A row of homes in Encinitas overlooking San Elijio Lagoon and the beach.
A row of homes overlooking San Elijo Lagoon and the beach on Nov. 13, 2018. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle for Planetcob

Encinitas has consistently gone to great lengths to avoid making it possible to build more homes there, arguing it would change the city’s character, and once again, the state is taking notice.

The State Attorney General issued a warning to Encinitas last week about a housing project rejected in November, saying the disapproval violated state law. 

The City Council rejected Encinitas Boulevard Apartments, a 277-unit housing project from developer R. Randy Goodson, which included 41 units for low-income residents.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta sent a letter to Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, urging her and the city to approve the project once a new proposal is submitted.

“If the city fails to do so, the Attorney General is prepared to take immediate steps to hold the city accountable,” Deputy Attorney General Matthew Struhar wrote on behalf of Bonta.

When Encinitas rejected the project, it violated the Housing Accountability Act and the Density Bonus Law, the Attorney General's office said, meaning the project met the necessary standards to be approved, but the city turned it down anyway.  

The city also violated its obligation to create more fair housing, the letter said, as it effectively blocked the creation of 41 lower income housing units.

The median home price in Encinitas is $1.67 million, more than double the median price statewide. The low-income units would have been reserved for residents earning up to 50 percent of the median income.

Goodson has since filed a lawsuit against the city arguing that he had met all the standards for the project to move forward.

He intends to submit a revised project proposal, which is expected to include even more affordable housing, with 20 percent of its units set aside for very low- and low-income housing. That’s 55 units – about 5 percent more than originally planned.

According to the Housing Accountability Act, Encinitas essentially has no choice but to accept the housing proposal because the city hasn’t met its share of the regional housing needs for very low- or low-income households, the project wouldn’t have a negative impact on health or safety and it’s consistent with zoning and land use laws.

“While we’re pleased the city may have the opportunity to take corrective action by approving a modified version of the Encinitas Boulevard Apartments project, it shouldn't take the threat of legal action to induce compliance with the law,” Bonta said in a statement. “As we work to tackle California's housing crisis, we need local governments to act as partners to increase the housing supply, not throw up roadblocks. Our Housing Strike Force is working to hold those who break our housing laws accountable in order to help California families wrestling with the high cost of housing, and we're in this fight for the long haul.”

This isn’t the first time the city has caught the attention of state officials. A few years ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Attorney General warned Encinitas about its failure to complete its Housing Element, a plan cities submit to the state identifying sites for housing production of all income levels.

In 2020, Encinitas tried to exempt itself from the state density bonus law, which provides incentives for private developers to create affordable housing. Developers can increase the size of their developments in exchange for including a certain number of affordable housing units.

In years prior, the city has faced multiple lawsuits over trying to get around this law by creating policies that would make it harder for developers to consider it as an option.

Blakespear, in a statement to the The Coast News, responded to Bonta’s letter by saying the city takes its housing obligations seriously.

“Less than one year after getting state approval for the city’s housing plan, the city has approved more than half of the City’s total assigned goal for the next eight years,” she said. “The city is aware of state housing laws and is working diligently to stay in compliance with them. I appreciate the Attorney General’s reminder about the applicable laws and if the Encinitas Blvd. Apartments application is resubmitted, the City Council will consider the application right away.”

The state’s response is part of a larger effort to make sure cities are complying with state housing laws amid a statewide housing shortage and affordability crisis. Bonta created a Housing Strike Force back in November, which he says will enforce these laws and protect tenants’ rights.

If approved, the development will be in Olivenhain, a wealthy suburban neighborhood in Encinitas.

In Other News

  • Oceanside City Manager Deanna Lorson abruptly resigned last week after a closed session council meeting about her job performance. The council voted 3-1 to accept her resignation then, in a separate meeting, appointed Deputy City Manager Jonathan Borrego to be the interim city manager. Lorson has served in the position since September 2019. (Union-Tribune)
  • Oceanside approved repairs to a rock revetment on South Pacific Street despite objections from some residents and the environmental group Surfrider Foundation, which plans to appeal the decision with the California Coastal Commission. The wall of boulders, which protects some of the area’s oceanfront homes, has been degrading, but some argue the repairs will contribute to the region’s shrinking shoreline. (Union-Tribune)
  • A San Diego judge heard arguments Tuesday in an ongoing lawsuit over a contract awarded to a private company by the 22nd District Agricultural Association to operate the midway at the San Diego County Fair. Talley Amusements has accused the 22nd DAA of bid rigging and favoritism when it chose Ray Cammack Shows to operate the fair’s rides and games at the upcoming fair. (Del Mar Times)
  • Carlsbad is cracking down on electric bikes after the city’s police department reported a significant rise in collisions. Under the new rules, e-bikes will be prohibited on public sidewalks, drainage ditches, culverts, channels, athletic courts and gyms. (Union-Tribune).

Tigist Layne is Planetcob's north county reporter. Contact her directly at tigist.layne@planetcob.com or (619) 800-8453. Follow her...

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  1. While I absolutely support affordable housing, this project offered very little in the way of family units in its last iteration. Further, it sites a very large project in a somewhat rural area lacking in commercial resources, hence promoting a private car oriented development. There are many other sites in Encinitas that are better suited for a large, car focused development. Safety issues, such as congestion at the nearby intersection, particularly in the case of wildfire evacuation, were well documented by other concerned residents. It is sad that a large project like this will be forced into an otherwise tranquil, small scale neighborhood.

  2. As an advocate of housing justice in Encinitas, I hope you will also include these facts for a more balanced reporting:
    1. The developer promised Encinitas 149 affordable units (100% affordable) when he convinced the City Council to up-zone his property from rural R2 to R30. His project builds 108 units fewer affordable units than originally allocated. It was “bait-and-switch”! 2. Encinitas Planning Commission found that the Goodson project has a “disparate discriminatory effect on families” with children: it fails to provide two and three bedroom apartments for any of the 41 affordable units. Meaning: the City says that the developer violates state and Federal fair housing laws. You will find this info if you check the Planning Commission meeting of July 15, 2021.

  3. Why is the city of Encinitas getting these nasty untrue letters from the CA Attorney General? It goes back to the mayor and council lying to the residents.
    The state has something called RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation) that is divided into 4 categories with very low income and low income that must be built in the building cycle composed of 4 years. If they aren't built the number is carried over to the next cycle. The regional agencies (SANDAG is San Diego County) divide up the state numbers that demand each city build. With the coming of the 5th cycle RHNA, Encinitas had a few hundred carry over units from previous years. The council and city planning ballooned that number to over 1300 low income units which to them became the upzoning to 30 units per acre to build all low income.
    Some other cities in LA only had to build five (5) low income units for the 4 year cycle. When Blakespear was told about this her attitude was that isn't Encinitas. The Goodson project was upzoned for 113 low income units that would fill the property. How many low income units should be build on the 15 different areas? Appendix C from the city website: https://encinitasca.gov/.../Appendix%20C_20180711-reduced...
    How many should be built on the Goodson property? See pages C-13-C17 of Appendix C above. It shows 113 low income which would cover the property. Goodson wants to build 277 units with only 41 low income units. This property is landlocked. A very narrow driveway leads to it from Encinitas Blvd. The Attorney General Bonta is not looking at the evidence.

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