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Encinitas to consider housing element update

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council is set to consider adopting a housing plan that it hopes would end its well-documented status as an affordable housing scofflaw just weeks before a judge’s deadline to enact said plan.

State Housing Element law requires cities to provide enough housing to meet the needs of all its residents, from very-low income earners to above-moderate ones.

Encinitas is the only city in San Diego County that lacks a state-certified plan, known as a housing element, and is under a court order to enact one by April 11.

On the agenda before the council March 13 is a resolution to introduce the proposed housing element update. 

The current plan includes several recommendations from state housing department officials that are likely to be the topic of discussion Wednesday night, including the following:

  • Raising the maximum building heights from 33 feet for a flat roof and 37 feet for a pitched roof to 35 feet and 39 feet, respectively.
  • Changing where building heights are measured from.
  • The inclusion of parking lots, driveways and drive aisles in calculating the project’s density — which could result in additional “bonus” housing.
  • Eliminating sections from the city code aimed at requiring developers who propose super-dense projects to conform to the surrounding neighborhood and provide public benefits beyond the statutory requirements. 
  • The elimination of any subjective language from the update. “HCD directed that all standards must be objective in nature, containing no subjectivity,” according to the staff report. 

A divided Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the plan on Feb. 21, the penultimate step in a yearslong process during which time voters have rejected two attempts at adopting an update, and several entities sued the city for its lack of one and to overturn a 2013 law that they say has empowered voters to block those attempts. 

That law, Proposition A, requires a public vote on major zoning and land-use changes, such as the housing element update.

Voters in 2016 and again in 2018 rejected the city’s attempts, Measure T and Measure U. 

Superior Court Judge Ronald Frazier in December 2018 gave the city 120 days to adopt a housing element and overturned Proposition A for the current eight-year housing element cycle, which ends in 2021. 

But the City Council, as part of the proposed housing plan, will go back to the courts to seek declaratory relief to allow it to pursue future housing element updates without a vote of the people. 

The City Council meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 505 S. Vulcan Avenue.

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1 comment

taxpayerconcerns March 16, 2019 at 12:17 pm

The Housing Element Update 2019 wasn’t presented to the residents of Encinitas at public workshops as the city did with Measures T and U. There were no workshops and no public conversation on the new changes in the Housing Element Update 2019. The Council violated the state law and local ordinances by not providing full public participation. It is a travesty of justice and democracy by the Council’s action to force out and ignore the people who voted for them and Prop A.

Public participation is required under State housing law Section 65583. Section 65585(b)(2) requires that: “The planning agency staff shall collect and compile the public comments regarding the housing element received by the city, county, or city and county, and provide these comments to each member of the legislative body before it adopts the housing element.”

One Councilman stated that this change “came out of the blue” as he questioned the city’s consultant attorney on who wanted the elimination of the midrange density. It was revealed that letters to HCD prompted that agency to demand the removal of the city wide ordinance. The Mayor quickly made a motion to approve the Housing Element Update 2019 which passed with a 5-0 vote. The residents were cut out of any future discussion of the new Housing Element Update 2019.

The midrange density ordinance has been part of the Encinitas Code for about 30 years. The municipal code lists the midrange and maximum density for property in each zone in response to subdividing. For an R-5 zone the midrange density is 4 houses per acre and maximum density is 5 houses per acre. That would mean a 10,890 sq.ft. lot for midrange density as opposed to an 8,712 sq.ft. lot for maximum density. A developer could use maximum density if the following was shown:
The project shows high sensitivity to the neighboring properties and area to ensure compatibility with land uses and community character; and
The project design significantly exceeds the minimum standards for development (lot size, setbacks, lot width and depth, landscape standards and design standards); and
The project either:
(A)Provides needed public improvements that are significantly beyond the requirements for the project, or
(B)Provides private or public recreational facilities that significantly exceed the project’s requirements, or provides other significant benefits.
The removal of the midrange ordinance and policy in the General Plan is one of many changes in the developer driven HCD approval demands. The Council has abandoned protecting the city ordinances and General Plan. Send emails to HCD asking them to deny this Housing Element Update 2019.

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