Solana Beach seeks feedback on draft housing element

Solana Beach City Hall
(Staff photo)

The public comment period for Solana Beach’s draft housing element, which shows where the city plans to accommodate 875 new housing units, will run through Nov. 23. Another public workshop will be held virtually on Nov. 12.

All of those new units are part of the state’s sixth Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) cycle, which runs from 2021-29. The city is responsible for providing the zoning, but the building is typically left to private developers.

Of those units, 316 have to be available for very low income tenants and 159 for low income tenants, based on income thresholds that are relative to the county median income.

The city was able to identify potential sites for the 875 assigned units that will not require any zoning changes. Most of the sites that can accommodate affordable housing for very low and low income tenants are located in the southwest portion of the city, west of I-5 and south of Lomas Santa Fe Drive.

“The map is largely driven by the existing zoning,” Solana Beach City Manager Greg Wade said during the council’s Oct. 28 meeting. “When you look at our zoning, the way it lays out is very few of the sites on the east side of I-5 allow for multiunit development.”

Solana Beach Mayor Jewel Edson said that she would be open to considering ways to shift some of them to other areas.

“I think we are making progress,” Edson said. “I am concerned a little bit about the number of units being in the southwest quadrant.”

The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development assigned San Diego County a sixth cycle RHNA number of approximately 171,000 units. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) distributed those units to each city and throughout unincorporated county land based on proximity to jobs and transit. That methodology resulted in greater RHNA assignments for small, coastal cities compared to their assignments from past RHNA cycles.

Solana Beach’s 875-unit allocation, for example, is a 157% increase over the 340-unit allocation it received for the fifth RHNA cycle, which covered 2013-19. Solana Beach, Coronado, Lemon Grove and Imperial Beach appealed to SANDAG in an attempt to get their allocations lowered. Only Coronado succeeded, but only received a relatively small reduction to its RHNA assignment.

Before the appeal, Solana Beach City Councilman David Zito, who represents the city on the SANDAG Board of Directors, unsuccessfully tried to win enough votes for a revised RHNA allocation that would have shifted units away from Solana Beach and a few of the other small cities.

Solana Beach and the other three cities that filed appeals have also filed a lawsuit in county court against SANDAG over their RHNA numbers.

Solana Beach resident Shawna McGarry, who spoke during public comment at the council meeting last week, said the city should do its part to alleviate the homeless crisis by adding accessory dwelling units and affordable housing projects.

“We all know we’re in a climate crisis and a housing crisis,” Solana Beach resident Shawna McGarry said. “For people that are experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity, that crisis is much more immediate.”