Cities Community Encinitas Mayor's Minute Opinion

Mayor’s Minute: Talking with the new governor about housing

The housing situation in Encinitas remains a major consumer of time, attention and money at all levels of our city government.

At the invitation of California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, I joined him and 16 other mayors of cities that don’t have state-approved housing plans for a lunch meeting in Long Beach last week to talk about each city’s housing compliance situation.

The governor wanted to impress upon us how seriously he’s taking the housing shortage in the state, saying that in every corner of California, people struggle with housing affordability and homelessness. There is a strong focus on a supply-side approach.  

While he has sued the city of Huntington Beach for not having a compliant housing plan, he wanted to let us know that he’d rather work with us to tackle the state’s housing supply shortage instead of being our adversary.

But his message was clearly stated: He will be here for at least four years, and every city zoning for and building more housing is a top priority for him. Encinitas has to do its part.

Meanwhile, back in Encinitas, the City Council last week decided to seek judicial relief to help us make our way through our housing quagmire after the state’s housing regulators told us that we needed a straightforward path to assure future housing compliance.

As the mayor, I remain committed to doing what’s necessary to get us right with the law. We need to end the lawsuits, get a housing plan, and stop paying lawyers and consultants to accomplish what should be handled in an ongoing way by our city staff and the city council with community input. This will also free up time, energy and resources for other city priorities.

In good housing news, we’ve been very successful with the roll out of our “pre-approved” accessory dwelling unit plans. This program is intended to save residents time and money; and we’re waiving the city fees associated with permitting accessory units.

If you want to build a granny flat on your property and would prefer to avoid the expense and hassle of having it custom-designed, consider the city’s preapproved plans.  

Several different sizes and configurations are available.  They are free and available on the city’s website at http://www.encinitasca.gov/adu. (The permit-ready program is a link on the top right.)

In other city news, the City Council unanimously rejected a redesign of our largest planned project, Leucadia Streetscape, after two critical agencies, SANDAG and NCTD, proposed substantial changes that would have eliminated the parking “pods” in the rail corridor in favor of corridor-wide on-street parking, in addition to requiring substantial additional time for more permits, studies and approvals.

One key reason to park cars inside of “pods” instead of horizontally along the east side of Highway 101 is to separate parking cars from pedestrians and bikes as much as possible.

For safety reasons, we’re trying to avoid designing road improvements in a way that encourages jaywalking across Highway 101 from their parked cars throughout the 2.5 mile corridor. We also prefer to reduce the number of times that cars cross the bike lanes to park. With businesses, residences and the beach on the west side of Highway 101 and parking on the east side, it’s better to have people crossing in crosswalks after parking in parking pods. Negotiations remain ongoing.

I remain personally hopeful that the ultimate plan will include a completely separated rail trail or “multi-use path” for biking and walking that is physically protected from speeding vehicles.

As you’ve probably noticed, major transportation projects are active and underway throughout Encinitas. There is progress on Caltrans’ new pedestrian and bicycle freeway underpasses at Encinitas Blvd. and Santa Fe Dr. Not only will the new undercrossings make bike, pedestrian and car travel safer, you’ll be able to enjoy art mosaics made by Encinitas residents and students!

Rumor has it that I might be working with a teacher and a student from a San Dieguito Academy art class on a panel, as well.

The Cardiff Coastal Rail Trail is nearly complete, with its opening slated for early summer.

The Chesterfield Drive improvements have dramatically improved the walkability and overall mobility of that area, and the city’s first railroad quiet zone there is awaiting final approval from the federal regulatory agencies before it can go into effect.

There is so much happening in the city of Encinitas that the City Council will be holding a “goal setting” session at 8:15 a.m. March 6 at the Lux Art Institute. If you’d like to watch city prioritizing happen in real time, please join us.

Catherine S. Blakespear serves as Encinitas Mayor. She can be reached at cblakespear@encinitasca.gov with questions or comments.

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1 comment

taxpayerconcerns February 27, 2019 at 5:12 pm

The Mayor and Council aren’t telling the full story on what they plan to do to Encinitas if they can invalidate Prop A.

One of the statement of purposes and intent of Prop A is to protect the Encinitas natural resources such as lagoons, watershed, riparian, wildlife habitat, natural vegetation, bluffs, and hillsides. Prop A also helps insure that infrastructure and public benefits, such as schools, parks, roads, sewer, and water facilities, are adequately planned and funded prior to approving any increase in zoning.

The Encinitas City Council wants to do away with those protections and needs the demands from the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to destroy the voters rights under Prop A. This Council and previous Councils disliked losing their super majority vote where 4 of 5 Council members yes votes could override any opposition to increases in density and building heights for the benefit of developers. HCD ordered Prop A to be amended or invalidated and offered no discussion of the harm to the natural resources or the new burden on infrastructure, schools, and other public benefits.

The February 4, 2019 letter from HCD had more orders that were citywide and would be very beneficial for developers but detrimental to neighborhoods. The HCD demands of February 4 followed what developers had requested of HCD staff – increased heights above what was in Measure U, more density allowed than what was in Measure U, and other changes to the programs and policies in the Housing Element that weren’t in Measure U. The previous Measure T was a goldmine for developer lawsuits because the city added at least 10 new program promises that weren’t required by housing law but could be used as the basis for lawsuits. The housing element must be rewritten.

There is also the question of why HCD has approved other housing elements from other cities where their required number of low income houses is two. Beverly Hills, Malibu, Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa, Hermosa Beach, Compton, Newport Beach only need to build 2 low income houses each. Encinitas must build 1,033 low income houses. These other cities are in the SCAG region. Many more cities in that region have far lower housing numbers than Encinitas. Mayor Blakespear doesn’t consider the vast difference in the mandated housing numbers to be important.
Does Mayor Blakespear’s family own some land that will benefit from the HCD changes and Measures U and T if this new Encinitas 2019 housing element update become the law in Encinitas?

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