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Letters Opinion

Housing perspectives

If Encinitas is to succeed with a housing plan that meets both state requirements and public acceptance, we need to get over simplistic reactions that paint all developers as bad; city staff as untrustworthy; and all residents as arbiters of truth. We are all stakeholders, and we will need residents to work with developers to ensure that the housing that will inevitably be built is well designed, well constructed, and as affordable as possible.

At the April 4 Encinitas City Council meeting, a public speaker angrily denounced the city for holding what was labeled as a “stakeholder meeting” with a group of developers and affordable housing organizations. There is reason from our past to be distrustful of staff and elected officials who approved projects with little public input and questionable consideration of community character. The City also has been out of compliance with state law for 20 years. Some past elected officials seemed to favor developers and in the last cycle, some seemed more interested in keeping vocal neighbors happy than in fulfilling their legal obligations. The response was Prop A which requires a public vote on rezoning, and three expensive lawsuits that demand that we rezone to meet state law.

Some scoffed at the need for rezoning and said “what are they going to do, sue us?” and then “they” in the form of the BIA and affordable housing developers sued. Whether or not the courts decide that state law takes precedence over a local initiative, it is in the City’s interest to develop a plan that has public support. It is also essential that the plan incorporate input from developers. After all, someone has to design, finance, and build the units for us to achieve our affordable housing goals.

Staff might do better to refer to developers and affordable housing organizations as technical advisors rather than stakeholders, but meeting with them is entirely appropriate. One reason housing is so expensive is the complexity and duration of the entitlement process. The City has an interest in trying to streamline the system to reduce time and uncertainty, which can translate into lower costs. Asking experts for their input is both appropriate and useful. We have new staff and they need the latitude to do their job, including working with building professionals as well as the public.

I hope the residents who have invested so much time and energy in advocating against particular parcels will turn their attention to working with the many local architects and builders in our area to design and support creative housing solutions. It is nonsense to refer to Quail Gardens Drive as rural or as ranch land as one speaker did.

But it is essential that whatever gets built in that corridor takes into account the horticultural, agricultural, and educational enterprises currently thriving there. Let’s work together to address the traffic impacts and ensure safe walking, cycling, and transit alternatives. If we are open to respectful dialog and mutual education, we can succeed.

Lisa Shaffer is the former Encinitas Deputy Mayor


Glen Johnson April 12, 2018 at 5:20 pm

With all due respect to our neighbor Lisa Shaffer, some pertinent remarks are in order.

#1 The “stakeholder Meeting #1”, held at City Hall, was not publicized and, though the room was set to allow for observers from the press and public, none were in attendance. Even the members of the Housing Element Task Force were left out.

#2 The stakeholders, primarily from the Building Industry, included representives from the Baldwin Company, the BIA, and Shea homes. These people are not part of the Encinitac community but do have a stake in profiting from development.

#2 The Meeting Notes included in the City Council agenda package, presumably taken by city staff, highlighted points such as the following:
* “Two stories is extremely limiting to potential development”
* Senior living includes additional costs (EG elevators) …
* Ideal height is 37′ measure from the pad level
* Can encourage smaller units through parking requirement changes
* potential to allow developers to transfer low-income units away

The “Housing Element Task Force” had been established to provide an “open process” but this meeting was hardly that.

I’m not making this up!

The Quail Gardens Drive corridor was established as a 2-lane scenic collector road with no on-street parking as part of the Encinitas Ranch development. The street does not allow through trucks and is not served by NCTD. This large development was carefully planned to allow for retail and lower cost rental housing as well as quite a number of single-family houses. This is the only large development in the City of Encinitas since its establishment; all other developments since have been picemeal efforts.

What is essential for that corridor is good traffic flow for pedestrians, senior citizens, and both bicycles and automobiles. If vehicles are allowed in this corridor there must be places to park the cars and bicycles, and traffic must flow to allow access for both citizens and emergency vehicles.

With the proposed housing at the five sites in this 1.2 mile stretch the intersection of Encinitas Blvd. and Quail Gardens Drive will generate total gridlock. This potential was not discussed by the so-called “Stakeholders”.

Luana April 14, 2018 at 6:47 am

One meeting is not determinate of the outcome. It’s good to get input from residents and builders.

John Eldon April 14, 2018 at 2:47 pm

I generally support Ms. Shaffer’s stated position, but I also see Mr. Johnson’s point regarding traffic concentration in one locus.

What is missing from all of the upzoning pressure is some way to ensure that higher density will somehow magically bring greater affordability. High-density, high-cost cities such as San Francisco or NYC demonstrate that “it ain’t necessarily so.” We need to keep a tight lid on floor area ratios and parking requirements, thereby ensuring that as density increases, unit size decreases. This at least minimizes damage to the surrounding community, while increasing affordability of the new units.

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