New ballot measure may contain far fewer sites than Measure T

The next time Encinitas puts a proposed housing plan up for a public vote, it may list far fewer properties as options for up-zoning and low-income housing than the city's failed Measure T did.

But the list won't contain any new names — a City Council subcommittee will just winnow down the list of properties mentioned in the controversial 2016 ballot measure and that ought to reduce the public outcry and increase the chances of voter approval, the committee members told a consultant handling the ballot measure revision process on Sept. 5.

Committee members said they now expect to make their final decisions on will remain and what will be eliminated from the old Measure T list at their next meeting, set for 6 p.m. on Sept. 26. On Sept. 5, they directed their consultant to start the trimming process and leave them with roughly 40 parcel options to consider at their next meeting.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear told the consultant that she wanted him to keep the largest sites — the ones able to hold the most housing. Many of them are located at major intersections in town, including the Encinitas Boulevard and El Camino Real intersection.

Fellow subcommittee member Kurt Groseclose, a former city planning commissioner who supported Measure T, said he wanted the consultant to emphasize sites that were the "most viable," or the most straightforward to develop without requiring major zoning code changes. Some downtown sites might not meet this criteria.

And, subcommittee member Bruce Ehlers, a who sits on the Planning Commission and opposed Measure T, said he wanted the subcommittee's final list to contain the "least objectionable" sites. He suggested eliminating ones near Cottonwood Creek Park as well as one on a steep hillside site near the intersection of Encinitas Boulevard and Rancho Santa Fe Road.

Audience members also had a few suggestions. Two women said they wanted one of the two sites at El Camino Real and Encinitas Boulevard removed so the traffic impacts would be reduced, while folks who live near Coast Highway 101 said they thought there were too many proposed sites along that route.

City officials are facing ever-increasing pressure to get their housing planning project done. Encinitas is the only city in San Diego County and one of less than a dozen statewide that lack a current, state-certified Housing Element — a state-mandated document that spells out how a city proposes to accommodate its future housing needs, particularly those of low-income residents.

In addition to the state, the city is facing pressure from the development community. Encinitas has been sued multiple times over its housing plan situation, and several more lawsuits have been filed in recent months, including one by the Building Industry Association of San Diego County

The city has put forward multiple proposals for meeting the state requirement in recent years, with the most recent option being Measure T. That ballot measure aimed to meet the state's future housing requirements as well as the state's current target, and proposed easing the city's building height restrictions to accommodate all those extra units.

Opponents seized on the building height issue, saying relaxing the height limit would lead to the development of huge structures that would destroy the city's character.

At Tuesday's workshop session, subcommittee members said they'll be concentrating on meeting the state's current housing target for the city and will likely propose a plan that would allow roughly 1,500 additional homes — or less than half what Measure T offered.

Henry is a freelance writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Copyright © 2018, Encinitas Advocate
53°