Letter: Real affordable housing

The City of Encinitas has, since incorporation, failed to conduct a comprehensive housing inventory; therefore, up to 1,000 illegal dwelling units go uncounted. As a result of faulty information, the State Housing and Community Development Office and the San Diego Association of Governments have demanded that Encinitas provide 1,300 additional low-income dwelling units.

To meet this housing quota, city staff, instead of counting illegal units, has been pushing the rezoning of large segments of our city to accommodate high-density housing. Their plan violates the low-density community character concepts of the voter approved 2014 Proposition A and is a gift to large property owners and developers that can never be reversed. It will surely hurt businesses, increase traffic congestion, cause more lawsuits, provide little or no low-income housing and negatively impact virtually every citizen.

Encinitas property owners, long ago, recognized the need for low-cost rentals and developed creative ways to meet those needs, but due to unrealistic and onerous city regulations and policies most of the units developed were never permitted and are classified illegal. They are located in single-family, multi-family, commercial and agricultural zones in all five Encinitas communities. They are in new and old, wealthy and poor neighborhoods. While some are of such poor quality they should never be used for human habitation, most are very useable and suitable. It is believed that these units compose the majority of the city’s present low-income housing stock.

The major obstacles standing in the way of legalizing and counting these units are the current City Affordable Dwelling Unit Policy and reticent politicians. The ADU policy was written in 1986 and designed to discourage auxiliary housing and penalize those who attempted to get involved. Times have changed. California State Law now allows owners of most single family properties to have an auxiliary unit “by right” to encourage low-income housing and Encinitas has an obligation to follow that lead.

In December, I presented a partnership proposal to Council which would share the burden of legalizing these units between the property owners and City and improve the process. Some of the recommended changes were:

• Eliminate City permit and Special District connection fees.

• Allow auxiliary units in all zones rather than in just single-family zones.

• Remove the covenant condition that does away with “structural grandfather clause” in case of fire or destruction.

• Modify current building and fire code requirements for auxiliary units to accept those codes which were in force at the time the major structure was built.

A push for a comprehensive housing inventory and the stopping of the City’s ill-conceived high-density market-rate housing plan are needed before it is too late.

Robert Bonde, Cardiff