Encinitas delays increase of low-income housing quotas

Encinitas delays increase of low-income housing quotas
“We seem to be pushing towards increasing that number to the point that we’re going to end up with no housing being built on this Housing Element if it passes or is imposed," Councilman Tony Kranz said. Courtesy photo

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council, despite reservations, voted unanimously on Oct. 24 to require further study of the impact of increasing the inclusionary ordinance — the amount of low-income housing that builders must include in new developments — before authorizing any changes.

The concern was that requiring a higher percentage of affordable units would deter builders from developing the high-density housing that’s intended to get Encinitas into compliance with state housing law.

The council did not arrive at the decision easily. Mayor Catherine Blakespear said during discussion, “To me it seems like we are running way down into the rabbit hole for a kind of fishing expedition for the Planning Commission.” The Planning Commission requested that further research be done after holding a public workshop based on an economic feasibility study’s preliminary findings.

Early results from that study by Keyser Marston Associates, Inc., indicated that Encinitas may be able to require, should Measure U get approved, that developers of sites upzoned for up to 30 units per net acre set aside either 25 percent of those units for low-income households or 20 percent to very low-income households. The currently proposed rate is 15 percent low and 10 percent very low.

Likewise, the study’s early findings supported increasing the citywide inclusionary ordinance for non-upzoned sites to 20 percent low-income or 15 percent very low-income from the current 15 and 10 percent, respectively.

As the only city in San Diego County lacking a certified Housing Element — a state-mandated plan that addresses how to provide housing to meet the various income needs of its residents — Encinitas has struggled for years to come up with a legally compliant solution that could get the city out of the court and pass with voters. File photo

Blakespear questioned whether authorizing an enhanced study was worthy of the city’s time and money. Deputy Mayor Joe Mosca and Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath expressed similar misgivings.

In theory, the higher inclusionary percentages would help the city reach state housing quotas for various income levels, while reducing the number of market-rate units that get built in the process of making projects pencil out for developers.

But developers and the Building Industry Association of San Diego County contend that the increased rates are out of touch with the reality of market forces. Those assertions, plus the fact that most surrounding cities do not have inclusionary ordinances as high as what the consultants had suggested was feasible, caused both the Planning Commission and City Council to hesitate on approving the higher rates.

Councilman Tony Kranz said, “We seem to be pushing towards increasing that number to the point that we’re going to end up with no housing being built on this Housing Element if it passes or is imposed.”

About the inclusionary ordinance, Kranz said, “Frankly, if we jack it up and we hear crickets, then there are things that we can to do to remedy that, of course. But, ultimately, I would prefer to go slow and have as much information as possible.” Councilman Mark Muir agreed.

The council’s authorization for extended research will push the decision past the Nov. 6 election, which means that Encinitas voters will not know whether the inclusionary rate will go up when they cast their vote on Measure U. Measure U asks voters to allow upzoning to 30 units per net acre at select sites — with the main purpose being to build the amount of affordable housing mandated by the state.

During public comment, Peter Curry of Cushman & Wakefield recommended that the council listen to the tape of the last commission meeting to better understand the developers’ financial perspectives. Curry stated that the developers who own some of the sites eligible for upzoning can choose to build at the lands’ current zoning, such as commercial or office professional, should they find that higher inclusionary rates disincentivize the building of multi-family developments.

Curry further shared that Peter Stern, an outspoken opponent to Measure U, at the commission meeting “made the point that you can study all the numbers you want, but it’s really the market forces that decide and determine what’s going to happen and not happen.”

Keyser Marston Associates was originally going to be paid $65,000 to carry out the research, but now its approved compensation for the more extensive consulting work is $171,000.

3 Comments
  1. taxpayerconcerns 1 month ago

    The current inclusionary housing ordinance has required that subdivision developers build one “affordable housing unit” per each ten market rate units. One of the reasons for the State law was to integrate lower income families into a neighborhood of more affluence – the social equity factor. The City Council recently voted a new ordinance that would negate the requirement of building low income housing with the market rate subdivisions. This is what the new ordinance offers to the developer instead of the required building on site:
    Encinitas Municipal Code 30.41.080 offers choices:
    a) 5 accessory units will satisfy low & moderate housing requirement;
    b) rental units: 15 percent low income or 10 percent very low will satisfy;
    c) offsite construction of affordable housing will satisfy;
    d) preservation or conservation of existing units;
    e) in lieu fee instead of building (NOT ALLOWED IN R-30);
    f) dedication of land in lieu of building affordable housing;
    g) affordable housing credits from a developer with surplus affordable housing may be used instead of building; and,
    h) “a developer may propose an alternative compliance method of providing affordable housing through other means.”
    With this ordinance the Council has set up the basis of a lawsuit by the building industry.
    Whether the required low income housing units are 10% or more created by a new ordinance the requirement for the subdivision is negated in another section of the municipal code when the developer can choose not to build the low income housing in the project. It is a shell game. The Iris apartments represent a previous City Council decision to allow a developer/developers to consolidate all the required low income housing from other market rate developments into the Iris Apartments.
    Lower income residents/ families are clumped together in one building in another part of town. More affluent buyers are clumped together in their own enclave. Where is the social equity?

  2. taxpayerconcerns 1 month ago

    The current inclusionary housing ordinance has required that subdivision developers build one “affordable housing unit” per each ten market rate units. One of the reasons for the State law was to integrate lower income families into a neighborhood of more affluence – the social equity factor. However, if the Council votes in a new chapter in the municipal code for the developer that negates or removes any requirement of building the low income housing within the market rate development, what happens to social equity? Whether the required low income housing units are 10% or 25% created by a new ordinance the requirement for the subdivision is negated in another section of the municipal code when the developer can choose not to build the low income housing in the project. It is a shell game. The Iris apartments represent a previous City Council decision to allow a developer/developers to consolidate all the required low income housing from other market rate developments into the Iris Apartments.
    Lower income residents/ families are clumped together in one building in another area. More affluent buyers are clumped together in their own enclave. Where is the social equity?

  3. john_wick 1 month ago

    just buy the house next to the mayor’s and convert it to low income housing.

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