Council approves contracts for housing element services

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council approved several contracts for services related to its ongoing housing element efforts, including a contract with a firm that will perform polling and help it craft a ballot proposal.

The council’s unanimous vote, included the rewarding of a $70,000 contract with Cerrell Associates, a Los Angeles-based firm that specializes in political campaign public relations, and a retainer agreement with Nossaman LLP for legal services associated with “ballot box planning.”

According to the staff report, Cerrell Associates stood out among the four firms vying for the contract due to their dual approach to public opinion research, which included statistically valid telephone surveys as well as focus groups that would allow for an understanding of complex visual content, such as the housing strategy maps associated with the housing element.

The new approach contrasts to council’s previous public engagement strategy, which included the use of an online civic engagement platform powered by a Berkeley-based firm.

The council cancelled the contract after decidedly critical reviews of the eTown Hall format that guided the first round of public engagement in 2014.

The first phase netted comments from about 500 residents, which Mayor Kristin Gaspar at the time said was unacceptable for a city of 63,000 people.

Wednesday’s vote also authorized staff to pay out additional dollars on existing environmental and zoning map contracts associated with the housing element, pushing the city’s commitment to the project to more than $930,000.

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