ENCINITAS — The City Council received a staff report on the progress of the general plan update but asked for significant changes to be made to updating the various elements of the city’s blueprint.
Specifically, the council agreed that the land use and housing elements should be refocused using different methodologies to determine resident input.
During a special session on March 7, the City Council overwhelmingly agreed to scrap a major portion of the draft general plan and the consultant who helped create it.
The housing element is a crucial element of the document that will shape the city’s landscape — both figuratively and literally — by dictating where and how new housing will be built. The state mandated portion of the plan requires additional housing to meet projected population increases.
“We’ve never had a certified element by the state,” said Planning Department Director Patrick Murphy. The 1989 housing element was self-certified, as was allowed by the law at the time. However, the state’s housing and community development agency must now certify the new plan.
“I know people think the housing element is the most important element and it’s not,” Murphy told the council. He termed the goals and policies of the element as “vanilla.” “It’s the most regulated element.”
But the portion of the plan that calls for additional housing and potential zone changes has galvanized the community. Mike Andreen of the New Encinitas Network, a group comprised of 22 commercial property owners in the El Camino Real corridor, renewed his request to separate out the housing element from the rest of the plan.
“It’s not an update but a complete reinvention,” he said of the plan. He said the 1989 original plan should be available in a redline edit so that the public could better understand the proposed changes.
Tony Kranz, a candidate for City Council agreed. “The biggest issue we have now is that we’ve written a new general plan instead of updating our existing general plan.”
Duff Pickering, a resident in New Encinitas said “many people held their noses while participating in the mapping exercise,” referring to a meeting asking citizens to choose where the 1,300 affordable housing units called for in the housing element should be placed.
The May workshop “pitted one neighborhood against another,” Pickering said.
Councilman Mark Muir agreed with presenting a redline version of the original document for comparison. “That’s what I’ve always heard about an update,” he said, “you work off your current document.
“I’m more concerned with doing it right than doing it right now,” Muir said. He suggested conducting scenario mapping in a community workshop setting.
Murphy clarified that the document is 700 pages, compared to the 1,100 page number that is tossed around.
Deputy Mayor Kristen Gaspar said she preferred that the GPAC (General Plan Advisory Committee) and ERAC (Element Review Advisory Committee), both working groups comprised of community volunteers, and the Planning Commission research various methodologies for approaching the land use and housing element and present their recommendation to council in order to avoid pitting one neighborhood against another.
Peder Norby, the ERAC coordinator said that the two community groups were almost finished with their reports to the council.
“It’s not going to discount the work they’ve done up to today,” Gaspar said, referring to the “methodology exercise.”