Encinitas Still Considering Options To Meet Low-Income Housing Requirements

Earlier this year, residents of Encinitas passed Proposition A. One of the things that Prop A did was to lower the maximum allowable building height from 33 to 30 feet. Some proponents claimed that establishing lower height limits would encourage more of a small-town feel in areas such as the downtown, and prevent increased expansion. Now, because of the change, the city may be required to allocate space for a significant number of low-income housing units.

What The City Would Like To Do

Encinitas' Planning and Building Director Jeff Murphy proposed a ballot option next year named “Plan Up: Not Out” which is aimed to reverting the new 30-foot limit to its previous, higher limit. By doing this in certain areas, it is possible to reduce the likely 1,028 units required under rules to just around 670. If city officials are not able to convince voters of their plan, they will most probably be forced to rezone some Encinitas real estate in order to accommodate the low-income housing requirements.

Why It's A Problem

The citizens of Encinitas who pushed for Prop A to pass spent a long, drawn out fight to victory. In the end, the proposition passed with just under 52% of voters' support. Now, many proposition supporters see the city council's plans as a way to manipulate voters into changing a law that they had just voted to enact a few months ago. Proposition A supporters have shown that they have the ability to grow their political backing, so changing the voters' minds may be a difficult task for the city council to tackle.

Why Does A 3-Foot Difference Matter So Much, Anyways?

In cities with a mix of different building types and sizes, residential housing buildings with multiple stories often have a way of naturally converting into low-income units as opposed to shorter structures. Because cities with taller buildings need less government intervention in order to maintain affordable housing, the State of California eases its requirements for cities that have high building limits. Although three vertical feet does not seem like very much, it was enough to push Encinitas into the higher requirements.

Although officials estimate that the number of low-income units they have space set aside for will increase significantly, the state hasn't issued any formal demands at this point. Until then, supporters of Proposition A will continue to encourage the city council to pursue other options to solving their low-income housing problem apart from reverting back to the old height limits. One thing is certain – in order to pass their new “Build Up: Not Out” plan, the city will have their work cut out for themselves.