Housing element discussions resume Feb. 1

ENCINITAS — Encinitas will resume its long-running attempt to get into compliance with the state housing element law with a community meeting Feb. 1.

The City Council, which is hosting the meeting, is looking for residents’ feedback on the type of housing plan they can support, three months after voters rejected the city’s housing element update Measure T.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said she anticipates the meeting will be looking forward, rather than retrospectively, on what plan will achieve community consensus.

“The meeting is designed to let the public speak on the things they would like to see in the housing plan,” Blakespear said. “I am hoping that this meeting will allow for an exchange of ideas rather than hearing from people as to why they didn’t vote for Measure T. because I think we need to be focused on what is the plan that would garner the most support.”

State law requires that cities approve plans that outline how they will zone for affordable housing that each city is mandated to plan for. Cities without approved housing elements are ineligible for certain government grants and are often exposed to lawsuits by affordable housing advocates and developers.

Housing elements are often considered routine and approved by city and regional governing bodies.

Encinitas, which has not approved an updated housing elements since the 1990s, is unique in that the public must vote on the housing element and other major zone changes, the result of the 2013 passage of Proposition A.

Measure T was the city’s first attempt at a public vote on the housing element, and was defeated by a 56-44 margin. Opponents argued that the city’s plan would pave the way for thousands of super-dense units that would snarl traffic and lead to buildings much taller than the 30-foot-height cap under Prop. A.

As a result, Encinitas already faces one lawsuit — developer David C. Meyer has resumed litigation that had been temporarily settled provided the city adopt an approved housing element during the election — and has been threatened by at least one other entity.

Additionally, Blakespear said, at least two bills are making their way through the state legislature that would target scofflaw cities — one would provide funding for the state Attorney General’s office to crack down on such cities and another would further decrease local control over development activities for cities without approved housing elements.

“The stakes are even higher for cities that don’t have housing elements,” said Blakespear, who said the council is committed to making a good-faith effort of coming up with a plan rather than imposing the failed ballot measure on the public, which has been suggested — and even demanded — by the groups suing the city.

“The cheapest thing for us to do would have been to do nothing at all, and let this get sorted out in the court room, but I want us, as the mayor, to have the best housing plan we can with the most consensus,” Blakespear said. “That is why we are reaching out to the community and requesting their input.”

Blakespear said that two groups have already submitted requests to present proposals at the community meeting, including the “No on T” committee, which was spearheaded by former planning commissioner Bruce Ehlers.

“Anyone who wants to come forward with a plan can contact me before the meeting, or they can do it at a future meeting,” Blakespear said. “There will definitely be other meetings on the topic. This is just our first step forward.”

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Encinitas Community and Senior Center, 1140 Oakcrest Park Dr., Encinitas.

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