Cars parked on Bonita Dr. during school pickup, adjacent to the proposed development site. Parking issues are one of several concerns raised by residents if the project is approved, as several parking spots will be eliminated. Photo courtesy Jessica Carilli
Cities Community Community Encinitas News Region

Encinitas neighbors appeal to city to overturn approval on ‘illegal’ development proposal

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.”

6 comments

M Suarez January 16, 2020 at 10:34 pm

Just wait for SB 50 to be signed into law. Any existing home in the neighborhood will then be allowed to be torn down and replaced by a 4 plex and there will be NOTHING your city council or planning commission can do to stop it. SB 50 will over ride all of your local zoning laws. 75 ft tall towers would be allowed within a 1/4 mile of busy transit and bus stops and if the city has good schools 75 ft tall many multiple unit housing would be allowed by right throughout the entire city. SB 50 will mean the end of California as we’ve known it.

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Ranchboy January 17, 2020 at 7:16 am

I stopped reading as soon as I read the statement “social justice”. That’s code word for socialism and is a weak, limp wristed argument. In fact, most of the statements are goofy. I’ve often wonder why people are up in arms as they are under the impression that someone else’s property shouldn’t be developed.

Don’t get me wrong, I like vacant land as much as the next person but when you start using stupid teenage wording to make a case…then you are done and look a fool.

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Bontia Driver January 17, 2020 at 9:17 am

The article misses one of the main points of the appeal, which is that Bonita Drive is not maintained by the city, is not fire-code compliant, is a dead-end, and gets the vast majority of its traffic from the public school. Asphalt erosion, flooding, and impassable traffic congestion are huge issues on the road. Putting a luxury subdivision down a dead end, with no plan for upgrading the whole road and bringing it into city maintenance, will not only increase these problems, but is also illegal under state law. Residents are also frustrated that a law designed to increase affordable housing is instead being used to subsidize luxury housing. Any California taxpayer should be angry with this blatant abuse, which has been enabled by the city.

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Joe Dirt January 22, 2020 at 1:41 pm

Ranchboy,

It’s one thing to develop, it’s another thing to completely change the landscape of a neighborhood. I am pretty confident if you lived on a street that was all single story homes and everyone but you on your street flattened their homes and built monstrosities around you, you’d be pretty upset.

Yes, this isn’t an apples to apples comparison, but you get the gist of it. People moved to this neighborhood because it’s a bit more quiet and quaint. No one in their right minds would want an additional 100-200 more cars passing down their street daily.

https://www.ci.apple-valley.mn.us/DocumentCenter/View/717/Household_Trips?bidId=

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Ranchboy January 23, 2020 at 1:41 pm

Joe Dirt,
I agree with you. Here comes the but part, but, are the residents angry about all the school traffic? Do you honestly believe ten houses would cause 100-200 trips a day?…I’d think that one out.
Up-zoning has caused great evil in California. That is what this is…up-zoning. It’s the California State government that is the culprit with the “affordable housing act”. Yes, nine expensive houses and one low income house, a total scam.

And take a wild guess as to the foundation to this evil, the left. And, that off his rocker newsom. Those are people you need to be angry with along with brain dead Encinitas City Council. This is all them. The dufus fools on the Encinitas City Council (leftists) are simply following orders. If you think me wrong, look it up. And it’s going to get worse.
The ONLY way to stop the insanity of the childlike fools is to vote them out. Currently there is a recall petition for newsom. online. Gawd what a mess.

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concerned February 14, 2020 at 9:50 am

A new twist to the density bonus law.
Mr. Olmstead, the deputy director of HCD, didn’t add facts to his Feb. 7, 2020 letter to the City of Encinitas. His letter directed the city to follow the law. As part of his letter, he writes:
“Failing to approve density bonus for qualifying projects is a violation of law.” He and the law must like very large, large houses as in 5,100 square feet because that is density bonus housing in Encinitas. No, Residents didn’t want 4,600 to 5,100 square feet houses although the developer and 3 of the council (Mayor Blakespear, Councilman Mosca, and Councilwoman Hubbard) wanted it on an appeal of the Bonita Drive development.
The developer doesn’t have to build an affordable unit. The old house of 1,778 square feet that is on the property will be remodeled. It seems to defeat the law where the low income house should be new.

The development is sitting on contaminated soil that contains all sorts of ugly industrial chemicals. But it is density bonus and the law says nothing can stop a density bonus project. But Mr. Olmstead has the law behind him along with the state legislature.
He will revoke the city’s HEU approval and with the density bonus law fine the city for not allowing the monster houses.

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