7/28/19: New Housing Numbers for Encinitas and the Region

Lots of forward movement at SANDAG these days!

For the last six months I’ve been chairing the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) Subcommittee at SANDAG, where we’re tasked with putting together a methodology for board consideration that will ultimately determine the number of housing units that each city and the county will be responsible for in the next housing cycle, which starts in 2021.

Spoiler alert: I’m about to get pretty detailed here, but I want you to have the opportunity to understand in depth what’s going on. [Deep breath…]

The state requires that the region use a methodology to distribute future housing units that will result in new housing in places that will increase transit use, provide the chance for people to live closer to their work, increase the options for lower income residents to live everywhere in the county, and affirmatively work to overcome patterns of housing segregation.

To accomplish these goals, we created a methodology that will distribute the county’s 171,000 new homes based on a formula: 65% of total housing units allocated to jurisdictions with access to transit, including rail stations, Rapid bus stations and major transit stops; and 35% of the housing units to jurisdictions based on the total number of jobs in their area. The transit definition is broken down into sub-definitions related to frequency, number of intersecting routes, etc., but importantly, nearly every community in the county has some transit. 

Several North County coastal communities have train stations, (one in Encinitas, one in Solana Beach and two in Carlsbad), that required a substantial, fixed investment of money and infrastructure to build. It’s more likely that a job will move to a new location than a train station will move, which is why transit was weighted more heavily than jobs. Hopefully more train frequency is coming to North County to make those transit stops useable for more people.    

The methodology also includes an equity adjustment, which means that cities that have a lower percentage of a certain category of housing get more housing in that category. For example, in Encinitas 27% of our residents are low or very low income. Overall in the region, 40% of the households are low or very low income. So Encinitas gets a higher allocation of units in the low and very low category than the regional average. The equity adjustment doesn’t affect the total number of homes assigned to each jurisdiction, just the income category that the homes are designed for. 

At the SANDAG board last week, we decided to distribute this methodology to the public for comment. If ultimately adopted, it would assign Encinitas 1,555 housing units that we would need to provide the zoning to build between 2021 and 2029.

As you may recall, Encinitas struggled mightily over the last eight years to put together a plan that accommodated about 2,500 units for the previous housing cycle. After initially missing the state deadline, two entirely different plans were submitted to the voters in two successive election cycles – and both were rejected. Ultimately, last year the court prohibited Encinitas from taking another plan to the voters and put us under a court order to get a housing plan together that the state agreed was compliant. We’ve now done that.

While most cities in this county put together their last plan about eight years ago, we just finished ours a couple months ago. Because of the state-required “buffer” in this recently approved housing plan, which requires more total upzoning in case a project develops at a lower density than specified, it appears that the city would not have to go to the voters for approval of a new housing plan in order to remain compliant in this new housing cycle.  

In putting together the methodology that assigns the units throughout the county, I felt it was important that it be straightforward, easy to understand and not play favorites with cities by having carve-outs that benefitted certain cities over others. 

As you can well imagine, the assignment of housing units among 18 cities and the county is fraught with divergent opinions. Nearly every city could, and many have, made specific arguments about why their city should be assigned fewer units. The arguments range from lack of control over the number of military jobs, to the quality or frequency of the transit being inferior, to concerns about displacement, gentrification, lack of building potential or already being built out, and arguments in favor of protecting open space, views and height limits. Sticking with a methodology that avoids carve-outs, favorites, and exceptions seems the fairest way to proceed. 

Also in recent SANDAG news, the agency’s staff presented the Big Five Moves concept of a new countywide transportation plan at the Encinitas City Council, where it received positive reviews from elected officials and the public.

Change isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s needed. I’m excited and heartened by the changes we’re seeing! 

The graphic above shows the changes in land-use planning over 16 years in San Diego County. The changes are for the better if you care about preserving open space and tackling climate change. Twenty years ago, the county was planning to preserve only 33% of the county’s land, with 67% available for development. By 2015, that balance had flipped with 55% planned for preservation and 45% available for development.

It’s also interesting to note the shift away from single family homes toward more multi-family homes, especially for new construction.

These two trends are intertwined because if we aren’t building single family homes into the backcountry, we’re building more apartments and condos inside cities to account for the rising population. 

Farewell to dedicated Chamber leaders, hello to Shave Ice!

This week we said thank you and “enjoy retirement” to Bob and Mimi Gattinella, who are moving on after leading the Chamber of Commerce in Encinitas for the last eight years. They led a remarkable turnaround of the reputation and financial strength of the Chamber. They grew Chamber membership, fostered a community for business owners, and sponsored annual and monthly events like the State of the City address, the Salute to Education, the Encinitas Oktoberfest, monthly Sundowners and weekly ribbon cuttings.

The Gattinellas have sold their Encinitas home and are retiring outside of the county. I thank them for their commitment and positivity over many years. The photos above and below are from one of their last ribbon cuttings, where I presented a Mayor’s Certificate of Recognition for Old School Shave Ice. 

Speaking of which, just in time for the heat of summer, Old School Shave Ice founders Jeff Anshel and Ginnie Mathews launched their “Woodstock bus” that plays Woodstock music as they make and serve their “fine and fluffy” traditional Hawaiian ice concoction for kids and adults.

In true Encinitas style, they feature only eco-friendly materials, such as compostable cups, recycled napkins, bamboo straws, and cornstarch spoons, in addition to organic flavorings. I love this exciting cross between an old-school ice-cream truck and a food truck with a cool retro vibe! Chances are you’ll see the bus out around town and I hope you’ll give it a try. 

Adventure of a lifetime atop Half Dome!

Jeremy and I recently took off for a quick and intense weekend to hike Half Dome in Yosemite. For the last three years, we’d been applying to the permit lottery system, and won the privilege this year. My sister and her husband joined us for this one-day athletic challenge.

What an incredible hike – 17 miles, 12 hours, and a pretty serious wash of euphoria after being outdoors with my beloved family and accomplishing a mighty physical feat in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Check out the serious cable climb to get to the very top over my left shoulder in the top photo. That was harrowing!

Like many professionals, all of my mayoral and lawyer work takes place inside my head – meetings, talking, writing, reading – so whenever I have the chance to do something that challenges my body – in Mother Nature – for a deliciously long period, I am beyond happy. 

I hope you’re enjoying your summer, too!

With gratitude,