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Commentary: Blakespear’s choice — 15% or 50%

By Cindy Cremona

Affordable housing is an ongoing issue in Encinitas. Required affordable housing percentages have recently been the focus of the Planning Commission, who voted to increase the percentage. If the percentage of affordable units per development increases, we reduce the total number of units needed for the 2021 housing cycle (see chart).

Currently, developers sprinkle a measly 15% affordable units into each density project. For every 100 housing units built, only 15 are affordable. At 15% we will need an additional 4,000 units to be built to achieve the state’s goal.

How is building 85% luxury homes and condos compassionate to our teachers, firefighters, and service workers who need housing now?

Mayor Blakespear claims 15% is the absolute max despite the fact that her own commissioned study concluded 20% was reasonable, when in fact the Goodson project (near Encinitas Boulevard and Rancho Santa Fe Road) is 20%. Developers do not pay for the increase in land value when sites are rezoned to R30 (30 units per acre), often from R1 or R3. This is a land value windfall, and in exchange they should be required to pay for more lower income housing. Other cities requiring increased affordability include Corte Madera, Los Gatos and Capitola. In Encinitas, for all the housing plan upzoning, we realize very few affordable units.

None of these numbers take density bonus into account. Most projects will be density bonus, which adds another 35% (see chart).   

Last month, the Planning Commission voted that the required affordable housing percentage be increased to 50%. It was to come before the mayor and council for their vote this month, but a funny thing happened on its way to the council meeting. The agenda item was arbitrarily removed from the agenda by a staff member with the recommendation that it be left off the calendar indefinitely.

But for the sharp eyes of a citizen advocate, a discussion on 50% affordable housing would be hidden, with you and me none the wiser.

Clearly, someone at City Hall directed this action aimed at stopping the discussion of 50% affordability. The mayor, whose contentious 2020 campaign was heavily supported by contributions from the Building Industry Association (BIA) and developers, recently announced her bid for a state Senate seat in 2022.   She’s back on the campaign trail raising money and soliciting support.

The question remains, will Mayor Blakespear and her City Council vote for 15% or 50%? Will this   decision be based on compassion for their residents or favors due to their developer donors? This is a tough choice for a mayor who preaches equity. She can’t have it both ways: either satisfy her donors or show compassion for those in need.

All our citizens are vested in the long-term outcome in our quality of life. This important decision must be made in the light of day and quickly. Our firefighters, teachers, service workers and their families require our city’s compassion and a vote that demonstrates housing equity.

Cindy Cremona is an Encinitas resident