Encinitas Avoids Costly Lawsuits With an On-Time Housing Plan!

April 11, 2021

Happy Spring!

I hope you’re enjoying this magical season of rebirth and renewal, especially now that we can see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. 

I’d like to share with you how things are going since I announced I’m running for state senate about three weeks ago. I’m inspired by the positive response to our campaign – lots of support, well wishes, endorsements and contributions. Thank you so much!

I’m trying to raise as much as possible in the first 30 days of my candidacy. The larger the amount, the stronger my statement of strength to others who might be thinking about jumping into the race. I urge you to please donate now before our first month comes to a close!

If you can contribute anything, from $1 to $4,900 per person, please do so at this button below. Thank you!

My family and I celebrated spring by visiting the newly reopened Flower Fields just up the road in Carlsbad. The feeling of being surrounded by such beauty as things begin to return to normal is priceless!

Lawsuits Averted with On-time Encinitas Housing Plan

Meanwhile, our important work in Encinitas goes on. 

I’m very pleased to report that the City Council voted this week to adopt a housing plan for the “Sixth Cycle” on schedule for the first time in our city’s history. 

But there was a wrinkle. In order for the state to approve our plan, the state regulators required us to rescind two recently adopted ordinances related to how to calculate state-required density bonuses and regulations around sober living homes. 

We crafted both ordinances in a good faith attempt to respond to neighborhood and resident concerns. Our lawyers advised us that both ordinances were on solid legal ground, but the state regulatory agency believed otherwise. The state sent us a “Notice of Violation,” and also informed our city staff members that failure to rescind these ordinances would (again) result in the city being out of compliance with state housing laws. So we rescinded the ordinances and adopted the housing plan on time. 

We received dozens of emails and many public speakers on our decision. I feel the angst that many expressed when they asked us to “stand up to Sacramento.”  Many expressed the fear that we are losing control over our city’s land use planning.

The reality is that not having a state-approved plan is how we lose control – to litigants, state oversight, outside judicial decisions, and fines. 

In Encinitas we have spent the last six years managing the fallout, lawsuits, court orders and community conflict over not having a state-approved plan for the Fifth Cycle. 

From my perspective, it’s responsible to be right with the law, figure out how to add housing in ways that complement and enhance our community, and avoid costly, unwinnable lawsuits. 

The city’s staff report sums up the situation:

“The multiple lawsuits that resulted from the City’s lack of compliance before the March 2019 Housing Element was adopted have cost the City $2,396,870 in attorneys fees, court costs, and payments to plaintiffs’ attorneys. Since 2017, the State of California has adopted harsher and harsher penalties against cities that do not have an adequate housing element, with the possibility of a fine of up to $600,000 a month for a city that refuses to comply. In addition, the City has been subject to far more scrutiny from (the state) than any other city in San Diego County.”

This housing plan we adopted requires that the city provide the zoning to accommodate the following number of homes by 2029:

  • Very low and low income – 838
  • Moderate income – 308
  • Above moderate income – 408
  • Total – 1,554

Given that Encinitas has about 25,000 homes already, 1554 new ones doesn’t seem unreasonable. Because of the complexities of state housing regulations, however, there will likely be more homes built than the above numbers. 

It’s important to keep in mind that the vast majority of homes are built by the private market, not the city government. In Encinitas most of the new homes are sold for a price that only someone in the “above moderate” income category can afford – because of the price of land, construction costs and the type of home that the developer chooses to build.  

In order to better meet the city’s goals and the need for a well-integrated and diverse community, the City Council has asked the staff to put together options and opportunities for the city to provide a 100% (or nearly 100%) affordable housing project.

We also continue to promote our innovative and award-winning Accessory Dwelling Unit granny flat program, which has added 440 new accessory units since 2010. At least a quarter of these are being rented for rates that are considered “affordable,” according to a recent city analysis.

Following the Planning Commission’s wise recommendation, we’ll be conducting an analysis of the effect of short-term vacation rentals on the housing stock that could otherwise be available for rentals. The focus of the survey will be on vacation rentals that aren’t occupied by the owners, and therefore could be used as long-term homes instead of short-term hotel rooms. 

The city has put together a very interesting five-minute video about the benefits of adding housing in our community. It’s well worth watching if you’d like to get a basic grasp of housing planning – a very complex subject!  

Coast News article about the housing plan is here.

Food waste recycling is coming

I’m excited that we’ll soon have the chance to recycle our food waste in Encinitas, instead of landfilling it. Here’s a Coast News article about the service. The City of Vista, also served by EDCO as we are, is unveiling the same program. 

I’ve been working on getting a food waste recycling program off the ground in Encinitas for years, but the conditions for this launch came from a change in state law – a bill from the California senate called SB1383.

This is exactly the type of law that I hope to work on creating in Sacramento if a win a seat in the state senate – ways to help every community become more sustainable in managing our waste and renewable resources.

County approves homeless team for North County

In this 2019 photo, Bria McClain of Family Health Centers of San Diego (left) speaks with a man experiencing homelessness at Lamar County Park in Spring Valley. (Photo by John Gibbons/San Diego Union-Tribune.)
 

If you’ve been following the San Diego County Board of Supervisors since the November election, you may have noticed that they are on fire with new energy! 

This week, they approved a proposal to offer a homeless and crisis response team of at least 10 social workers to respond 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in northern San Diego County. It will be an expansion of the North Coastal Mental Health Crisis Response Team, which will be integrated with 911 and can be accessed by residents who are having a crisis or want to report someone having a crisis by calling (888) 724-7240.

Our new county supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said the North County project showed “how we can relieve law enforcement from being obligated to handle calls related to complex medical crises.”

Terra said “studies have shown that prioritizing a response led by trained experts can not only result in better outcomes that get to the root of the mental health or substance-use problem, but can save taxpayer dollars by avoiding more expensive actions like housing someone in jail or treating them in a hospital emergency room.”

I wholeheartedly agree. There are many solutions needed to address the many facets of homelessness and this is one crucial part of the puzzle.

The news article is here.

Timely tips for getting your COVID-19 vaccine

As I mentioned earlier, things are really beginning to open up, literally, on the vaccine front. The county has moved from the red to the orange tier, allowing more public places to relax their restrictions.

As of next Thursday, everyone 16 and over will be eligible for vaccination. But getting an appointment can still be problematic, with vaccine supply fluctuations and different registration systems for appointments.

Rancho Santa Fe resident Lena Evans recognized a need and created a helpful Facebook group called San Diego Vaccine Hunters, which essentially crowdsources appointment availability information on a minute-by minute basis. It also offers some great tips on the best times and methods for snagging your shot. Here’s the San Diego Union-Tribune story.

In Orange County, there’s an Orange County, CA Vaccine Hunters group on Facebook.

In the meantime, we need to remain vigilant against a possible new wave of infections and variants. Please don’t let your guard down – keep masking up so we can finally put an end to this scourge!

San Diego County Supervisor Lawson-Remer has put together the handy chart below that illustrates the changes in pandemic restrictions in the new Orange Tier, which apply to San Diego and Orange Counties. More info for San Diego County can be found here, and Orange County info is here.

Traffic Commission seat open for Cardiff

Here’s another opportunity for you to participate in our city’s government. Encinitas is accepting applications to fill one unscheduled vacancy on the Traffic and Public Safety Commission.

The new commissioner must live in Cardiff, and the deadline to apply is this Thursday, April 15. Click here for the application and more details.

Get your free tree this Arbor Day!

There are some very cool things happening to celebrate Arbor Day in Encinitas, both virtually and in real-life! All the info you need can be found here.

Bike Anywhere Week coming in May

Because of people’s new pandemic-created habits, SANDAG Bike to Work Day has been renamed “2021 Bike Anywhere Week” from May 16-22, with a focus on exploring your community by bike. In the photo above, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria (left), National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis (right) and I (center) are gearing up for the festivities. You can find more info here.

In ongoing service,

P.S. A final nudge – if you agree with my vision and level-headed governing style, and you like the idea of me representing you at the state level, please consider contributing to my campaign for California State Senate District 36.

The end of my first month is coming up, and we could really use your help. I hope you can donate using this button below. Thank you!