ENCINITAS — As Encinitas prepares to roll out its public outreach effort for the upcoming Housing Element plan, the city’s two bodies responsible for planning decisions gave the city outreach materials a tentative thumbs up.
The housing element is the city’s first comprehensive overhaul of its housing and residential zoning map in more than 20 years, and will map out where an anticipated 1,300 units of affordable housing will be placed within the city. Voters are expected to vote on the plan in 2016.
The plan will require the city adopt a new zoning designation that would allow upwards of 30 residential units per acre in order to satisfy the state affordable housing mandate.
The plan has already met resistance with some in the community, who believe the plan will be an end run around the voter-approved Proposition A, which requires a public vote for projects that require zone changes. Others have argued that the city’s affordable housing needs can be addressed through legalizing a number of unpermitted “granny flats” or illegally converted garage units that could be counted as affordable housing through a citywide amnesty program.
Meanwhile, the city’s planning staff unveiled its public outreach materials that explain the program and how it would impact the city’s five communities to the city Planning Commission and the City Council, which both play critical roles in the outworking of the plan. The two bodies met at a joint meeting Tuesday night, in which they also discussed the relationship between the two groups.
The city’s outreach program kicks off in October, when the staff will present the plan to several key stakeholder groups, including the YMCA, Rotary Club, senior organizations and other groups. In November, the city will host upwards of seven community meetings where they will present the plan to the broader public. Five of the daylong open sessions will be held in the city’s five communities: New Encinitas, Old Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Leucadia and Olivenhain, and two “makeup sessions” will likely be held at city hall.
Staff’s presentation materials include a dozen presentation boards that provide several key facets of information, including why the city needs a housing element, how the community’s definition of community character will be woven into the plan, prototypes of high density housing and how the city will blend them into the existing neighborhoods and a primer on how residents will use the city’s online conversation platform, e-TownHall.
The plan also an overview of the city’s interactive mapping system, which shows the location of the sites the city has tentatively designated as “candidate sites” for re-zoning. Planning Director Jeff Murphy said residents will have the option of choosing from either the city’s draft plan, customizing a plan based on the candidate sites or select different sites than the city’s suggestions.
Both groups said they were impressed with the draft materials, but offered several criticisms, foremost, they said, presentation materials for all five communities needed to be present at the meetings. Staff originally planned to have only the presentation boards for the community where the meetings were held.
Second, they said, the board needed to use language that the average resident could understand. Currently, the presentation contains a lot of “planning-ese,” council members and commissioners said.
While elected and appointed officials said they believed the plan was on track, at least one person — city council candidate Julie Graboi — was critical of the city’s efforts and urged them to employ more scientific methods of surveying the public.
Pointing to the city’s general plan efforts from several years ago, which the council terminated following an unsuccessful public outreach campaign, she said the city would face similar results with the housing element, at taxpayer’s expense.