Housing task force begins dwindling down possible sites

Encinitas' Housing Element Update Task Force began considering 171 parcels throughout the city to zone for housing at its meeting Monday, Oct. 16.

Dave Barquist, the consultant the city hired to help the city develop this draft of the housing element, presented parcels that were either vacant, underutilized or developed.

Barquist said he tried to evenly distribute the parcels among the city, but 70 parcels were presented in Leucadia alone due to one site being an existing mobile home park. Twelve parcels were identified in Olivenhain, 21 in New Encinitas, 48 in Old Encinitas and 20 in Cardiff.

Because of new legislation aimed at zoning more vacant land for housing and introduced at the task force's last meeting, the group must now find more unoccupied land to hit at least a 51 percent threshold, or between 550 to 650 units of high density housing on currently occupied land. The group will likely have to look outside Measure T's sites, as most of the sites designated on the failed Measure T map had existing development, either residential or commercial, already on them.

One of Monday's discussed proposed sites was the “burn site” — where trash was once burned — behind the sheriff's station near El Camino Real. Barquist said the location, at 135 El Camino Real, required "more homework" both in conversations with the county, which owns the property, or with neighbors.

One site has also sparked negative interest from the San Elijo Lagoon, which is located adjacent to the property.

Resident Damien Mavis has promoted his family-owned site, on the southeast corner of Manchester Avenue and El Camino Real, saying it could help the city meet its needs for affordable housing. He has partnered with Community Housing Works to offer 50 percent affordable housing on his site.

"I urge you to not look at the laws as obstacles but as crystal clear, honorable mandates from Sacramento," he said at Monday's meeting.

However, his request has been met with opposition from the nearby San Elijo Lagoon, which threatened litigation should the city decide to re-zone Mavis' site at a higher density.

The lagoon's lawyer at Monday's meeting said that upzoning Mavis' property would be "inconsistent with the [city's] general plan" and shared concerns the lagoon would not be able to afford the land in the future.

The attorney urged the task force to set the land aside for now to allow time for property swapping discussions between the lagoon and Mavis.

Representatives from Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, at 3459 Manchester Ave., also volunteered their site Monday for 40 additional affordable units. The property already includes some affordable housing, the representatives noted.

Resident Kathleen Lindeman advocated for affordable housing for people like senior women and younger generations looking to live in the city.

She proposed the task force should consider zoning in the Vons Shopping Center on Santa Fe Drive. She said she walked to survey about Measure T prior to the vote, and many people agreed the location would be a good site for housing due to its proximity to a park and school.

The task force — consisting of Mayor Catherine Blakespear; Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz; Planning Commissioner and former No on T spokesman Bruce Ehlers; and former Planning Commissioner Kurt Groseclose — deliberated for about an hour at the meeting, sharing ideas like considering properties that were either owner-interested or the least objectionable by residents.

Ehlers, who studied and advocated against Measure T, said the task force should not consider the properties that were largely opposed in Measure T.

"The bigger we make the hills to get into compliance, the harder it will be for us to get over," he said.

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, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The city’s original plan, which it is still working off of, was created in the 1990s.

State law currently mandates Encinitas should zone for 1,093 high-density units, according to city officials.

The task force is expected to present its choice sites to the city council on Nov. 8. The members said the sites should be available for public viewing within the next week or two ahead of the council meeting.

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