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Encinitas planners support easing parking standards for some projects

The City of Encinitas
(Karen Billing)

Senior communities not part of recommendation

Encinitas should ease parking requirements for some new housing developments, but more research is needed before pursuing a lower standard for senior communities, city planning commissioners recently decided.

In a 4-1 vote, with Chairman Bruce Ehlers opposed, the commission supported reducing parking requirements for new development that locates near major public transit hubs or is considered an “inclusionary” project — a development that contains affordable units for low-income people.

They also supported allowing more projects to have tandem parking, or spots where one vehicle parks directly behind another.

“We need to be in the business of sheltering people, not automobiles,” Commissioner Steve Dalton said as he explained why he backed more flexibility when it came to city parking standards.

He said that developers will build more affordable units if the parking standards are eased and residents will be more likely to use public transit if it’s available nearby. Other commissioners said they thought current public transit options were very limited and new development probably wouldn’t change that, but people’s attitudes toward cars is shifting.

Commissioner Kevin Doyle said the younger adults he knows are “lusting after” fancy e-bikes rather than cars and seeking to work from home rather than in San Diego.

“I do think there will be a reduction in demand for cars” in the coming years, he said.

Commissioner Susan Sherod said she had moved to Encinitas because of its train station, used Metrolink slightly less than 50 percent of the time to commute to a teaching job and found it challenging at times to get where she needed to go. However, she said, she knows people who are “really opposed to having a car” and regularly use Uber and Lyft.

While others on the commission said people’s views on vehicle use were changing, Ehlers said he felt changing the parking standards benefited developers, not the people who would live in the future housing units. Those people will still have cars, they’ll just be stuck trying to find parking on city streets and that will create problems for the surrounding neighborhoods, he said. Reducing parking requirements for new housing developments might work in big cities, but not Encinitas, he added.

People need to ask, “Are we an urban center, and the answer is unequivocally no and I don’t think we want to become one,” Ehlers said.

The parking requirement changes are expected to go before the City Council later this summer, and if approved will later be reviewed by the state Coastal Commission.

The new standards for inclusionary housing would vary depending on the number of bedrooms each unit has, while the requirement for public transit-oriented developments would be half a parking stall per housing unit. City planning department employees said there was only one area of town where developers could take advantage of this special standard — the region adjacent to the Encinitas transit center, which is served by both trains and buses.

One item that the commissioners unanimously agreed to hold off on was reducing parking requirements for senior developments — age-restricted communities, not senior care facilities. Commissioners said they wanted much more information about who would qualify to live in such a community and what their vehicle needs might be.

Several planning commissioners said they would probably right now qualify to live in such housing and they own multiple cars, so a parking reduction doesn’t make sense for those types of developments.

In other action, commissioners approved:

  • Permits for an upscale market/cafe project that will both serve and sell for off-site consumption alcoholic beverages. The project is proposed to go in the lower floor of a two-story, mixed-use building in the 700 block of North Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia.
  • Permits for the renovation of the Beachside Bar & Grill building in downtown Encinitas.

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


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