By Lois Sunrich and Bob Kent
Imagine an affordable housing community filled with our very own hardworking residents here in Encinitas.
Start with a few young people who serve coffee downtown every morning while helping those businesses thrive, now include some of our preschool teachers, maybe one who works with your neighbor’s kids. Let’s also add a few of our artists who are enriching our lives throughout Encinitas, while at the same time helping the arts become an unexpected financial engine.
Now include some of our seniors with rich stories to tell, who attend the lunch program at the Community Center. What about those who staff our local health clinics, our social service and civic organizations, devoting their lives to ensuring our quality of life, shall we add them in too? There are our elder-care workers, let’s include them.
Let’s imagine young families just starting out; they grew up here and would like to raise their kids around their grandparents. How about the clerks keeping our businesses alive along El Camino Real or our school janitors or lunch servers?
These are Encinitas neighbors and workers pushed out by our market rents — mostly seniors on fixed incomes and workers who support themselves and their families earning $15-$20 per hour. Knowing they are our neighbors, the folks who are a part of a new group, Keys4Homes, are proposing that Encinitas make a place here, NOW, for those who serve our city and cannot afford to live here — a correct and legally imperative action in and of itself. Maybe even more important, these residents offer us an opportunity to nurture our hometown roots.
Keys4Homes is asking the City Council to vote on March 7 to keep the city-owned vacant land across from the old Ecke Ranch/Leichtag property on Quail Garden Drive — called L7 — on the list of potential properties to be up-zoned to higher density and voted on in November’s election. That way, accountable local leaders would make sure that an innovative and beautifully designed affordable housing community is created and right in the heart of our city. We believe it could be a model neighborhood effort, which connects us with our original small-town values and also reinvigorates and sustains them.
Why here? This site has been discussed before as higher density than the nearby homes. For instance, the One Channel Island homeowners, when they bought their homes off Quail Gardens Drive a few years ago, signed disclosures acknowledging that possibility. A new development there could actually fix a few of the area’s long-standing “cut-through” traffic challenges. The Leichtag Foundation across the street supports it. And developing an affordable housing community requires land plus local matching money. The City’s ownership of L7 is a winner because city-owned land can provide both land and the necessary local match.
Keys4Homes believes that the affordable housing issue we face in Encinitas is our opportunity to create an even more vibrant hometown life together. Imagine bringing together those deserving, dedicated seniors and workers who would deepen and strengthen neighborhood ties while capturing the very essence and friendly, hometown DNA of Encinitas as well as the little valley where L7 sits.
Please join us and support L7. You can make a difference.
Lois Sunrich is a community arts leader and affordable-housing spokesperson
Bob Kent is an Encinitas community member