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City pays lobbyist more for ‘granny flat’ legislation

ENCINITAS — Encinitas is poised to pay thousands more to its contract lobbyist as part of the city’s efforts to sponsor a statewide bill to loosen the restriction on accessory dwelling units

The city is co-sponsoring Senate Bill 1226, a bill authored by State Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), which would ease restrictions on permitting accessory units, commonly known as “granny flats.”

As part of its three-year, $156,000 contract with JGC Government Relations — which was adopted in June 2016 — the city would pay an additional $3,5000 a month if the city chose to sponsor a bill, and would pay it for the life of the bill.

The bill, which advanced through the Senate unanimously, recently passed the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee and is headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. 

It is on track to make it to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk by Sept. 30, the end of the legislative calendar. The escalation in the JGC contract would end at that point. 

The City Council is scheduled to vote Aug. 8 in its consent calendar to approve the nearly $30,000 increase in the contract amount, of which $17,000 would apply retroactively to work done in the 2017-18 fiscal year. 

As it is on the consent calendar, the vote is expected to be routine and receive unanimous approval. 

Encinitas has struggled to gain compliance with state housing requirements, and is the only city in San Diego County without a certified housing element, a plan required by the state that details how the city will plan for its regionally mandated share of affordable housing. 

On Wednesday, Aug. 8, the Encinitas City Council voted 4 to 1  to approve its long-debated and frequently modified Housing Element and put it before voters at the Nov. 6 election.

But officials have advocated for loosening granny flat permitting requirements as a way to spur more affordable housing that is compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods. Encinitas officials estimate there are more than 1,000 unpermitted granny flats citywide because getting the buildings up to current code standards would be financially prohibitive. 

SB 1226 would allow cities to apply the permit requirements when the accessory unit was built retroactively, thus easing the financial burden and likely bringing more of the units into compliance. 

Mayor Catherine Blakespear went to Sacramento in June to advocate for the bill (the first one Encinitas has sponsored in 20 years) in an effort to streamline the permitting process and get more of these living spaces officially counted by the state Department of Housing and Community Development. 

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