ENCINITAS — For the first time since her election to the Encinitas City Council in 2014, Catherine Blakespear found herself off the dais, speaking to a body of elected officials.
Her remarks were two minutes, much like the speakers who speak before her and the City Council.
Blakespear was speaking before the State Senate Housing and Transportation Committee, voicing Encinitas’ opposition to Assembly Bill 2501, which would, among other things, strip cities of the ability to require developers to prepare additional reports or studies as a condition of their projects and would require cities to “round up” in the event the number of units proposed on a site of the number of allowable units is a fraction.
“I came up here today from Southern California because the city of Encinitas is so opposed to AB 2501 that we thought it was important to send a representative to speak against it,” Blakespear said to the elected body.
Encinitas, where developers have built a proportionally large amount of density bonus projects, has been at the forefront of the fight against the proliferation of such developments, which their residents said have created projects that are inconsistent with character of the communities surrounding them.
Blakespear’s two-minute speech was one of a dozen both in favor of and opposed to the assembly bill, which has a lot of momentum and experts believe is headed toward passage.
The Assembly in May passed it out of its hall with a 45-7 vote and Gov. Jerry Brown, in his May revised budget, specifically called out the bill as an important piece of the state’s ability to increase its housing stock to meet increasing demands.
Blakespear offered the strongest opposition to the bill, which she said does not meet the legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of creating more affordable housing.
“At base this law does almost nothing to create more affordable housing, which is its supposed goal and the goal of the governor,” she said. “The city of Encinitas would support state level policies that were actually designed to create affordable housing, but we are opposed to policies that create density just for the sake of density.
“We have a zoning code for a reason, this law would make every zone in our city denser, which just erodes our quality of life,” she added. “We have a zoning code for a reason. Trying to turn every suburb into an urban mecca through state policies that ease the path for higher density developments is misguided.”
Blakespear went on to outline the city’s opposition to the rounding up provisions as well as the opposition to provisions that would limit local jurisdictions from requiring developers to perform studies that she said ensure developers develop high quality projects.
She urged the committee to allow local jurisdictions to make the decision for themselves.
Reached this week, Blakespear said she was cognizant of the fact that it would be an uphill battle to stop the bill’s passage.
“I think Encinitas is a small player, a small fish in a big pond in this discussion,” she said. “But I think it is useful to remind state lawmakers about the concerns that we have locally, and we are the ones that approve the projects.”
The committee delayed the vote on the bill until this week to work out several amendments proposed by the League of California Cities.
Blakespear’s Sacramento trip was not universally accepted locally. David C. Meyer, a density bonus developer who recently settled a lawsuit with Encinitas, called the trip “disappointing.”
“It is unfortunate that Encinitas is a city that prides itself on being a compassionate, inclusive community (and) continues to be one of the worst cities in the state with regards to housing production overall and especial its lack of affordable housing production,” Meyer said. “A real contradiction.
“What a sad statement about what Encinitas has become and its city council having no commitment to providing affordable housing locally,” Meyer said. “Cities like Encinitas are the very reason we have a housing crisis in California and the reason that the State Legislature has continued to strengthen the density bonus law over the last decade.”