Encinitas City Council repeals housing density ordinance

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council, following recommendations from the city’s Planning Commission, has voted to repeal a city ordinance that the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has said was in violation of state law.

The ordinance, dealing with housing density in the city, was said to introduce burdensome requirements to developers and is not consistent with state law by the Department of Housing and Community Development.

The city was first notified of the issue in a letter sent in February. After attempting to receive more information on the issue without a response from HCD, the city received another letter in March reiterating the concerns of the state department.

There was still some sentiment from members of the city council to bring the question before a judge but Mayor Catherine Blakespear was very clear in her view that they would be fighting a losing battle.

“In the city of Encinitas, we’re having a conversation about density ruining community character that doesn’t really correspond with the conversation being had at the state level at all,” Blakespear said.

Blakespear made her feelings clear about the prospect of being able to convince HCD to allow their housing element to be approved without the ordinance in question being repealed.

“I think that really you’re burying your head in the sand if you think that there is any way that we are going to somehow persuade HCD that this is going to be something that they should accept,” Blakespear said.

Councilmember Joy Lyndes expressed what many in the public have that the letters sent by HCD have not done much in the way of explaining what specifically it has an issue with in the ordinance.

Communications with the city and HCD on this issue have not been strong.

“To this day we still have not been able to have any dialogue to explain to us what we did wrong. I feel like we’re in a spiral of not understanding and we risk continuing to not understand until we can build a rapport where we get clarity on exactly what they’re expecting,” Lyndes said.

Density and low-income housing is not generally a very popular issue with broad support in the city but as Blakespear said during council discussions, that doesn’t change what has happened at a state level.

“There is so much opposition to housing in this community,” Blakespear said. “But the reality is that housing is a way that we do provide a vital community. We provide housing at all income levels. We provide for people who don’t have a way to afford the $1.3 million median family home price in this city.”

The final vote to repeal the ordinance was 3-1, with Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz the lone vote against and who stood strong in his belief the city shouldn’t move forward without trying to get the question in front of a judge for a ruling.

Even though Kranz, who spoke last during discussions, could see where the vote was heading, he still made his opinion known before casting his vote.

“Far from having my head in the sand, I’ve been at this a long time and been around the block quite a few times. And I don’t like ceding my authority to a state bureaucracy,” Kranz said. “In December we adopted this ordinance unanimously. And with a letter from HCD, we’re ready to repeal it. And I think it’s unfortunate that we’re doing that.”