Council, task force to discuss housing Dec. 16


The Encinitas City Council and Housing Element Update Task Force will explore options for the city to meet its state-mandated housing requirements at a special joint meeting Dec. 16.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said she hopes at the meeting, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the two groups will be able to allocate for the 1,600 units mandated by the state.

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.

The Housing Element Update Task Force — consisting of Blakespear; Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz; Planning Commissioner and former No on T spokesman Bruce Ehlers; and former Planning Commissioner Kurt Groseclose — has been meeting since February to try to come up with a state-certified housing element.

As the group began settling ideas for sites, they were thrown for a loop in September when an adviser informed them about upcoming legislation aimed at zoning more vacant land for housing. Prior to that, a large number of the sites the group looked at was non-vacant.

The city must now find more unoccupied land to hit at least a 51 percent threshold, or between 550 to 650 units of high-density housing on currently occupied land. The city will likely have to look outside Measure T’s sites, as most of the sites designated on the failed Measure T map had existing development, either residential or commercial, already on them.

Because housing is the only agenda item on Saturday’s agenda, Blakespear said the groups will have more time to consider all options.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to dig into every one of the sites that’s of potential and hopefully cobble together 1,600 units through the multiple sites,” she said. “We need to find consensus as a group, so I think we’ll be really down in the weeds.”

Blakespear said she is hopeful Saturday’s meeting will be “more involved” due to the involvement between the task force and council.

But the decision will ultimately be left to the council, which she expects will make a decision before June to place a housing element on the November 2018 ballot.

“The council is the group that needs to talk to each other and work out the sites that we feel best serve the community,” Blakespear said.

She said it is imperative for the city to adopt a housing element to avoid further litigation.

Blakespear said ideally she’d like to see projects that provide affordable housing.

The task force in October began dwindling down possible sites, including 70 parcels in Leucadia, 12 in Olivenhain, 21 in New Encinitas, 48 in Old Encinitas and 20 in Cardiff.

Farmer Bob Echter in November also suggested his land -- which he originally proposed could be used to grow marijuana -- could help the city meet its housing requirements by developing the area into an “agrihood,” which is a neighborhood built around a farm. The re-zoning would help his farm with a declining industry and higher labor costs, Echter said.

The housing meeting will take place Dec. 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Encinitas Community and Senior Center, 1140 Oakcrest Park Drive. Public comment will be taken at the beginning of the meeting.