Five ways Encinitas is getting better!

April 24, 2022

Lots to report this week from our last Encinitas City Council meeting and beyond. You may notice that most of these items are about making Encinitas a better place – something we’re all invested in!

Check out these five ways life in Encinitas is getting better all the time:

1. Overall city cap coming for short-term vacation rentals 

The topic of short-term vacation rentals, or STVRs, is one that conjures strong feelings from all sides. Our challenge is to balance the many interests, including:

  • residents want to live in neighborhoods with neighbors – not just vacationing visitors
  • some vacationing families prefer to rent homes with kitchens, etc., instead of hotel rooms  
  • renting out a home to visitors provides residents with incomes they rely on 
  • housing needs to be available for residents to rent and buy – in order to sustain and build a community.

Taking all these factors and more into consideration, I’m excited about the vacation rental regulations we’ve put in motion.

This map from our city staff report shows all of the short-term vacation rentals available in Encinitas, and how they’re distributed throughout our five neighborhoods. It’s no surprise that most are near the beach and the I-5 freeway. The green dots depict the 437 permitted STVRs, blue for the 90 STVRs currently under review, red for the 94 unpermitted units (which we’re working to bring into compliance or shut down), and black squares indicate our 18 hotels.

We gave direction to cap the number of STVRs at 3% for the entire city and within that, no more than 5% in each beach community west of I-5 (Cardiff, Leucadia and Old Encinitas). This recognizes the importance of long-term housing, especially lower-cost housing, in our city and our commitment to preserve it for residents.

With about 26,000 total homes in Encinitas, we need to cap the number of homes converted into hotel rooms, subtracting from our housing inventory.

We spend an inordinate amount of time talking about how – and where – to put new housing for residents in our city. It’s hard to add new homes in Encinitas and we need to preserve the ones we have. So having a limit on the number of homes that can become hotel rooms makes sense in the big picture.

There are exceptions to our proposed new STVR regulations:

The new percentage caps exclude Seabluff, a beachside community in Leucadia that was designed for weekly, monthly or annual rentals. And there is no cap on the number of STVRs where someone is living on-site with the vacation rental, such as renting out a bedroom on Airbnb to make ends meet. The regulations will apply to whole home rentals only, and won’t affect a landlord renting a home to a longer-term tenant for 30 days or more.   

We also gave direction to explore whether there could be a carve-out in situations such as people who are living in their primary residence, but want to go on a three-week summer trip and rent their home for that limited time.

In this circumstance, we might allow regulatory flexibility to provide it as a rental. My concern is that this exception doesn’t swallow the rule, and we’ve asked city staff to evaluate what is feasible when it comes to enforcement. 

At the meeting, we heard a public comment from someone who lives surrounded by vacation rentals on Neptune and she said that since we instituted the three-night minimum stay several months ago, the behavior of the guests has improved and it’s a more peaceful environment. It’s gratifying to receive feedback that previous changes we’ve made are working.

It will be more than a year before the new regulations become operational because the process involves public feedback, the Planning Commission, and Coastal Commission approval.

I’m proud of our city staff, the public and the city council’s hard work on this issue – this progress is an example of good governance and getting ahead of a thorny problem.

The staff presentation is here, and here’s a more detailed article from the Encinitas Advocate.

2. Getting to the summer side of the tracks

Our new El Portal pedestrian railroad undercrossing is tantalizingly close to completion. The cement walkways were recently poured, and safe walking or bike riding from the Leucadia Farmers Market at Paul Ecke Central School to Lou’s Records or Stonesteps will likely be a reality by summer!

More Streetscape info can be found here.

3. Vision Zero: working toward safer Encinitas streets

From 2010 to 2020, there were 21 fatalities and 120 serious injuries on Encinitas streets, excluding the I-5 freeway. That’s unacceptable – a single injury or death is one too many.

Councilmember Kellie Hinze and I put an item on our agenda not long ago to prioritize Vision Zero, which aims to create streets with zero fatalities and serious injuries, and after City Council support I was pleased to see how quickly our city staff responded with an action plan.

As the name “Vision Zero” indicates, our goal is to eliminate and reduce the severity of bicycle and pedestrian collisions. It’s a precise, data-driven approach to make our roads safer by clearly identifying unsafe intersections and stretches of roads that result in death or serious injury.

This scientific analysis takes us to the next level in terms creating a city where biking and walking is a transportation choice that residents and visitors choose to make. We need to use this data-driven information on all of our future infrastructure investments. 

4. Encinitas Equity Committee concludes with final report

The Encinitas Equity Committee celebrated the completion of its final draft recommendations at the committee’s concluding meeting last week.

The committee was formed last May with the intention to “help the City of Encinitas and Encinitas community create safe, healthy, accessible, and inclusive opportunities for everyone who lives, works and visits Encinitas.”Designed to last one year, the Equity Committee’s mission will conclude 51 weeks after it began with a presentation of the final recommendations to the City Council next month.

I’d like to personally thank each of our members for their dedication, insight and energy – Encinitas will be a better place to live and visit due to their efforts! 

5. Improving customer service at City Hall

Our Development Services Department serves and interacts with the Encinitas public in a dizzying variety of ways – planning, permits, code enforcement, public notices, development, and a lot more.

Simplifying and clarifying often-complex processes is a top priority for the Development Services Department. The graphic above, which explains how to get a new business going in Encinitas, is an example of that effort.

The number of permit requests and citizen interactions has risen sharply over the past few years, and the department is continually investigating ways of improving responsiveness, timeliness and customer satisfaction.

They’re planning to do more professional development and technical trainings, upgrade and streamline our internal processes and develop performance metrics to shorten response times for returning phone calls and emails. Customer surveys will provide constant feedback on progress. Here’s their presentation from our last Council meeting. 

Signs of the times

Thank you to those who donated before our recent fundraising deadline! We’re still tabulating the totals and I’m deeply grateful for your response.

It’s hard to believe, but voting in the primary starts in two weeks and the primary will be over in a little more than six weeks! We’re continuing to sprint toward the finish line of this campaign marathon. 

Sign season is upon us! If you’d like to show your neighbors who you stand for, we just got some brand new Blakespear for Senate yard signs in, and we’d love to deliver one to your house! You can “sign up” by clicking here.

Campaign volunteer and summer internship opportunities

We’re looking for a few talented and motivated folks to join our winning team! How about you?

Blakespear Campaign Volunteer: Team Blakespear is growing, and being a part of this adventure while working for a better California future could be just what you’relooking for. Check out this link to learn how you can join us.

Blakespear Campaign Summer Internship: If you’re a student who’s interested in experiencing a stimulating summer internship on an exciting State Senate campaign (or if you know such a student), we’d enjoy hearing from you! A limited number of positions are still open – click here for more info!

You can hopefully tell from reading today’s newsletter that there’s a lot of positive momentum brewing in Encinitas and in our campaign. I’d like to sincerely thank you for being such an important part of it!

With gratitude and optimism,

Sorry, you are not in the 38th Senate District.
You are in the 38th Senate district!