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Encinitas Tries An ‘E-Townhall’

Photo by Promise Yee

During an Encinitas OpenHouse, Leslie Welsh of Cardiff logs on to the city's e-townhall to give her input on future development, Nov. 13, 2014.

Encinitas is long overdue in updating its housing plan, which is needed to zone higher density where 1,300 mandated affordable housing units can be built.

Under California law, every city has to have a housing element in its general plan.

The consequences of not adopting a plan include the loss of millions of dollars in government funding for things like road improvements, and possible lawsuits for not providing affordable housing.

The city is embarking on its third try, over several years, to get community consensus.

City Manager Gus Vina said past attempts were unsuccessful because of residents' anxiety about change, and concerns about lack of community input.

"You know, bottom line is Encinitas is behind, because we don’t have an approved housing element," Vina said. "We're the only city in the San Diego region that doesn’t have one."

To get community input, Encinitas is asking for residents’ feedback online, through what the city has dubbed its "e-townhall." This open forum approach allows residents to view input in real time and helps the city tabulate feedback.

"People are too busy to come to city hall," Vina said. "We are using the technologies so that people, from the comfort of their living room, can communicate with their local government and tell us what they're thinking."

Last week, five open houses were held to explain the need for affordable housing and encourage e-townhall participation.

Input from Encinitas' five communities: Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Old Encinitas, New Encinitas, Leucadia and Olivenhain, will help develop a housing plan that will be put on the November 2016 ballot.

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