ENCINITAS — Residents living on Bonita Drive have filed an appeal urging the Encinitas City Council not to go forward with a plan to build a luxury home development on their street.
The Encinitas Planning Commission approved the project, at 754 Bonita Drive, at its meeting on Nov. 21, 2019. Residents are asking the City Council to overturn the project approval when the appeal is heard at its next meeting on Jan. 22.
The project will subdivide one lot into 10 residential lots, with nine market-rate homes and one affordable unit. The project utilizes the State Density Bonus Law — an increase in the overall number of housing units a developer may build on a site in exchange for including more affordable housing units in the project, and includes the construction of a private road, landscape, street improvements, the installation of a water and sewer main to serve the proposed parcels, undergrounding of utilities and grading for building pads.
Residents say the plans involve a number of violations of state and local laws, including violations to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), California fire code, and the Coastal Act and the Local Coastal Program (LCP). They also say the project is not entitled to benefit from the California density bonus law because it does not provide for sufficient replacement housing.
“The overarching reason the appeal was filed is that the project was planned in an inappropriate manner that did not take into account environmental concerns, safety concerns, nor social justice, and it would have an overall negative impact on the existing neighborhood,” said resident Jessica Carilli. “We feel that each of these reasons alone should be enough to require a project like this to be changed to fix some of these problems, but that the sheer number of egregious problems associated with this project means it should be outright rejected.”
Carilli, who’s owned her home with her husband on Bonita Drive since 2013, said that at around 5,000 square feet, the nine market-rate homes proposed for the project would tower over the modest neighboring homes, which are roughly 2,700 square feet per structure.
“The project would change our neighborhood from a semi-rural neighborhood of modest homes to one dominated by these out of character huge luxury homes,” she said. “This will drive up the prices of all homes in the neighborhood, which will continue driving non-wealthy people from the coast.”
Resident Simone Schad-Siebert said neighbors are open to development but would like for the new homes to blend in with the existing neighborhood. She said the home she’s owned with her husband for a decade is 10 feet tall, and if the development is approved the neighboring house will tower 30 feet above theirs.
“Their retaining wall and fence being one foot higher than our roof top,” she said. “More than aesthetics, this development represents a loss of soul and values of our city and we do not feel like we belong here any longer.”
Schad-Siebert added that if the City Council approves the project, she and her family plan to move out of Encinitas and head to Mexico or Northern California.
The women said that traffic and parking is also a huge concern on their block and the new development would add to the problems, especially as it aims to remove 20 parking spaces.
Carilli said various neighbors have suggested a range of potential projects they’d prefer for the neighborhood, including a housing development, similar in concept to the one proposed, but that meets all of the required laws; a housing development that matches the existing community or includes more creative use of the space, such as tiny homes with a community garden on site, modest twin homes or single-family homes similar to the existing community, or teacher/staff housing for the elementary school; a 10-unit independent living facility for seniors; or a community park.
“Some people would love to see a community park instead because there is no park in walking distance for the children in our neighborhood,” Schad-Siebert said.
At the Planning Commission meeting the applicant said the project has been in the works for two and a half years and has already undergone many changes including reducing the home sizes, increasing setbacks, lowering the elevation of the pads, and enhancing architectural elevations and landscaping.
He said the project is still in a very preliminary state and will continue to be monitored by federal, state and local agencies during development.
“We’re going to have a lot more oversight going forward,” the applicant said.
Carilli said none of the residents wanted to file the appeal but they felt they had no choice.
“We have all tried, from the inception of this project, to make our voices heard,” she said, adding they were repeatedly ignored by the developer and the city. “I, for one, refuse to go quietly into the night while people willingly violate the laws intended to protect the environment and public safety.”
Tawny McCray is a native San Diegan and graduate of San Diego State University. She has known she wanted to be a journalist since writing for her Jr. High School newspaper in 1991. She has worked at The Star News in Chula Vista, The San Diego Union Tribune and ABC 10News San Diego. She has recently freelanced for Scripps Ranch News and The Poway Eagle and is a longtime freelancer with creators.com. She is working on authoring books with her twin sister, Nyla. She and her husband have two kids and live in South Park.