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Encinitas Sued Again Over Lack Of Affordable Housing Plan

Real estate signs advertise the sale of three houses in a row in Encinitas in...

Photo by Associated Press

Above: Real estate signs advertise the sale of three houses in a row in Encinitas in San Diego County, July 13, 2006.

A group called SD Tenants United is suing the City of Encinitas for not having a plan to increase its housing stock.

Encinitas is the only city in San Diego that has failed to agree on a state-mandated “Housing Element," a plan for where to build homes for all income levels.

It is not the first time that Encinitas has been sued for failing to meet state law, and every time, it loses. Previous suits have been filed by developers, but this suit is filed by a nonprofit.

Photo by Alison St John

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear seen on April 24, 2017.

Rafael Bautista is the president of SD Tenants United.

“We’re deficient in the county by over 175,000 housing units," he said. “And if there’s municipalities such as Encinitas that are intentionally withholding a plan to make more housing available, then that’s really unfair.”

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who is an attorney, said the city has already spent almost $1 million fighting this battle.

“Every city needs to have a plan that provides a certain amount of higher density housing — and that is housing that is more affordable for people because it’s smaller. We don’t have that plan, so we need to get compliant with the law.“

Blakespear said the city spent $1 million on a plan that was rejected by residents and tried again last year with Measure T, but that, too, was defeated.

Encinitas approved Proposition A in 2013: it mandated that new zoning such as changed height limits would have to go to a public vote. Since then, voters have consistently rejected any plans the city has come up with to increase density.

Bautista said SD Tenants United has been working for more than a year, advocating for lower income renters and lobbying for rent control. He said he is not interested in joining forces with other groups such as the Building Industry Association, which has also threatened to relaunch litigation against Encinitas.

Bautista said his group feels the need to mobilize because elected representatives are not solving the housing crisis. He said Encinitas is just the most obvious example of classism and racism.

“They’re maintaining the status quo,” he said, “which is the wealthy are able to live here without the poor being around, but they can work here, right?“

Blakespear said she feels responsible for finding a solution. “Our city is better than that,” she said.

She said she does not want her city to be known as scofflaws.

“And as the mayor ... it’s the highest priority to get us out of that," she said. "And the whole council agrees with that.”

Blakespear has formed an ad hoc committee with some of the residents who opposed housing plans in the past. The committee is working to try to modify the latest plan — Measure T, which failed in November — to meet residents’ approval by setting height limits at two stories instead of three and reducing the number of areas where developers could add greater density.

Blakespear said it is too late to put anything on the June ballot, and she could not predict if a measure would be ready in time for voters in November.

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