The city’s recently achieved status of compliance with state housing law is in jeopardy of being revoked.
In a six-page letter dated Feb. 7, the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development announced its intent to revoke the city’s compliance status and declared that Encinitas must provide a written response by the end of the month. And, that response must detail “how the city intends to take affirmative, definitive corrective action.”
The letter, which was signed by Deputy Director Zachary Olmstead, lists five categories where the state believes the city is failing to comply with state housing law:
First, the city isn’t meeting the requirements for adopting its new Housing Element plan and the adoption of that plan was the reason the state certified the city as compliant with state law in October.
Second, Encinitas has failed to put a measure on the ballot amending the 2013 growth-control measure known as Proposition A, so it can’t comply with the goals in its housing plan.
Third, the city is violating the state’s fair housing and anti-discrimination land-use laws because it isn’t taking steps to increase its extremely limited amount of accessible, low-income housing for people with disabilities. Limitations on who can use a new overnight parking lot for homeless people may only increase that problem, Olmstead wrote.
Fourth, Encinitas has failed to properly process housing projects that seek exemptions from city building standards through the state’s Density Bonus Law. The Goodson project, a controversial four-story apartment complex proposed in the city’s Olivenhain area, shouldn’t be facing the regulatory barriers the city has placed against it, Olmstead wrote.
And, finally, Encinitas has failed to comply with the standards of other housing laws, including new state Housing Crisis Act, which went into effect Jan. 1.
Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said Thursday, Feb. 13, the state’s announcement was an “absolute” surprise.
“We worked really hard to achieve state certification,” she said, noting that the city spent a lot of time and money to achieve that status.
Encinitas elected officials, the city’s attorney on housing issues and state Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath, who is a former Encinitas city councilwoman, will be meeting with state officials to discuss the contents of the letter on Tuesday, Feb. 18, Blakespear said, adding that she wouldn’t comment on the issues raised in the letter until then.
“I want to allow the parties to sit down together and after the meeting, I might make a statement,” she said.
Opponents of the homeless parking lot project said the state’s letter supports their position that the new lot on the Leichtag Foundation property will be forced to accept drug users, mentally ill people and people with no connection to Encinitas, contrary to what proponents have argued. Drug users and the mentally ill are considered disabled under state law and the lot is being funded with state grant money, Julie Thunder, a parking lot opponent who’s running for mayor, noted.
She said the city’s elected leaders should have listened to the opponents and opposed Jewish Family Service’s proposal to put the lot on the Leichtag Foundation property, instead of agreeing to participate in the project.
Encinitas has spent years trying to come into compliance with state housing laws. Until state certification in October, the city was the only one in San Diego County and one of just a few in the state without a valid Housing Element — a state-mandated document that details how a city proposes to handle its likely future growth, particularly the housing needs of low-income people.
Encinitas put two different Housing Element plan proposals before voters — Measure T in 2016 and Measure U plan in November. Both failed to win approval.
After the second plan failed, the courts stepped in and ordered the city to get the job done within 120 days and allowed Encinitas to temporarily exempt itself from the requirements of its voter-approved, growth-control measure to accomplish the task. The city’s current plan, a revised version of the Measure U plan, was adopted in response to the court order.
— Barbara Henry is a freelance reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune