Encinitas reaches settlement with developer, who agrees to revise apartment project

The downtown Encinitas sign.
(Charlie Neuman / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Revised project to be presented at June 8 meeting; residents’ group’s lawsuits remain pending


The developer of the proposed Encinitas Boulevard Apartment complex, a massive project that’s been fiercely opposed by Olivenhain area residents, has settled a lawsuit with the city and will be revising the project’s design.

Under the terms of the agreement, the total number of units will be reduced by 22, making it a 250-unit project instead of a 272-unit one. While the number of total units in the complex is proposed to decrease, the number of ones set aside for low-income people will increase from 41 to 50.

And, in a section that’s closest to neighboring residents, one story of the multi-story complex will be removed from the plans, according to a statement released by city public information officer Julie Taber.

The new proposal will be presented at the June 8 City Council meeting for “review and decision,” Taber says, adding that if the revised project is approved by the council, the lawsuit will be dismissed.

That decision, however, will not end all the legal turmoil surrounding the development plans. The opponents’ group, Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development, has filed several lawsuits related to the project and the city’s review of the plans. Those lawsuits are still pending, Tabor said Friday, April 22.

Proposed for a nearly 7-acre site close to the busy Encinitas Boulevard and Rancho Santa Fe intersection, the apartment complex has long been controversial. Its buildings are proposed to top out at 69 feet — far higher than the city’s standard height limit of 39 feet. Both the height of the buildings and the massive look of the structures, including its multi-story parking garage, have drawn the ire of people who live in the surrounding Olivenhain region, which is known for its upscale, single-family homes on large lots.

Both the opponents and the developer, Randy Goodson, appealed a city Planning Commission decision denying permits for the project. In November, the City Council upheld the Planning Commission’s permit denial and Goodson took the city to court, arguing that it didn’t have the authority to reject the development plans because the project should be considered a “by-right” development under state law-income housing laws.

In late March, state officials weighed in on the issue. State Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that the developer was considering revising his plans and resubmitting them, and if Encinitas didn’t approve the new, revised proposal it could find itself in more legal trouble.

“We urge the city to take prompt action to consider and approve the revised project if and when a new application is submitted,” state Deputy Attorney General Matthew Struhar wrote in a letter for Bonta. “If the city fails to do so, the Attorney General is prepared to take immediate steps to hold the city accountable.”

In failing to approve the current development proposal, Struhar wrote, the city may have violated both the state’s Housing Accountability Act and the Density Bonus Law. He added that the wealthy community of Encinitas needs to do more to address “significant disparities in housing needs” and the denial of permits for this project was “particularly troubling.”