elements, including transportation and land use, will be updated.

The state forecasts population growth and inventories existing housing for low and very-low income residents identifying deficiencies in each region. SANDAG allocates regional targets among the cities, and Encinitas was assigned its share years ago.

We have never been in full compliance with state HP law, but state and industry scrutiny has increased.

While we were in the process of figuring out where we could change zoning to allow higher density to accommodate new multifamily and attached housing, we were sued by the SD County Building Industry Association over several issues, including lack of a certified HP.

Our settlement agreement requires that we update our HP, which requires a public vote that we will seek in November 2016.

Instead of reconvening council-created community input groups (GPAC & ERAC), the city developed material, posted them online, and held public meetings soliciting input on key issues: where would higher density housing make the most sense, what design criteria should the city use to ensure that new housing fits into surrounding neighborhoods, and what policies and incentives should we implement to encourage the production of actual housing units that are more affordable.

The City Council used public input to identity three maps with potential sites for higher density — maps now undergoing environmental review, including assessment of traffic impacts.

That review will be available for public comment from January to February.

Now is our opportunity to weigh in on draft design guidelines and proposed changes to the zoning code to regulate this new housing, drafts of which are available on the

At Home in Encinitas website: athomeinencinitas.info/ and was the subject of a series of public meetings in November. You can submit comments online at the same website.

Responses to comments on these documents will be prepared in early spring, with a final EIR in April 2016. Then the Planning Commission and council will decide what plan to put on the November ballot.

We have an obligation to comply with state law, and the Housing and Community Development Department recently determined that our draft HP, if approved, will meet state requirements.

We also have an opportunity to work with public and private entities and our residents to create the conditions that will result in more affordable housing choices for Encinitas.

More multifamily and attached housing is no guarantee of affordability — I think we all recognize that.

But the absence of higher density zoning makes affordability all but impossible.

It’s not too late for residents to get informed and get involved. Whatever the ultimate outcome, it will be better with more community engagement.

Lisa Shaffer is a member of the Encinitas City Council. You can reach her at LShaffer@encinitasca.gov.

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