Solana Beach appeals to SANDAG over housing requirements

Solana Beach City Hall
(File photo)

Solana Beach is one of four cities that filed an appeal to the San Diego Association of Governments in an attempt to lower the number of new housing units city leaders will have to accommodate over the coming decade.

As part of the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment, the California Department of Housing and Community Development assigned San Diego County approximately 171,000 new units to be added over the coming decade. The San Diego Association of Governments, tasked with distributing those units throughout the county, developed a methodology that placed those units based on proximity to housing and jobs.

The methodology resulted in larger shares for smaller cities, compared to the previous decade’s RHNA cycle. Pending the appeal, the number for Solana Beach, the second smallest city in the county, is 875. It’s the second-smallest allocation to any city, behind Del Mar’s 163, but a 160% increase from the number Solana Beach received during the last cycle.

In the city’s letter of appeal to the SANDAG board of directors, the five council members said an “adjustment to the proposed allocation is absolutely necessary otherwise the region cannot reasonably be expected to achieve actual construction of its RHNA housing allocation.” They are asking for SANDAG to shift more of the units to larger cities “that are far more able to accommodate additional housing units.”

At the Solana Beach City Council’s Jan. 8 meeting, Mayor Jewel Edson called SANDAG’s methodology “deeply flawed.” She mentioned Solana Beach’s population density, which is already greater than the population density of north coastal cities including Carlsbad and Encinitas, which both received smaller percentage increases in their RHNA allocation for the upcoming cycle, relative to their assigned numbers for the previous cycle.

“Solana Beach was not alone in expressing our concerns over these flaws, nor were we alone in requesting SANDAG reexamine the resulting allocations,” Edson said.

The cities that face the largest percentage increases in their RHNA allocation this cycle compared to the last one, Coronado, Imperial Beach and Lemon Grove, respectively, all filed appeals as well. Solana Beach is sixth on that list, behind National City and Del Mar.

Solana Beach City Councilman David Zito, who represents the city on the SANDAG Board of Directors, introduced a proposal last year to shift 55% of the housing units assigned to small cities into larger cities and the county’s unincorporated area. It was defeated by a weighted vote.

Supporters of SANDAG’s methodology for allocating the current numbers, including Del Mar Mayor Ellie Haviland and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, have said it’s consistent with the region’s long-term goals of building housing near public transportation and jobs, which is part of a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They have also said the transit- and jobs-oriented methodology is different from the methodology used to assign units in the previous cycle, so comparisons between this cycle’s allocations and last cycle’s allocations are not necessarily apples to apples.

But Solana Beach’s appeal says there has been a “failure to create regional balance” in this cycle’s allocation, a claim echoed in the other three appeals.

“The idea to me is that these numbers should be attainable or at least something that even if we struggle and don’t get there, we’re close; 875 is not realistic,” Edson said.

Solana Beach did not meet its RHNA requirement of 340 over the last decade. Most California cities did not hit their numbers, according to the state Department of Housing and Community Development. San Diego County as a whole reached about 60,000 of 161,000 state-mandated units.

Solana Beach City Councilwoman Kristi Becker said housing and meeting the RHNA requirements will be the No. 1 issue in the city over the coming years.

“We all need to get on board and really fix this issue, because this is really important for our city,” she said.