Carlsbad releases housing element update

The city of Carlsbad has released the 2017 Housing Element Update, the draft of its housing plan for 2017-2021, according to a city release.

Comments will be accepted through Dec. 15, and copies of the draft plan are available for public review at the city’s libraries, City Clerk’s Office, Senior Center and Faraday Center. The draft plan can also be reviewed on the city’s website at www.carlsbadca.gov/planning.

California state law requires each governing body of a local government to adopt a comprehensive, long-term general plan for the physical development of the city or county. The housing element is one of the seven mandated elements of the local general plan. Housing element law, enacted in 1969, mandates that local governments adequately plan to meet the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community, including those with low and very low incomes.

But the sky-high cost of land and housing near the water sometimes makes it difficult for coastal towns to comply with this law — a difficulty compounded by concerns about traffic, congestion and preserving the character of coastal communities.

Encinitas learned this the hard way. Voters on Nov. 8 rejected the city’s proposed housing element, 56 percent to 44 percent, despite unanimous support from the normally fractious City Council. Incoming mayor Catherine Blakespear a month ago had told the Seaside Courier, “I support Measure T because it’s the best plan to get us compliant with state law. If Measure T fails the city still won’t be able to avoid inevitable zoning changes. We’ll end up in court, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Measure T was developed in public, by the public after more than 140 public meetings. It puts growth where development already exists. This is the best plan of the many different plans I’ve seen.”

The ballot argument in favor of Measure T, signed by all members of the Encinitas City Council, warns that “If we don’t pass Measure T, a judge could impose a housing plan for future growth, or the city could lose its ability to make local land use decisions. Nothing would ruin our cherished community character faster than losing our self-determination when it comes to development.” They also say the affected areas amount to less than 1 percent of the total land area in Encinitas.

But in the argument against Measure T, signed by former Encinitas Mayor and county Supervisor Pam Slater-Price and veteran community activists Robert Bonde and Bruce Ehlers, it is claimed the proposition will increase traffic by up to 24,000 more cars on the road each day, doesn’t guarantee that any affordable housing will be built, and gives developers an incentive “to increase the number of units by 35 percent over zoning.”

Gov. Jerry Brown recently doubled down on the state’s commitment to affordable housing. In the final days of September he signed several builds designed to facilitate the construction of below-market housing units. One bill, Senate Bill 1069, makes it easier and less expensive for California homeowners to build accessory dwelling units, or “granny flats,” on their property

In Carlsbad, the housing element is a mandatory part of the city’s General Plan, the city’s blueprint for how land will be used to achieve the community’s vision for the future. Specific topics addressed in the housing element include conserving and improving existing affordable housing; making the most of housing opportunities throughout the community; assisting in the provision of affordable housing; removing governmental and other constraints to housing investment; and promoting fair and equal housing opportunities.

“The housing element update provides an opportunity for the community to learn more about the state’s housing requirements and how the city plans to meet these requirements over the next several years,” said city of Carlsbad Senior Planner Scott Donnell.

The City Council approved an updated General Plan in September 2015, capping an eight-year process that engaged thousands of community members in an extensive conversation about how they want their city to look and function in the future.

City staff has submitted the draft housing element update to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for an initial compliance review with housing law. The city will hold public hearings before the Housing Commission, Planning Commission and City Council early next year. An approved housing element for the 2017-2021 period is due to the Department of Housing and Community Development by April 30, 2017.

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