Dozens of Encinitas residents packed the house for a five-hour City Council meeting back in July 2014. They came to upbraid city officials for letting developers use a state law meant to increase low-income housing in Encinitas.
The two parties defending the law might seem like an odd couple: a representative for private, for-profit developers, and a low-income housing advocate.
The Encinitas residents were determined to end the imposition from the state that was undermining their preference to rein in growth in Encinitas. Many of them have lived in the city for decades and don’t want new developments or density to change the Encinitas they know and love.
At issue is the state’s density bonus law.
Originally passed in 1979, it allows private developers to build more homes on a property than city restrictions allow if they agree to build some low-income homes in their project. It also lets them build less parking, taller buildings or other deviations from city restrictions that make the project more profitable in exchange for building low-income homes.
That’s why both affordable housing advocates and developers like the law: It lets private developers make more money if they build homes for poor people.
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Hardly surprising when laws that violate market conditions of supply and demand are tested, stretched, or ignored. Legislating morality is wrong headed, and doomed to violate rights. No one has a right to someone else' property, nor is anyone else morally obligated to suffer/ lose money, or live in non-preferred manner so someone else can. It is not surprising that people that paid market prices for houses don't want to see degrading impacts of traffic, noise, or density impact the market price of what they paid for. Anytime legislation flies in the face of market driven choices, freely made by people, trouble will follow, as rights are violated by the legislation.
Where to start? The article is very one-sided and contains some factual errors. First the writer doesn't clearly distinguish between affordable housing and market rate housing. The Density Bonus Law is very good at creating market rate housing and very bad at creating affordable housing. In Encinitas new market rate housing in the area that the mentioned developer is suing over means houses to sell at $1.5 to $2.5 million. All the BONUS housing in the Density Bonus Law is market rate. The developer commits to building a very small number of affordable units, usually in the range of 1-3 units to get the increase of 35% in the number of market rate units over the normal zoning The figure of 53 units quoted by the writer of inclusionary and density bonus affordable units built since 2008 is pitiful when SANDAG has assigned Encinitas 1300 affordable units to be built. But the profit to the developers who have built the market rate units is extraordinary. The impacts on infrastructure and traffic come from the total number of units built, not just the affordable units.
The truth is that in high-priced land areas like Encinitas a significant number of affordable units will never be built without public subsidy. The Density Bonus Law is a poor way to subsidize, except as a way to subsidize profits for the developer with the additional market rate units allowed. The city is struggling with the Housing Element Update and proposes to use a "proxy" zoning of 30 units per acre. The state Department of Housing and Community Development allows this zoning to count as affordable housing, even if it is NEVER built or built with market rate units. It only needs to be put as R-30 zoning on the map. The city will increase density and all the urban ills that go with it, including CO2 emissions and strain on city resources, and get NO guarantee that affordable units are built. It could end up as 1300 luxury condo units.
When Assemblyman Ed Chau introduced AB 744 with changes in the language of how to round density calculations, it was to clarify the language, which is not at all clear, in spite of the comment that it is "unequivocal." Meea Kang admits this. About one third of cities and counties in California round down on base density. It's not just Encinitas, which put it into its Municipal Code with incorporation in 1986. The clarifying language was taken out of the bill to avoid changing the law with an existing lawsuit. Since 2009 the city has been sued three times, twice by the same developer and once by the BIA.
One developer called Encinitas "a density bonus magnet." The writer should do a comparison of entities in San Diego County in order to compare the percentage of density bonus units built versus population size. The writer and others quoted in the article might be surprised.
"As these new homes age, they will become more affordable in the future, the report said."
I laughed out loud at that one. Look at the trajectory of housing prices in San Diego. The house I bought in Mira Mesa for $60K in 1978 is now going for $600K. And being the cheapest houses in a highly desirable area generally makes them go up more than the expensive ones. No way that putting these units in small coastal towns is going to create affordable housing. I am all for affordable housing and surely we can make changes in our laws to actually build housing that are affordable.
Dear Ms. Srikrishnan:
I am astounded by your lack of understanding of the conflict between the citizens of Encinitas and the BIA and developers like Mr. Meyer. The argument made by the citizens is that the density bonus law, as written and applied, only produced nominal affordable housing, and a very large number of densely packed market-rate houses. I have written numerous letters to Legislators and Senators explaining that they were being taken for a ride by the building industry, and not achieving the noble goals they set for themselves. More recently Mr. Meyer addressed the Encinitas Planning Commission, and in a remarkable offensive way, boasted that he and his firm were involved in all stages of writing the law, and the subsequent amendments, and that any departure from his interpretation of the law would result in a lawsuit—which it has … This is hardly a demonstration of democracy in action, and your article completely missed that critical aspect of the lawsuit.
We have been warned by politicians —notably politicians very much in favor of affordable housing— that the building industry has vastly larger resources than citizens and cities, and that our arguments were quixotic at best, as citizens and cities would be easily overwhelmed by expensive litigation. Now I can tell that they have gotten to you as well and coaxed you into writing a remarkably one-sided story, which is more akin to propaganda than to journalism.
You need to distinguish between housing for poor people and high density housing. Increasing the density of housing in Encinitas, which is mandated by state law, means that some areas of Encinitas will have more expensive condominiums. Given the desirability of the area, non of the high density housing will be affordable for poor or middle class people. Many of the units referred to in your lest of low-income housing sell for over a million dollars. A two bedroom condominium, with HOA fees of $800 a month and a purchase price of over a million dollars is not low income housing. Its not even middle class housing.
@brian gulino You are grossly mistaken. according to state law, and provisions of local laws of cities that do not fight the bonus, a developer that uses the density bonus must prove that the units are affordable to residents earning less than a specified percentage of the local median income. There is even a formula specified on how that should be calculated. Inclusionary housing has been a succesful method of providing low income rental and ownership housing all over the state.
687 South Coast Highway a 900 sq ft condominium - sold in 2015 for 599K. @ $731/sq. ft. $433 HOA fee.
560 Requeza, a single family residence, sold for 2.1 million dollars.
State law mandates density increases but says nothing about the price that the housing will ultimately sell for. In a community as desirable as Encinitas, increasing the density doesn't lower the cost of the housing significantly.
I stand by my original post. Complying with this law will not benefit any poor people.
@brian gulino @bgetzel Brian - the designated affordable units must be maintained at affordability rates determined by HUD for the region. There are different density bonuses depending on how "affordable" the units contributed are designated. While the rest of the units in the higher density development may not be artificially depressed in price, the affordable ones are deed restricted as such, and escrow must confirm the status of purchasers in order for sales to close.
Maya, do you have any training as a journalist? I strongly suggest that you read this: http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules-and-tips/tips-for-writing-in-a-newspaper.html
Your article rambles, teases, hints, and in the fifteenth paragraph finally says who ONE of the plaintiffs apparently is, although earlier it says that there are two parties defending the law. No, somebody is suing, not defending. You never tell us who the second party is. You hint that it's maybe Community Housing Works, but you never really say. At least, I couldn't find it.
Please learn to write a news story. Who, what, where, when, how, why .... in the first five paragraphs. WHO is suing? Why? Then you can build back story.
Not every article needs to take the format of a "hard news" story like you described. Based on this piece's length, use of section breaks and overall tone, I would say the author was going for more of a narrative approach than a traditional hard news approach.
There is certainly more than one acceptable format in the field of journalism.
Oh, and maybe stop being so mean?
@tarfu7 Affordable housing is a subject I take seriously. The City of Encinitas is intentionally breaking the law, and this story deserves better treatment. The second paragraph refers to two parties "defending the law", although they apparently are not defending, but suing. The city will need to do the defending, and this will probably cost the city another settlement. The article -- I think, correct me if I am wrong -- never identifies the second party.
By the way, my suggestions were meant seriously, not nastily. There is good information about how to write news in that web page. This is not a story about hem lengths or Kardashians. Read the headline -- this should be a hard news story. Yes, I once was a journalist. I actually know what I'm talking about.
This article is just plain sloppy.
It is a bad law as use by by developers to get around what the community wants (the people who live, own a home and have set down roots)
It creates more expensive housing does not increase homes for the low income ( if 50K a year is ow income)
It's great for the developers high profit
It socializes all of the detriment's and privatize all the benefits
The city and the Community is left with increased traffic overcrowded schools, no money for increased fire or medical services,
And many times decrease property values
Affordable-housing set asides. Much new multifamily construction is built under programs where developers get a tax abatement in exchange for setting aside a fraction of the building for affordable housing.
That's great for people who win affordable housing lotteries and get below-market rate rents. But the set-asides also reduce the returns to developers, which reduces the amount of housing stock that gets built, which drives up market rents for everybody else.
This not a solution for healthy sustainable communities. This is a problem with income and companies not paying their employees enough money. Teachers police and fire should be able to live in the neighborhoods they serve, should make the money they deserve
@phil weber Tax abatements are only given to non-profit developers of affordable housing. If the project is a mixed-income one (i.e. has market units as well as affordable units), only the units that are affordable get the abatement. Most of the comments made by the readers are widely inaccurate and are from people who are not well informed on this issue.