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Task force continues search for housing consultant, model cities

Mayor Catherine Blakespear and No on T Spokesman Bruce Ehlers hold up a zoning map of Encinitas at the Housing Element Update Task Force meeting on Feb. 23.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear and No on T Spokesman Bruce Ehlers hold up a zoning map of Encinitas at the Housing Element Update Task Force meeting on Feb. 23.
(Brittany Woolsey)

The search for a consultant to help Encinitas’ Housing Element Update Task Force develop a state-compliant housing plan continued Feb. 23 when the four-member group met for its second meeting.As he was instructed at the prior meeting, task force member Bruce Ehlers — the No on T spokesman — returned with a list of similar cities that Encinitas might be able to model a housing plan after and receive recommendations from for a consultant.

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.

State law currently mandates Encinitas should zone for 1,093 high-density units, according to city officials.

The city’s last effort for a Housing Element — Measure T — failed in the November election. The plan called for allowing additional housing on a series of sites along busy roadways in all five communities of Encinitas. In order to meet state targets for new housing growth, the plan proposed easing city height restrictions and allowing 20 to 30 dwelling units per acre on those sites.

Ehlers’ list included cities like Carlsbad, Solana Beach, Oceanside, Poway, Del Mar, Los Gatos, Corte Madre, Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, Huntington Beach, San Clemente, Newport Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Palos Verde Estates, Manhattan Beach and Santa Barbara.

Ehlers, however, said he needed more time to benchmark the selections before the city decided on which cities to study and which consultants they should review.

“Before we grab a consultant and bring them in, let’s go down the path and see who did it right,” Ehlers said.

The group — also consisting of Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz and former Planning Commissioner Kurt Groseclose — agreed to allow Ehlers to come back with further information at the next task force meeting on March 9 at 6 p.m. at city hall.

The task force also all seemed to agree that the city should rule out working with Veronica Tam, who advised the city in the past on a housing plan.

Groseclose said one of the most important elements is that the city comes up with a plan that is agreeable by at least 80 percent of Encinitas’ population.

Steve Chase, acting planning manager for the city, said it was important that if developments were zoned to have low and very low-income housing, such units should be included.

“I don’t think any of us want to game this,” he said. “I think we really do want to put these low and very low-income units on the ground so we can show HCD what we can do. We need to demonstrate to the state we think we can do this. It’s more than just a game.”

Resident Bob Bonde, who has long been considered the Father of Encinitas, pushed for affordable housing, including the possibility of utilizing accessory dwelling units.

“We have a situation that is far bigger than political,” he said. “We have a need for affordable housing in our city, and that should supersede politics.”

Other residents in the room echoed the need for affordable housing so future generations could afford to live in Encinitas.

The idea to count bedrooms by acre versus units by acre also came up again.

Barbara Kautz, special counsel for the city regarding the housing element, agreed to see if this was an option for Encinitas.

San Luis Obispo County in 2014 established a procedure to set affordable rent levels and sales prices that were adjusted by size of the housing, in terms of number of bedrooms.

Damien Mavis, whose family has owned a property on the Southeast corner of Manchester Avenue and El Camino Real for 30 years, said he’d like to develop his property to help the city reach its state-allocated numbers, including those for affordable housing.

Mavis, a developer who said he has built affordable housing by design in the past, said he can voluntarily build at least 20 percent affordable housing.

He suggested the city look at him as a “poster boy” for such a project to show the Department of Housing and Community Development that such a plan is reachable in Encinitas.

“I can probably be the only builder who can stand up and say, ‘Hey, we can do that,’” Mavis said. “It’s a monumental task, and I think our track record shows we can be a positive contributing member.”

The property was included on one of the original three maps considered in the city’s environmental review process.

Resident Glen Johnson said the most important idea was that the city follows the law and satisfies residents.

“I don’t want this to be a giant salad where everything gets thrown in,” he said. “I want us to be state compliant.”


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