Council strikes four properties from housing element consideration


Four sites that were called “non-starters” won’t be included in the Encinitas housing element, while four new ones were put on the table.

During a special meeting Feb. 3, the Encinitas City Council and Planning Commission considered potential housing element sites. Those candidate properties were identified based on earlier public input posted on the city’s online forum, E-Town Hall.

The state-mandated housing element looks to rezone select sites for higher density to accommodate 1,300 units, a number derived from population forecasts. If the housing element wins approval, property owners would then have the option to develop their land at a higher density.

The council’s goal at the meeting was to settle on three or four different maps showing parcels that could be included in the housing element. After hours of discussion, the council delayed a decision until Feb. 5.

However, early in the meeting, the council unanimously sided with a recommendation from Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer to rule out four parcels, including an Olivenhain property at 11th Street and Rancho Santa Fe Road that residents have objected to rezoning.

“From the many discussions that have been held and the public input, we might all agree (these parcels) are non-starters,” Shaffer said. “We can just take them off the table now.”

Planning commissioner Anthony Brandenburg, who represents Olivenhain, said he’s heard from quite a few in the community who were against including the Olivenhain site in the housing element.

“Any issues — people calling me, stopping me in the street — it’s that spot,” Brandenburg said. He added that residents were concerned that developing that site could create traffic and displace a nearby fire station.

In April, the maps will undergo environmental review. Based on the results, the council will narrow the number of sites and create a final map that will appear on the November 2016 ballot.

The council also removed a parcel just south of Leucadia Boulevard and Vulcan Avenue. Shaffer said she’s heard from residents who are opposed to that spot because it could cause additional gridlock at the Coast Highway 101 and Leucadia Boulevard intersection.

Also, the Manchester Strawberry fields were exempted.

Caltrans has proposed building a direct-access ramp and parking lot on part of the strawberry fields as part of plans for the Interstate 5 corridor. And the grandfathered-in fields are zoned as residential, so nothing is preventing the property owners from putting low-density housing on the land.

Shaffer said the fields aren’t suitable for the housing element’s high-density zoning, since they’re near the San Elijo Lagoon.

And the Pacific View school site at 608 Third St. in downtown Encinitas was removed as a possibility. The city just spent $10 million acquiring the property to transform it into a public gathering space.

The Pacific View site and the strawberry fields weren’t on the list of candidate housing element sites. However, some in the community fretted they’d be inserted, leading the council to exempt them alongside the other two.

Because four parcels were taken off the table, the council will look at other sites to meet the housing element numbers.

On that note, four landowners at the meeting expressed an interest in rezoning their property for the housing element. Council members said one such parcel, at 195 Quail Gardens Drive, could be a good spot for senior housing.

The council directed city staff to review the viability of those sites, look at how many housing element units the parcels would potentially contribute and bring back that information at the Feb. 5 meeting.

Also, staff was asked to review council deliberation during the Feb. 3 and put together a list of candidate sites for council consideration at the Feb. 5 meeting. The council voted 3-2 in favor of that motion from Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear.

Blakespear said staff should rank the sites, with properties lacking consensus at the bottom.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Councilman Mark Muir voted against the motion, but didn’t state their reasoning.

City staff said the housing element is needed to provide diverse housing options for seniors and young professionals, a sentiment echoed by some public speakers. Those opposed said it’s based on faulty population projections and would hurt the city’s character.