ENCINITAS — Encinitas residents who were unsatisfied with the options the city laid out for the proposed Housing Element Update will have an opportunity to present an alternative plan.
A divided City Council approved Councilman Mark Muir’s proposal to allow residents to create a community housing map group for the purpose of developing a housing map the city could use during its housing element process.
The Housing Element is a state-mandated document that essentially lays out where the city would develop higher-density units to meet the number of affordable housing units the state anticipates Encinitas will need to accommodate its population growth.
Since the housing element requires zone changes, the public will vote on it in 2016.
The housing map, the critical component of the housing element, identifies locations of parcels and properties that the city could designate for high-density housing. The city needs to earmark space for about 1,300 such units to satisfy state housing mandates.
The city has spent the past few months soliciting feedback from the public on potential locations for high-density housing and how the city could blend that new housing type into the surrounding neighborhoods. It held public meetings in each of the city’s five communities, as well as accepted feedback online using the city’s online civic engagement platform, eTown Hall.
Still, Muir said he has heard from residents in the community who didn’t like any of the city’s options, or felt uneasy about using the city’s online platform to record their input.
“I think it (the city housing element outreach) was a triple,” Muir said. “We really want a home run, and the reality is we want to hit a grand slam. In order to get a grand slam, we need to have people on base. We can get them on base with this group.”
Muir’s plan calls for community members interested in developing an alternative plan to self-organize and come up with a consensus alternative that they would present to the City Council at a meeting likely in March.
The City Council would provide details on the deadline at an upcoming Feb. 3 meeting, where staff is scheduled to release the results of the city’s outreach efforts.
The community alternative plan must meet all state guidelines and environmental requirements. If it does, and passes City Council muster, the city could include the plan as an alternative to the city’s preferred alternative in the draft-housing element, which will then be reviewed by the city’s environmental consultant.
Muir’s plan received support from Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who said they liked the proposal’s populist feel, and felt it was important for as much of the community as possible to get behind the city’s housing efforts.
“I am supporting this because I like the idea of opening our arms wide and seeing whatever best idea can come forward,” Blakespear said. “I feel there is no harm in letting this go forward.”
Council members Lisa Shaffer and Tony Kranz voted against the plan, which they said had too many unknowns and could potentially derail the city’s already-narrow timeline to get the housing element on the 2016 ballot.
Shaffer, who voiced the strongest opposition, expressed concern about how much planning staff time and taxpayer dollars would need to be diverted to assist the group, and how much time the city would need to analyze the alternative plan.
City staff said the absolute latest the group could have a plan before the council would be April, after which any changes would hamper the city’s ability to complete all the steps necessary to get the housing element ready for the election cycle.
Shaffer said she believed the idea would have been best proposed before the city started its outreach process, so it could run parallel to the city’s process, rather than the 11th-hour effort proposed.
“The city has invested a lot of time and effort (into the housing element outreach), and it sounds like we are starting the whole process over again,” Shaffer said.