City staff considers development zoning standards

In an effort to further help Encinitas get in compliance with state law, city staff deliberated with residents May 2 on how to set building standards for future high-density development.

Representatives from the development consultant firm Kimley-Horn, who presented at Wednesday’s meeting, have suggested height standards of up to 37 feet (a maximum of three stories) to allow for variations in roof pitch; 300 square feet of open space and amenity space per unit; a density standard range of 25 to 30 units per acre; and a 10-foot perimeter setback.

Unit size ranges include 450 to 650 square feet for studios; 650 to 750 square feet for one-bedrooms; 800 to 1,000 square feet for two-bedrooms; and 1,000 to 1,200 square feet for three-bedrooms.

Barbara Kautz, the attorney the city hired to help with its housing element, said a large goal is for Encinitas to zone for more lower income housing to cater to people who work in but cannot afford to live in the city, as well as seniors and younger people.

“Essentially, the city is trying to follow state law,” Kautz explained. “I think there’s a recognition that to actually construct lower income housing, there need to be subsidies. Some percentage of the housing can be required to be affordable but not 100 percent.”

Encinitas is the only city in San Diego County without a Housing Element, a required document that spells out how a city proposes to rework its zoning to accommodate its future housing needs, particularly those of low-income people. The city’s original plan, which it is still working off of, was created in the 1990s.

The city’s last attempt at a housing element, Measure T, failed in the November 2016 election.

The city is also the subject of three lawsuits regarding the lack of the updated document. At a court hearing April 30, Superior Court Judge Ronald Frazier granted Encinitas an extension until after the November election to rule on whether the city has failed to comply with state law and whether it should be forced to adopt a previously written plan.

Encinitas must zone for 1,600 more homes, a 6.4 percent increase from the city’s existing 25,000 homes. At least 51 percent of high-density housing must be zoned on vacant land, according to a recently passed state law.

The city council plans to take its proposed housing element to the voters this November. Encinitas submitted its draft housing element, which includes proposed sites for high-density zoning, to the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) on April 13. One of the 16 proposed properties, a highly contested piece of city-owned land on Quail Gardens Lane, was removed late into the council’s April 18 meeting, when Deputy Mayor Joe Mosca and Council members Tony Kranz and Mark Muir voted to side with the arguments of about 500 neighborhood petitioners.

David Barquist, with Kimley-Horn, also offered various types of parking solutions, including on surfaces, covered, tucked under or in garages. Each parking space must provide storage space.

Barquist proposed 1.5 parking spaces for studios and one-bedrooms, and two spaces for two- and three-bedrooms. He also provided data for nearby cities, like the affordable housing in San Diego.

One person in attendance, who identified himself as an affordable housing developer, said in San Diego, developments can get away with less parking depending on how close the land is to transit. He said Encinitas’ proposed parking numbers are too high because older people, who will likely live in the units, do not typically own cars.

But resident Glen Johnson argued parking is paramount because some of the proposed sites on the housing element are located “in the middle of nowhere.” He added people in the low-income bracket often have multiple jobs that they need to drive to. Apartments also tend to have several vehicles, he said.

Planning Commissioner and “No on T” spokesman Bruce Ehlers, who also sits on the Housing Update Element Task Force, also gave a presentation on Pacific Station, arguing the city could achieve the proposed density without going to 37 feet.

The city council will once again meet with the Housing Element Update Task Force at the council’s regular meeting on May 9 to revisit the housing sites, following the removal of the contested L-7 property. On May 10, residents will have the opportunity to attend a workshop at the Encinitas Community Center, where city staff will further answer questions about the housing element in an open house-style format. Public hearings for the project are scheduled for June and July. The council is expected to adopt language for the November ballot in July and submit that information to the Registrar of Voters by Aug. 10.

San Diego Union-Tribune freelance reporter Barbara Henry contributed to this report.

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