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First community housing group presents plan

Bob Bonde of the Encinitas Taxpayers Association presented the first community plan for the housing element at a joint Encinitas City Council and Planning Commission meeting March 11.

As part of a multi-pronged approach, the association’s proposal says the council should take stock of surplus city properties and evaluate them for low-income housing element units. And the plan states that county, state and other government entities should be encouraged to donate unused property within Encinitas to the city for the housing element.

For instance, Bonde said housing element units could possibly go on 13 acres of county-owned property east of the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station on El Camino Real.

Identified sites could then be developed for housing element units through public/private partnerships, the proposal states.

“The premise is that property is so expensive in Encinitas that it’s impossible for developers to buy land, build apartments and operate them at rates low-income families can afford,” Bonde said. “Without land costs, low-income housing becomes feasible.”

The housing element calls for rezoning select parcels for higher density to accommodate as many as 1,300 units in Encinitas. Doing so would satisfy a state mandate. If city voters approve the housing element November 2016, those property owners would then have the option to build higher density developments.

Another part of the plan calls for a citywide housing inventory to aggressively identify and count accessory units — also called “granny flats” — toward the housing element. Granny flats are considered a source of affordable housing, reducing the number of housing element units the city must plan.

Last month, the council agreed on three housing element maps with candidate sites, which will soon undergo in-depth environmental review. The council agreed in January to consider proposals from community groups alongside the maps.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar said several community groups have expressed an interest in presenting housing element alternatives. The March 18 council meeting has been set aside for additional groups to come forward with ideas, she said.

At the March 11 meeting, the council didn’t take any action on the proposal. But council could still incorporate ideas from the proposal into the housing element at a later date.

Bonde said the association’s proposal is preferable to what the city has come up with so far. For example, he said the city’s plan is overly reliant on mixed-use development, which he said causes parking issues.

He added the association’s proposal would result in quite a few more affordable units.

Attorney Marco Gonzalez, one of two public speakers, took issue with the proposal. For one, Gonzalez said granny flats don’t demonstrate a commitment to affordable housing.

Telling low-income residents they “get to live in the servant’s quarters doesn’t always go over so well,” Gonzalez said.

Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear asked if city staff could review the feasibility of some of the proposal’s ideas, including the housing inventory.

City Planning Director Jeff Murphy said staff members could look at whether sites in community groups’ proposals have “fatal flaws” that would preclude properties from being a part of the housing element. He added in-depth analysis of the proposal’s ideas would be tough before next month, the deadline for getting the housing element maps ready for environmental review.

Staff members have said that while the 2016 ballot is a ways away, the housing element is on a tight timeline. That’s because environmental review takes months and after that several key steps await.

Once environmental review is complete, the council will begin narrowing down the number of properties to create one or possibly two maps for the ballot.


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