3/11/18: Daunting New Housing Requirements

This week at SANDAG (the county’s regional transportation board), we heard for the first time the amount of housing the state is proposing for our county in the next eight-year housing cycle. I hope you’re sitting down – it’s 21,000 new homes annually, which is more than three times the 7,000 homes that San Diego County is currently producing each year.

The total number countywide is 171,685 housing units for the 2021-2028 housing cycle. Each city’s allotment from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) won’t be determined until 2019, as the proposed methodologies are still in draft form. Once SANDAG assigns Encinitas our new housing numbers, scheduled for October of 2019, Encinitas will have 18 months to update our housing plan for state approval.

To recap, here’s the process: the state assigns the number of homes to the county, the county divides that number of homes among all 18 cities and the unincorporated area using a complex formula and then each city is required to put together a plan that hits those numbers, and the plan heads back to the state for approval.

These increasingly onerous housing mandates can seem unrelated to reality. Driving around the county, we all notice lots of new homes constantly being built. The idea of tripling that just doesn’t seem realistic. Furthermore, the most common feedback I hear from constituents is concern about the time they spend sitting in traffic, which is inevitably lengthened by adding more homes with more cars.


Despite this on-the-ground reality, housing policy discussions take place in a seemingly alternative universe, where growth forecasts indicate that cities aren’t even close to keeping up with demand. This demand is based on “housing formation” trends, the amount of “overcrowding” within existing homes, birth rates, projections of housing loss, and anticipated new jobs in the county. These factors all drive the need for more housing. And then you look at the reality that rental increases are far outpacing the income of those who rent (see the chart above) and the supply problem seems obvious.

HCD’s presentation at SANDAG last Friday elicited anger and disbelief from several San Diego County mayors. Encinitas has been in the trenches with our housing battles much longer than some other cities. It’s clear to me that while some leaders are unhappy about current housing laws, new laws on the horizon from state legislators will be substantially more burdensome.

One proposed housing law, for example, would force cities to allow development up to eight stories near transit centers – something that I find completely unacceptable. The city opposes this bill.

Here’s a KPBS story that does a great job of highlighting the tension between state housing goals and cities’ desires for local control.

So we find ourselves in a challenging predicament.

I’m trying to do the best possible job navigating the housing realities facing us in Encinitas. Toward that goal, this last week we had a housing workshop ably organized by our former deputy mayor Lisa Shaffer to discuss updating the city’s long stalled “inclusionary” housing ordinance, which is the amount of affordable housing that developers are required to build when they build market rate projects. Check out the Encinitas Advocate story for more information on this key piece of the housing puzzle.

My approach involves several facets – helping guide the city toward updating policies such as the inclusionary ordinance, incentivizing more accessory units and simultaneously making sure we count every single granny flat that comes online, focusing on housing development in Encinitas that results in housing credit (rather than development that gives us no credit), and most importantly, choosing the sites required for upzoning to get us out of the penalty box, end the lawsuits based on violations from previous housing cycles and produce more affordable housing.

Creating and implementing housing policy is painful and exhausting in Encinitas but we press forward, doing our level best with all available tools and strategies.

Where does all our recycling go?

We’re lucky to be served by EDCO as our waste hauler; they’re a family-owned company with a strong environmental commitment. In Escondido, they operate the newest recycling facility in the United States, which I toured this week. Pictured above are (from left) me, EDCO President and CEO Steve South, and Encinitas City Manager Karen Brust. A group from the city, plus Solana Center Executive Director Jessica Toth, joined us.

The big time takeaway is that miscellaneous plastic is a scourge for recycling facilities. Unfortunately, thin plastic can’t be recycled, so don’t put plastic newspaper sleeves, disposable plastic like ziploc bags or veggie and produce plastic bags in your recycling container. Reducing our individual consumption of these products is critical. Other no-no recycling items include carpet, comforters, garden hoses, and engines. Amazingly, all of these end up on EDCO’s recycling conveyor belts.

Fresh approaches and sharing best practices for reducing homelessness


Last week I also attended a meeting organized by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless that featured former Houston Mayor Annise Parker (shown above second from right, between San Diego City Council Member Chris Ward and County Supervisor Ron Roberts).

With significant success, Parker addressed her city’s homelessness problem during her term as Houston’s mayor. She emphasized to the group that “housing first,” which means putting someone in a home before requiring them to be sober or clean, is the only model that has proven scale-able. She also said it’s a myth that homeless people travel around to find the best cities to be homeless in. She believes that most homeless people are located where they are for the same reasons everyone else locates in cities – they had a job, family member or other personal connection there before they became homeless. Here’s the Union-Tribune article about her visit and insights.

The Regional Task Force is doing a lot of behind the scenes work to address homelessness in the county. High profile events like Mayor Annise Parker’s talk help galvanize collective action.

Moms fight gun violence


This week I was also visited by (from my left) Wendy Wheatcroft, Jesse Bry and Nikki Faddick from Moms Demand Action. They met with me to discuss gun violence and I gladly signed their Statement of Principles from “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” that included such common sense ideas as:

o “Target and hold accountable irresponsible gun dealers who break the law by knowingly selling guns to straw purchasers,” and

o “Oppose all federal efforts to restrict cities’ right to access, use, and share trace data that is so essential to effective enforcement, or to interfere with the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to combat illegal gun trafficking.”

It’s going to take concerted, unflinching action to turn the tide on gun violence in this country.

I’ll leave you with a powerful quote that Encinitas Advocate education columnist Marsha Sutton found and printed in her column last week: “[I]n response to the often-cited excuse that if we ban guns, killers will find another way: ‘Let them find another way. Let them try to kill dozens in a matter of minutes with a Goddamn butter knife. Let them hurl stones. Let’s force mass murders to get creative as hell. Because I’m tired of it being easy for them.”

In ongoing service,

 

P.S. And welcome to our newest Planning Commissioner, Jody Hubbard; and thank you for your service, retiring commissioner Greg Drakos! Here’s a Coast News article on the transition.