ENCINITAS — Encinitas officials reversed course on the removal of two controversial properties from their affordable housing study.
Encinitas, one of the few cities statewide without a certified housing element — the document that outlines the city’s plans for meeting regionally mandated affordable housing goals — has struggled to find a plan that would pass muster with voters.
The city’s most recent attempt, Measure T, failed at the ballot in November 2016. A City Council subcommittee has been working since last February on a plan that would succeed in the November 2018 general election, but the current attempt has been frustrated by recent changes in state law.
In December 2017, the council held a four-hour workshop aimed at narrowing down the sites it would consider for housing plan. The properties, the city said, need to yield at least 1,600 higher density units — the 1,086 units the state has required Encinitas to plan for, as well as a buffer if property owners opt to not build affordable units on the sites.
The council at the workshop opted to remove the property currently occupied by Dramm & Echter, the city’s largest remaining flower grower, from the plans, despite Bob Echter’s proposal to transform the site into a so-called “agrihood,” a community that blends housing and agriculture.
They also chose to remove the 7.6-acre city-owned site on Quail Gardens Drive know as “L-7” amid objections from nearby residents, who said that placing affordable housing on the land, which is currently zoned for only one home per acre, would be incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood.
But following a meandering two-hour discussion on the housing element on Jan. 10, the council opted to bring both sites back into consideration.
“We have an acute problem now that we need to solve,” said Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath, who issued an impassioned plea to her colleagues to keep the Echter site for consideration.
Councilmen Tony Kranz and Mark Muir opposed the change. Kranz said he believed the city should study the agrihood proposal further as part of an overhaul of the plan that guides development in Encinitas Ranch, where both L7 and Dramm & Echter are located.
“It just seems that we are hastily doing things,” Kranz said.
With the addition of the two properties as well as several other sites, the city estimates that the sites could yield 1,800 units, 200 more than the 1,600 they are hoping to present to voters.
This means that the council will continue to narrow down the list before finalizing a plan to voters.