Residents, local leaders to weigh in on state housing requirements

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

Among San Diego cities, Del Mar and Solana Beach might face two of the largest percentage increases in housing units the state expects them to add over the next decade, pending the outcome of a public hearing on Sept. 6 in front of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

The state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) will ask San Diego County to add 171,685 new units over the next decade, a 6% increase from the 161,980 required over the last decade. The proposed city-by-city breakdown of how to divide those units has caused controversy among local leaders and their constituents.

Current projections could leave Del Mar with a RHNA requirement of 163 housing units, the lowest among all cities, but a 167% increase from its RHNA allotment from the previous decade, 61. The 1.7-square-mile city also received a 15-unit penalty for noncompliance with previous requirements, bringing its total to 76. City records show that as of the end of 2018, 29 have been built, underscoring the issues cities throughout the state have had hitting their numbers.

Based on the proposed numbers for the upcoming decade, only Coronado, Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove and National City would face larger percentage increases than Del Mar and Solana Beach. Solana Beach’s projection of 876, the second lowest requirement among San Diego cities, would be a 157% increase from its number from the past decade, 340. As of the end of 2018, the city approved building permits for 62 housing units, according to city records. Solana Beach Mayor David Zito said the RHNA requirements are “a necessary first step,” but challenging for cities that have high population density and consider themselves built out.

Proposed RHNA numbers for the north coastal cities of Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside would give them each double-digit percent decreases, and a collective 20% decrease, compared to the last decade. But the total number of housing units those three cities would be responsible for adding would be 13,562, compared to a little more than 1,000 between Del Mar and Solana Beach.

The proposed methodology to allocate housing units throughout the county is based on a ratio of putting 65% of it near transit and 35% near jobs, and would includes large percentage increases for coastal cities including Del Mar and Solana Beach.

“I think we’re penalized somewhat because of the part-time jobs at the fairgrounds,” Del Mar Mayor Dave Druker said.

Each city is responsible for providing the zoning to allow it to reach its mandated requirement, but developers handle the construction.

“My first reaction is ‘yikes,’ that’s a big challenge,” Del Mar City Councilman Dwight Worden said of the proposed new number, adding that the city will do its best to meet its allotment.

Del Mar council members briefly discussed reaching out to the cities of Solana Beach and Coronado to coordinate an effort to get their numbers lowered, reasoning in part that there is an unfair and uneven distribution as the numbers now stand. But they decided against it. Coronado’s projected RHNA number is 1,001, a 1,900% increase from its previous requirement of 50.

“I want us to do this in a way that works for San Diego County,” Del Mar City Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland said, noting some of the larger cities that are on track to have lower RHNA requirements.

Countywide, San Diego met a little more than one-third of its RHNA requirement, accommodating approximately 60,000 units of the 161,980 required by the state.

Del Mar Deputy Mayor Ellie Haviland, the city’s representative on SANDAG, said via email that she’s out of the country until Sept. 6 and unavailable for comment. At the last Del Mar City Council meeting, she spoke in favor of the methodology.

“I don’t understand what we have to push back on,” she said. “We all agree that housing should be next to transit, we all agree that housing should be next to jobs. That’s what we’re trying to work on as a regional transportation plan and this housing element is consistent with that. I’m not sure what we’re pushing back on.”

Following the public hearing on the methodology, SANDAG board members will be able to propose changes, which would then have to be vetted by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development. The numbers will be finalized by the end of the year. Residents who can’t attend the Sept. 6 hearing can submit written comments through Sept. 4.

“There’s not something that’s going to make everybody happy,” Catherine Blakespear, chair of SANDAG’s RHNA subcommittee, said at the association’s last board meeting on July 26.