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Council takes strong stance against density-bonus bill

ENCINITAS — Encinitas officials have come out in strong opposition of a state Assembly bill that they believe will strip cities of local control over two key issues involving density-bonus development.

State law allows for developers to build extra homes on land to offset the cost of building homes within the development reserved for affordable housing.

State lawmakers said that Assembly Bill 744, which has passed through several committees and is headed for consideration by the full assembly, would do two things to current density bonus law:

• Reaffirm current state law that cities round up in the event the number of units proposed on a site of the number of allowable units is a fraction.

• Waive parking requirements for such units within a half-mile of a transit center.

The City Council unanimously approved a second letter of opposition to the bill. In it, the city argues that those issues should be decided at the local level, not at the state level.

“We maintain that density rounding and parking are local issues and local land-use decisions should be made at the local level,” the letter states.

The city’s opposition to the rounding up has been well documented, as Encinitas is currently being sued by the Building Industry Association of San Diego because of its attempt in July 2014 to close off several loopholes that are popular with the density-bonus developers, including rounding up.

“The City of Encinitas recognizes and values the need for affordable housing. But rounding up density calculations results only in additional market rate units, not in additional affordable units,” the letter continues.

As for the parking issue, the city argues that not requiring parking near a transit center would exacerbate the city’s current lack of parking in its downtown area — the only place in the city with a transit center.

“Our city has only one transit center and the radius the bill prescribes encompasses an area that already presents a parking challenge,” the letter states. “There appears to be an assumption that seniors aged 62 or older do not require automobiles, or do not have visitors requiring parking. We have several senior developments in our city and all of them are heavily dependent upon cars to meet the needs of residents and visitors.”

The city’s stance has been hailed by local residents who have decried the proliferation of density bonus developments in Encinitas, which they believe developers have used to create super-dense subdivisions without delivering the affordable units that the law prescribes.

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3 comments

Stephen Keyes July 2, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Dear Encinitas City Council,

On behalf of more people than you likely realize, thank you each for officially, and in unison, standing up to the Building Association Industry (BIA) that is attempting to sue the City of Encinitas over city council’s conservative interpretation of the poorly-written State of California “Density Bonus Law.” It is right. And courageous. Thank you for endeavoring to hold at bay the numerous carpet-bagger developers from further blighting our Encinitas neighborhoods with many crammed developments of $1M-plus homes — typically adding a token lower-market rental as an appeasement to this law. What a ruse.

By invoking the Density Bonus Law, these developers are often given a green light to zoning changes, have the numbers of houses they want rounded up (not down) in order to fit more homes, and accorded other various waivers and concession loopholes by obsequious planning commissions. The building industry is gaming the system, and everyone — starting with them — knows it. Access to transportation hubs is often overlooked, as is parking availability.

The spirit of this law is absolutely being violated throughout the state by development companies, who are often the “storefront” for investment groups. They acquire the land, invoke Density Bonus with a municipality, overbuild, bear their profit and get out of town. The losers are not the buyers, not the builders, but the people of that neighborhood. It is plain wrong for the state to not allow the individual municipalities more say in the application of these often specious Bonus Density invokings by the building industry, who are lining their pockets whenever they can get away with it.

On the face of it this law seems well-intentioned. But it needs retuning and more latitude granted to individual cities. As it stands, this law is generating ill-will in neighborhoods and city governments throughout the state — it is being wildly over-invoked. It is all too apparent that the building industry had everything to do with foisting this law upon our elected officials in Sacramento, starting with the pro-Density Bonus Law Patron Saint, Assemblyman Ed Chau. It is embarrassingly transparent. As someone recently wrote about this, having the building industry dictate the terms of our growth is disturbingly Kafka-esque. This law cannot stand as is.

Though I’ve had my various differences of opinion with Encinitas City Council decisions at times, I tip my hat to you on this for having the backbone to stand up to the Building Industry Association, the bully boy on our city block. Thank you, on behalf of us, your constituents and neighbors.

This letter from Encinitas City Council to Assembly Ed Chau in Sacramento makes me proud to be an Encinitan. Check it out:
http://www.encinitasca.gov/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=5605

Sincerely,
Stephen Keyes

Jack Baker July 6, 2015 at 8:07 am

“The building industry is gaming the system”

You make this claim, yet every example you listed is something that is fully allowable under the state’s density bonus law. It sounds like your anger would be more properly directed against the state legislature, not the BIA.

The BIA are no saints. But right now the only party who appears to be trying to “game the system” is the City of Encinitas, which is openly attempting to ignore a state law it doesn’t like.

Stephen Keyes July 6, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Jack Baker,

If you think that the Encinitas City Council, by asking for more of a say is how the Density Bonus Law gets applied in local jurisdictions is “gaming the system,” well, that’s hugely revealing about your own bias in this. I would be willing to make the leap and imagine you’re somehow in the business. My apologies if I’m wrong, and you’re just being a rigid, rule-of-law thumper.

I’m not sure how informed you are about the resentment, frustration, and anger this is causing in our city, as life in this neighborhood will never be the same with this mini-community dumped right in the middle of our neighborhood. Hymettus Estates will have its own HOA and a little street running through it. There will, of course, be minimum parking, which means that the area now will be strewn with visitors’ and spouses’ cars as well. This new little “township” is also nowhere near downtown’s transit system, have you noticed? The city council is simply maintaining that density rounding and parking are local issues and that local land-use decisions should be made at the local level. Period.

This terribly-written state law is being way-abused by City Mark Development and plenty others. In return for getting to build nine multi-million-dollar homes rather than the five it’s zoned for, one of them will be a toss-back to the State by making it a low-income rental $2,000/mo. Hahaha. Comical, right. Who’s gaming the system? Your characterization of our City Council as “gaming the system” is laughable, unfortunately. Call a spade a spade, man.

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