Encinitas commissioners say high-density housing list ought to be revised


The Encinitas City Council should take another look at the 19 sites it is proposing to rezone for high-density housing and reconsider some of them before putting the list on the ballot in November, the city’s Planning Commission unanimously agreed June 7.

After hearing hours of testimony from 50 public speakers, commissioners said the speakers had made some very convincing points about the unsuitability of some of the sites. The commission didn’t vote on which ones ought to be pulled from the controversial list, saying that highly politicized decision was the council’s to make.

But, several commissioners said at least three sites added late in the review process were prime removal candidates and one new site mentioned June 7 should be added to the list. Both audience members and commissioners forecasted gloomy prospects for the ballot measure if the list remains as it is.

“If these three to four (sites) remain on here, there’s really no shot it’s going to pass,” Commissioner Al Apuzzo said, referring to several sites that faced intense opposition from neighboring homeowners that night.

The proposed ballot measure list is the city’s latest attempt to comply with state law. It’s the only city in San Diego County and one of just a few in the state that doesn’t have a current Housing Element — a state-required document that spells out how a city will accommodate its future housing needs, particularly those of low-income residents.

Encinitas has been sued multiple times over this situation, and has already tried to pass one ballot measure — the failed Measure T plan in 2016. City-hired consultants and council members have said that if Encinitas doesn’t succeed with its latest attempt, the courts will likely impose a plan upon the city.

The City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposed rezoning list at its 6 p.m. meeting on June 20 and the final vote is planned for July 18. The proposed list is already being reviewed by state housing officials and city-hired consultants have said the city has pretty much run out of time to make any significant changes if it wants to get the item on the ballot and bring the city into compliance with state law.

However, planning commissioners said June 7 that they thought there should still be time to make some changes and they agreed with many people in the audience who said the current proposal needs reworking.

Commissioner Kevin Doyle noted that 200 people had just signed a petition opposing the inclusion of site 19 — a 6.62-acre area that’s tucked up against the east side of Interstate 5 and accessed by extremely narrow, residential roadways. The site’s been proposed to accommodate 127 housing units — a figure that’s comparable to the total number of homes in the entire surrounding Avocado Acres region, several residents said.

Commissioner Bruce Ehlers said he would recommend removing site 19, as well as site 2 on Piraeus Street; site 17 on the Rancho Santa Fe Road at Peppertree Lane; and site 20, the Frog’s Gym property on Garden View Court.

There are 20 sites on the city’s proposed rezone list, but one — a city-owned property on Quail Gardens Drive — is proposed to receive a much-lower housing density than the rest, which are proposed to be rezoned to 30 units an acre. The rezone plan for the Quail Gardens Drive property was reduced to three units an acre in April after nearby residents lobbied City Hall for months.

Its removal and that of the strawberry fields area on Manchester Avenue from the high-density zoning list led to the addition of nine more sites, including the controversial sites 17, 19 and 20.

On June 7, representatives for the owners of a vacant property at the intersection of Birmingham and Lake drives offered their land up, saying it could accommodate 131 units. Commissioner Jody Hubbard said it made more sense than some of the properties that were already on the list, particularly site 19.

--Barbara Henry is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune