State attorney general to Encinitas: Approve housing project, or else

Warning follows similar notice sent in January


An Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development rendering shows the placement of the proposed Encinitas Boulevard Apartments in Olivenhain. (ERRD image)

North Coast Current

California’s attorney general issued an ultimatum Thursday, March 24, to the city of Encinitas: Build the Encinitas Boulevard Apartments in Olivenhain or be “held accountable.”

The order was announced in a news release from Attorney General Rob Bonta, which stated that he is “prepared to hold the City of Encinitas accountable for its denial of a permit for the Encinitas Boulevard Apartments if the city fails to take corrective action to approve a modified version of the project.”

The directive comes four months after project developer Randy Goodson warned the City Council during its meeting Nov. 10 that it would face “very dire consequences” if it failed to approve his proposal.

Bonta’s ultimatum also follows a Jan. 20 notice from the state Department of Housing and Community Development ordering “immediate corrective action … allowing the Project to move forward with its plans without further delay.”

The City Council voted down the 277-unit complex, proposed for the corner of Encinitas Boulevard and Rancho Santa Fe Road, after public outcry over its scale and location.

Critics said the project was too large for the semi-rural Olivenhain community given its two-lane roads and wildfire-prone topography. The council declined the project after hearing developer, fire-threat and traffic presentations, and considering Olivenhain’s dark-skies status and the city’s building-height limits.

None of that squared with Bonta, who noted the community’s upper-level incomes and looked at the project from a state housing-need perspective. He criticized the city for not being a team player to help solve California’s housing crisis.

“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,” Bonta said in the news release. “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.”

In a state Department of Justice letter addressed to Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Deputy Attorney General Matthew T. Struhar, on behalf Bonta, said the city:

Violated the Housing Accountability Act and Density Bonus Law;

Failed to promote state-mandated fair housing practices;

Failed to comply with the Housing Accountability Act.

The City Council’s denial of the apartments project in November came a week after Bonta launched a strike force to go after municipalities that fail to comply with state housing laws.

In the letter, Stuhar indicated that the Department of Justice is aware that Goodson plans to submit a modified version of the project that would set aside 20% of the units for affordable housing, which is 5% more than the city’s minimum requirement.

“We understand that the Petitioner in the above-referenced lawsuit intends to submit a revised Project proposal for the site,” Struhan wrote.

Bonta mentioned the forthcoming proposal as well.

“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,” Bonta said in the news release.

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