ENCINITAS — Residents are concerned about a proposed housing development on Fulvia Street in Leucadia. At the center of the debate: state legislation.
City zoning allows a maximum of five homes on the 2.16-acre parcel. But CityMark Development would like to use California’s “density bonus” law to build a total of 10 homes there.
State law gives developers permission to build extra housing if they set aside units for low-income residents. In the case of the Fulvia development, one of the 10 units would be dedicated to a low-income family.
Around 40 people came out to the property on Dec. 7 for a community workshop to discuss the project. Standing on a dirt lot on the largely undeveloped plot, residents told CityMark representatives that 10 homes is just too many for the site.
“People are here because of the density,” resident Denise Martin said.
She later added that developers underestimated the “tenacity” of locals during the campaign for Proposition A — the growth-control initiative that took effect this summer.
“If we can pass Prop A, we can certainly challenge you,” she said.
Residents believe increasing the density to 10 homes would upset the neighborhood’s character and cause flooding issues for the surrounding streets.
In response, Russ Haley, vice president of CityMark, said the company would sit down with residents to explain how the drainage plans are designed to prevent flooding. Based on feedback, CityMark is open to amending drainage and other architecture plans, he noted. However, as it stands, he said those behind the project are unwilling to negotiate over the number of homes.
“As far as the density issue, and I know that’s why everybody’s here, I realize you guys want five (homes),” Haley said. “But in order for it to work with us, we’re going to go in and proceed with 10.”
He later said CityMark would work hard to make the development blend in with the rest of the community.
CityMark is in escrow with the property, but the purchase is contingent on the project getting approval from the city. Haley declined to state the sale price.
The city is currently reviewing CityMark’s project plans, according to Roy Sapau, senior planner with Encinitas. Staff members will then look at whether the development could have a significant impact on the environment.
If significant, CityMark will have to complete an environmental impact report.
On average, each home would go on a 9,600-square-foot lot. There would be seven two-story homes, a single-story home and two homes that are largely one story, but with “two-story elements,” Sapau said. Because it’s early in the process, Sapau said there’s no timeline for when the project will go before the city’s Planning Commission.
Resident Susan Turney said that many locals will fight the project because it could pave the way for more density-bonus projects in Encinitas.
“This is much bigger to all of Encinitas than just this plot,” Turney said.
Encinitas is no stranger to controversy over density-bonus housing. Earlier this year, the City Council approved the Desert Rose development despite Olivenhain residents voicing heavy opposition.
In turn, residents from a group called Save Desert Rose filed a lawsuit against the city. The case likely won’t be heard until next March, said Everett Delano, a lawyer representing Save Desert Rose.
Delano noted cities couldn’t deny density bonus projects solely on the basis of the extra units allowed by the state. To turn down, local governments have to find evidence that the development would have a negative impact on public health and safety.
Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer acknowledged continuing “frustration” over density bonus projects among residents.
She said council members will discuss potential options for making density bonus less attractive for developers during a city planning session next year.
The discussion will likely cover why Encinitas seems to receive a high number of density bonus applications compared to other cities, Shaffer said.
“We want to talk with other jurisdictions to see if they’re doing some differently,” Shaffer said.
She said density bonus law has good intentions, but doesn’t always make sense in practice.
“There are some areas where it makes sense, and other areas where it really doesn’t,” Shaffer said.