Encinitas commission talks public survey for housing element


The Encinitas Planning Commission at its Jan. 7 meeting agreed to ask the city manager to consider a public opinion survey to get feedback on the city’s housing element, a blueprint for growth.

Planning Commissioner Tasha Boerner Horvath initiated an agenda item on public outreach for the housing element because she said “the window is closing” before the matter heads to a public vote in November 2016.

The housing element calls for rezoning certain sites for higher density to accommodate 1,300 units. Horvath said it’s a big deal and not enough have weighed in.

“When I talk to people in my circle of friends and with my neighbors, they don’t know what it is,” Horvath said.

Horvath said public opinion data could help the planning commission and council make key decisions on the housing element.

The Encinitas City Council last February agreed on three different maps with candidate housing element properties. In the next few months, the council will review environmental assessments of the sites, whittle down the number of parcels and finalize a map of sites for voter consideration.

A public opinion survey would need city manager approval. City Manager Karen Brust may also ask the council whether it’s in favor of a survey.

Horvath also floated the idea of webinars, booths at community events and tours of potential housing element sites to get the word out.

Commissioner Greg Drakos expressed concern that these outreach methods could be costly and yield little additional feedback.

Ultimately, the commission decided to have commissioners come back in two weeks with their recommendations for improving housing element communications.

The Encinitas council is also slated to take up housing element outreach in the not-too-distant future.

Previously, the city collected input for the housing element over the online forum E-Town Hall, but a divided council last February canceled the contract due to concerns that residents weren’t required to list their names or indicate which Encinitas community they reside in. The council at that time agreed to explore other virtual outreach options down the line.

Horvath said the goal of increasing communications isn’t intended to advocate for or against the housing element, but rather give residents the tools to understand the ballot item.

Commissioner Anthony Brandenburg was absent from the meeting.