City-owned property a hot topic at housing meeting
Residents were split Feb. 28 over a controversial property on Quail Gardens Lane as members of Encinitas’ Housing Element Update Task Force deliberated on how to proceed with reaching state-mandated numbers for affordable housing.
Those opposed to the city-owned “L-7 Parcel” at 634 Quail Gardens Lane, argued the location wasn’t ideal for access to mass transit and wasn’t near retail space, which would cause more traffic congestion.
Resident Richard Boger is spearheading a neighborhood petition against the city selling the property for upzoning. Boger said he has gathered 200 signatures so far and expects more neighbors to sign before he presents the document to the Encinitas City Council on March 7.
He encouraged the task force to instead sell the property and put those funds elsewhere for affordable housing. The L-7 parcel is currently the only city-owned property on a list of 23 sites presented at the Feb. 28 meeting.
However, others advocated that the city should zone the property for development. They argued the city would have total control over how much space is allocated for affordable housing, which could be used by people working in the city who otherwise have to commute from less costly areas.
Sue Reynolds, of Community Housing Works, urged the task force to compromise by keeping the property on the list but instead use it for a smaller number of units. Currently, the property is projected to have a capacity of 190 units.
“Selling it makes no sense,” Reynolds said. “Without land, you can’t build houses. The idea of doing something smaller on L-7 rather than walking away from it completely should be considered.”
Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who sits on the task force, agreed she liked the idea of using the city-owned property for affordable housing, even though she originally had visions of the property being used for agricultural and educational purposes.
“We need to walk the walk,” she said. “At the end of the day, this is the site we own, and I think we have to do our part.”
She also said it would be unwise to move forward with some of the properties on the list because the owners have either said they weren’t interested in developing the land or because they were in negotiations already for other projects.
One such piece of land is the strawberry fields at 3111 Manchester Avenue. City staff said the owner has proposed placing an assisted living facility on the land. The owners added that some of the space could be used for housing for facility staff members, but it is not clear how much of the property will be zoned for that use or if those numbers would qualify to help the city meet the state mandate.
Encinitas is the only city in San Diego County without a Housing Element, a required document that spells out how a city proposes to rework its zoning to accommodate its future housing needs, particularly those of low-income people, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The city’s original plan, which it is still working off of, was created in the 1990s.
The city’s last attempt at a housing element, Measure T, failed in the November 2016 election.
Some naysayers encouraged the task force to consider adding a property on Calle Magdalena and the North Coast Transit District-owned parking lots to the list.
Council member Tony Kranz, former planning commissioner Kurt Groseclose and current planning commissioner Bruce Ehlers — who all sit on the Housing Element Update Task Force — all agreed those properties should be considered. They also appeared in favor of removing the L-7 property, which Groseclose considered a “hot potato.”
No set decisions were made Feb. 28. The Housing Element Update Task Force and city council will meet March 7 in a joint session at city hall, where the council is expected to make final decisions about which sites will be included in the upcoming housing element.
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