Encinitas to seek court guidance on state-mandated housing plan


Encinitas will go to court in an attempt to bring its beleaguered state-mandated housing plan into compliance with California law, the City Council decided Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Council members voted 4-1, with Tony Kranz dissenting, to seek a judicial determination in hopes of resolving the dilemma the city faces in trying to get its plan accepted by the state’s Housing and Community Development Department.

The decision came after state officials earlier this month sent a proposed draft housing plan back to the city with a demand for revisions.

“I’m of the opinion we need to rip off this Band-aid and go into court to seek declaratory relief,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said in urging the council to take action.

The state requires cities and counties to submit “housing elements” for approval by the department that demonstrate their capability of accommodating housing affordable to all income levels over an eight-year cycle.

Like other affluent coastal communities with high property values, Encinitas has struggled historically to meet the state mandate. It requires the city to show its general plan and underlying zoning will allow for a palette of housing opportunities, including residences for low- and very-low income residents.

The numbers that each jurisdiction must meet in this area are based on calculations by the San Diego Association of Governments, a coalition of the region’s 18 cities, the county and other agencies.

Encinitas’ total mandate for the current cycle covering 2013 to 2021 is to guarantee opportunities for 2,606 additional units, including 731 affordable to very-low income households and 555 affordable to low income households. Ironically, the biggest mandate is 907 homes for above-moderate income households.

Encinitas has yet to get a plan approved by the state during this cycle and faces penalties. Those include the loss of state revenue tied to the mandate and being required to submit and receive approval of housing plans every four years instead of eight.

Encinitas’ ability to comply with the law is complicated by Prop. A, a voter’s initiative passed earlier this decade that requires the electorate’s approval of substantial density and building height increases.

Since compliance with the state housing mandates can only be accomplished with significant density increases in some zones, the city must put changes needed for an acceptable housing element to a vote of its residents.

To date, two ballot measures attempting to accommodate the required housing numbers have been shot down by the voters. In response to legal challenges, a judge ruled in December that the state mandate superseded the initiative because it prevented the city from complying and he ordered the city to submit a plan to the state.

In response, the city submitted the proposed land-use changes that voters had rejected last November in Prop. U.

Housing department officials, however, responded that the plan needed revisions, especially with regard to what the council was going to do about Prop. A.

The options, city officials said, were to go to court to seek a ruling that Prop. A doesn’t apply to the state housing element into the future, or put a ballot measure before voters asking them to repeal Prop. A. State law says a voters’ initiative can only be undone by another public vote.

Kranz said he believes the city should respect that law and the will of voters, and put the issue on the ballot.

Other council members, however, contended that would be futile, considering that two prior ballot measures seeking to supersede Prop. A have failed.

“I think it’s not really a choice,” Councilman Joe Mosca said. “It’s a bit ingenuous to say you have a choice when you don’t have a choice.”