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North County Report: Encinitas Drops Best Hope of Building Affordable Housing

Republicans blaming state for federal deportations, an Oceanside slow-growth initiative moves forward and more in our weekly roundup of North County news.

Housing in California

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The Encinitas City Council listened to residents this week and removed a city-owned parcel from the list of potential sites that could allow for additional housing to be built.

In doing so, the Council has underscored the difficulty of adopting a plan to allow more people to live there.

The parcel covers about 7.6 acres on Quail Gardens Drive and could have seen as many as 190 low- and very low-income units, out of the 1,170 units Encinitas must account for in its housing element by 2021.

Because the Quail Gardens property is owned by the city, it was seen as a kind of affordable housing cash-cow. The Council could have made sure the property was fully developed with deed-restricted affordable units, making up over 15 percent of what the city needs to plan for.

That would have minimized the total number of sites that needed to be up-zoned and it would have satisfied one of the main objections to the city’s previous housing element that voters defeated in 2016, known as Measure T. At the time, opponents argued that the initiative did not guarantee affordable units.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear believed solving that criticism was the key to getting voter approval for a housing element.

“What’s going to make a difference is if we do build affordable housing in this city,” Blakespear said.

Faced with the possibility of building 190 deed-restricted units, residents said it would create traffic and parking issues and should be removed from consideration. A majority of the Council obliged.

The Quail Gardens property was one of the city’s best opportunities to actually build affordable housing, if that’s what the city and residents want to do.

As Blakespear noted, the city has been “kicking the can” on housing for years because few people will take a stand on actually building affordable housing.

SANDAG is three years away from releasing its next minimum housing requirements. In that time, 1,170 housing units could become 3,000 units.

Republicans Say SB 54 Is to Blame for Deportations

“We’ve learned that law enforcement needs to work together to keep us safe. SB 54 and Sanctuary Cities drives … a wedge between local law enforcement and federal law enforcement,” said Jim Desmond, San Marcos Mayor and candidate for District 5 county supervisor.

“The very people Sacramento is trying to protect, they’re actually hurting by allowing criminals – felons – back into their neighborhoods,” Desmond added.

Desmond’s comments came at a recent press conference organized by Carl Demaio. Diane Harkey, a leading Republican candidate for the 49th Congressional District, and Escondido Mayor Sam Abed made similar claims at the same event. The four took aim at SB 54, the state law that puts some limits on interactions between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

They argued that so-called ”sanctuary” policies make communities more dangerous and hurt undocumented immigrants by forcing federal agents to go out and find undocumented criminals rather than grabbing them at jails.

Harkey and Abed cited a few instances in which agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement picked up non-criminal undocumented immigrants at businesses and transit centers.

VOSD’s Scott Lewis debunked those claims this week. There is only one agency removing immigrants from communities, Lewis wrote, “and it’s not the state of California.” Lewis notes that ICE was making arrests of non-criminal immigrants before SB 54 went into effect, and that other states that don’t have sanctuary policies similarly see high numbers of non-criminal immigrants arrested.

An Oceanside Slow-Growth Initiative Moves Forward

Backers of an initiative to prevent development on parks and farms in Oceanside have collected enough signatures for the plan to appear on the November ballot, the Union-Tribune reports.

The initiative, known as Save Open-space and Agricultural Resources, or SOAR, would require voter approval for any zoning changes on land designated for parks, open space or agriculture — a kind of pared-down version of Encinitas’ Prop. A.

Supporters say it protects residents from unplanned development. Opponents say it’ll ruin farmers by devaluing their land and handing authority over that land to voters.

The City Council will consider adopting the initiative as an ordinance, or sending it to voters, though a few members have already publicly opposed SOAR.

Also in the News

Missed the candidate debates in the 49th District? KOCT hosted a roundtable with the candidates, and KPBS Midday is interviewing the candidates, starting with Democrats Sara Jacobs and Mike Levin.

Protesters outside Rep. Darrell Issa’s office have called it a day. (The Coast News)

A plan to restore the Buena Vista Lagoon has been delayed in response to a flood of comments. (Union-Tribune)

Opponents of a gun show on the Del Mar Fairgrounds pleaded with the board of directors to reconsider. This week, the board agreed to review its policies. (Union-Tribune)

Amid multiple investigations, the nonprofit horse ranch in Valley Center may be closing. (inewsource)

ICE agents conducted an immigration sweep across the county, including Vista, Escondido, Encinitas and Oceanside. (Union-Tribune)

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