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CA Attorney General says Encinitas housing project should have been approved

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Posted at 5:30 PM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 02:16:48-04

ENCINITAS (CNS) — 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.

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.

"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."

ABC 10News spoke with Mayor Blakespear regarding the letter from the Attorney General’s letter.

"We are working to resolve the matter that he sent the letter about. I mean the letter is pointing out that it needs to get resolved. And as I said we're grateful for him pointing that out,” Blakespear said in an interview with ABC 10News.

The Mayor and the City of Encinitas told ABC 10News that they could comment on specifics of resolving the issue due to it being in on-going litigation.

The City said in a statement, “The City cannot comment on pending litigation but Encinitas takes its housing obligations seriously and remains committed to doing its part to address the state’s housing crisis. Less than one year after getting state approval for the city’s housing plan, the city has approved more than half of the City’s total assigned goal for the next eight years. The city is aware of state housing laws and is working diligently to stay in compliance with them. The city appreciates the Attorney General’s reminder about the applicable laws and if the Encinitas Blvd. Apartments application is resubmitted, the City Council will consider the application in a timely manner. “

Mayor Blakespear also echoed a similar statement in an interview with ABC 10News.

"If the applicant resubmits the application for the Encinitas Boulevard Apartments, then we'll consider that in a timely way and make that decision in open session,” Blakespear said.

"I do think that there are cities that don't want to and try to do an end-run-around of housing laws so that they can maintain a city that doesn't provide housing for all income levels. And we are not that city."