REGION — A battle over where more than 170,000 affordable units should be spread throughout the county is looming for the region’s chief planning agency.
And Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear will be at the center of the debate.
Blakespear was appointed to chair the San Diego Association of Government regional housing needs assessment, or RHNA, committee.
RHNA is a state-mandated program that requires cities and counties to plan for enough homes to accommodate their expected population growth.
The committee will make a recommendation to SANDAG’s board of directors as to how to distribute the 171,000 new housing units the state is asking the region to plan for between 2021 and 2029, which is the next housing cycle.
Blakespear and Encinitas officials are well versed in state housing law by virtue of the city’s clashes with it over the years.
Encinitas is the only city in the county to not adopt a state-mandated housing plan known as a housing element, which maps out where a city will plan for its share of the region’s RHNA numbers.
A Superior Court judge is giving Encinitas until April to adopt a plan, after two previous attempts failed at the ballot box.
“I don’t know if there is an elected official who knows more about housing element law than I do,” Blakespear said. “But that isn’t the reason I got appointed, it’s because I am serving as SANDAG vice chair.”
Blakespear said that the committee hasn’t been seated yet as SANDAG Chair Steve Vaus, the mayor of Poway, hasn’t selected its members.
But once that happens, the committee will have several months to determine how many units each of the county’s 18 cities and the county itself will take on for planning purposes.
She said she hopes reason and data — not politics — will govern the committee’s decision making.
“My hope is that there is an analytic process that looks at factors beyond the perspective of the residents, but looks at where job centers are, transportation corridors, existing housing and the capacity for more housing, so it doesn’t come down to just politicking,” Blakespear said.
“The residents who feel strongly about having a lot more or a lot fewer units will probably be disappointed because it’s likely going to fall somewhere in the middle,” Blakespear said. “Every jurisdiction has to take more, just by virtue of the region having to take on more units. But there hasn’t been any radical changing of where the county’s population is, and unless there is some analytic framework that has changed, I would expect that it (the city’s housing allotments) would be a similar proportion (to previous assessments).”