Encinitas sued again over housing development

ENCINITAS — A group representing affordable housing interests has followed through on its threat to sue Encinitas if it failed to adopt a state-mandated housing plan by the end of March, filing a lawsuit in Superior Court last week.

San Diego Tenants United and a county resident filed the lawsuit against the city April 14. They argue that the city is using Proposition A to hinder the approval of a certified housing element, the document that maps out where affordable housing will be located in the city.

Proposition A, which voters approved in 2013, requires, among other things, a public vote on major zone changes — including the housing element. Voters rejected the city’s most recent attempt at getting into compliance, Measure T, in November.

Encinitas has not updated its housing element in more than 20 years.

“Our clients’ request is simple: that the city stop violating state law,” said Parisa Ijadi-Maghsoodi, pro bono manager and supervising attorney for San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program. “For over two decades, the city has evaded its legal obligation to provide for the housing needs of its low-income residents. The city is now hiding behind its local growth control measure, Proposition A, and applying it in an illegal manner that conflicts with the California Constitution to avoid its statutory obligation to facilitate the development of affordable housing.”

San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, Cozen O’Connor P.C. and the Public Interest Law group represent Lorraine Del Rose and San Diego Tenants United in the case. Del Rose is described as a San Diego County resident who has struggled to obtain affordable housing due to lack of supply.

San Diego Tenants United officials said Encinitas is using the law to set up obstacles for minorities and working-class people to reside in the city.

“Encinitas hides under a guise of protecting community character and the environment, but the city’s real goal is evident: keep out the working class people of color,” said Rafael Bautista, president of Tenants United.

The group hit the city with a four-point legal demand on March 15, which gave the city until March 30 to adopt a housing element or be sued yet again for failing to adopt one. They are asking the judge to declare Proposition A void as insofar as it prevents the passage of a housing element.

Encinitas officials said they are working on developing a housing element that voters will embrace. The city has a four-person subcommittee composed of Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz, Planning Commissioner Bruce Ehlers and Measure T proponent Kurt Groseclose that is working on the housing element proposal.

Encinitas has been in the crosshairs of developers and other interests in recent years on issues ranging from the city’s stance toward density bonus developments to, most recently, its lack of an updated housing element.

The Building Industry Association and DCM Properties had previously settled their lawsuits against Encinitas with the condition that they would approve a housing element in November, which did not happen.

The lawsuits and housing-related services have proven costly to the city: Encinitas has spent more than $965,000 to date fighting and settling housing lawsuits and paying for legal assistance on the housing element plans, according to city records.

Encinitas officials have declined comment, citing the litigation.

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