ENCINITAS — Encinitas’ four-member housing element task force traveled to Sacramento last week to get clarity on questions they had from their latest attempt to create an affordable housing plan that will pass muster with voters.
They returned to Encinitas with an outlook that they described as “sobering.”
City officials said that officials with the state’s Housing and Community Development Department emphasized that not only will the city be required to adopt a housing plan, new rules are emphasizing that the affordable housing actually be built.
“It drove home the difficulty of the work we have in front of us,” Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz said Dec. 16 at the beginning of the city’s four-hour joint council/housing element subcommittee workshop. “Not only the fact that we are way behind, but now there is a greater emphasis on actual construction of these homes.”
Barbara Kautz, an attorney with Goldfarb and Lipman who is advising the city on the housing element, said the new state laws require the city must pick sites that have “realistic and demonstrated potential” for development.
In other words, the city can’t rezone commercial centers for mixed-use development, which was the crux of its last housing element attempt, Measure T.
“It’s not just about zoning anymore,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “It’s about the production of affordable housing.”
The council and the rest of the housing element task force on Dec. 16 narrowed down the list of potential sites for the housing plan, eliminating a pair of sites that some members of the public had endorsed for affordable housing.
The city removed Bob Echter’s Dramm and Echter property as well as a county property adjacent to the Sheriff’s station on Via Moleno that previously served as a burn site.
The group decided that it was impractical to include the burn site because it isn’t clear if the county would sell the property and it isn’t clear how much it would cost to clean up the site. City officials said they will likely revisit the site during the next housing cycle, which begins in 2021.
Some residents were disappointed in the decision to remove Echter’s property, which the flower grower has proposed to use to create an “agrihood,” a community that blends housing and agriculture.
Echter’s development team had met with the community several times in recent weeks to discuss the project, and residents appeared to show guarded support at the meeting.
The city also removed a site in Leucadia known as “L-7,” after a number of residents spoke during the public comment urging the city to remove it from consideration.