Housing Lawsuits Against Encinitas Get Court Hearing Monday
UPDATE 1:30 p.m., April 30, 2018
Vista Superior Court Judge Ronald Frazier has given the city of Encinitas another chance to reach agreement on a housing plan to allow denser housing development.
The tentative ruling is a victory for Encinitas, whose residents are determined to maintain the city’s small-town character. Mayor Catherine Blakespear said because the city is working on another housing initiative, the judge postponed a hearing on the suits until after November's election.
"The judge was very clear that the initiate process is one of the most important tenets of our democracy," she said, "so he decided to let the voters weight in again."
Blakespear said the city is working with residents to agree on a housing plan, known as a "Housing Element," to put on the ballot. She hopes this year, voters will accept it.
The judge will hold status hearings in August to see if the city has agreed on a measure to put on the ballot, and again in November, to see what voters decided.
"If the Housing Element update is not passed by the voters," the ruling states, "the Court intends to rule on the pending petitions within 30 days of the status conference."
A Vista Superior Court judge will hear arguments Monday on three lawsuits filed against Encinitas, the only city in the county that has not complied with state law to develop a housing plan.
This is not the first time the Building Industry Association has sued Encinitas for failing to agree on places where enough new housing can be built. But this time a group called San Diego Tenants United has also sued, on the grounds that tenants can’t find anywhere affordable to live.
Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said the city is working on a housing plan to put to the voters in November.
“I think it’s possible the court will say, 'Let’s give the people of Encinitas one more chance,' because the city has done a lot of work to come up with another plan that’s compliant with state law,” Blakespear said. “I don’t think a court will allow us to be allowed to be out of compliance with state law indefinitely, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to go back to the people, at least this additional time."
Encinitas voters have tied the hands of elected officials by saying new housing plans that significantly change existing zoning must go to a vote of the people.
The city needs to find places for more than 1,000 new homes in order to comply with California housing law, and that number will rise under the next housing cycle that begins in 2021.
Timothy Hutter, attorney for the BIA, wrote that the suit seeks to compel the city to follow state housing law, especially in the midst of a statewide housing crisis.
"The City of Encinitas has a long history of non-compliance with state housing laws," Hutter wrote. "Housing is needed at all income levels, and Encinitas is the poster child for non-compliance."
Hutter said a decision could come Monday or in a few weeks. If the Superior Court judge rules against the city, the BIA wants the council to override the voters and pass a plan they rejected in 2016.