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California attorney general says Encinitas housing project should have been approved

Attorney General Rob Bonta.jpg
Matthew Bowler
California Attorney General Rob Bonta spoke in favor of new gun control legislation at a press conference at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Feb. 18, 2022.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said Thursday that the city of Encinitas should have approved a permit for a 277-unit housing development and that he will "promptly act to hold the city accountable" if it does not approve a modified version of the project proposal.

In a statement, Bonta's office said the city's denial last year of the Encinitas Boulevard Apartments blocked the state's efforts "to increase housing affordability and accessibility" in the city. The statement noted that the city's median home price is more than double the median price statewide.

The project, proposed for the Olivenhain neighborhood, would have included 41 units set aside for lower-income families.

RELATED: Encinitas unanimously approves county's first balloon ban

Bonta's office said the project should have been approved because state housing laws restrict local governments from denying permits for such projects.

In a letter dated Thursday to Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Deputy Attorney General Matthew T. Struhar wrote that the project's developer is expected to submit a revised proposal that will set aside 20% of its units for affordable housing, which is about 5% more than originally planned.

City officials did not immediately respond for comment regarding the Department of Justice's letter.

"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," said Bonta. "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."