Residents seek to cancel appeal of housing project

ENCINITAS — A group of residents has called on Encinitas to cancel an upcoming appeal of a controversial housing project in Leucadia after they said a city staff member made unauthorized changes to the approval documents. 

The planning official, however, said the changes were made by the developer and were changes the appellant recommended. 

Susan Turney has spearheaded the opposition to the Hymettus Estates project near Fulvia Street and Leucadia Boulevard. She said that City Planner Roy Sapa’u changed language in the project’s covenants, codes and restrictions between the time the Planning Commission approved the project on Oct. 18 and this week, when the City Council was scheduled to hear the appeal.

Turney said she has written several letters asking for the city to cancel the appeal and send the project back to the Planning Commission. 

“A low-level city staffer can’t edit city documents and present them as the record,” Turney said. 

Sapa’u said Dec. 19 that he didn’t make any changes to the project’s documents, but the developer, CityMark Communities, made the changes, which were to address concerns voiced by the appellants. 

He classified the changes as minor, and said the council will determine whether the changes need to be returned to the Planning Commission for approval before moving forward. 

“I don’t have the authority to make changes,” Sapa’u said. 

The nine-home project has been the subject of two lawsuits over the past four years.

Hymettus Estates was one of six so-called density bonus projects that were part of the city’s settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Building Industry Association over the council’s 2014 vote to change how it interpreted state density bonus law. The settlement requires the city to expeditiously process the projects that were already in the pipeline, including Hymettus. 

The City Council voted 4-1 in May 2016 to deny an appeal filed by neighbors contesting the Planning Commission’s approval of the project’s tentative map. 

A group of neighbors sued the city shortly thereafter, arguing that the Building Industry Association settlement illegally handcuffed the city into an approval in spite of concerns over the project’s environmental impact report. 

Superior Court Judge Earl Maas ruled against the neighbors’ complaint in its entirety.

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