A Studio is a small housing unit in the size range 400 – 600 Square Feet. These are sometimes called efficiency units. A Studio is larger than a Micro Unit but depending on the size and level of decoration can still be considered in the Low-Low or Low income range. For example:

Studio

or:

            Alcove Studio

A slightly larger variant on this would be the small one bedroom unit:

      Small Pad

A 400 SF – 600 SF unit at $3 – $4 per SF could profitably rent in the range $1200 – $2400. These modest units fit within the market-rate definition of affordable housing.

Does the Draft Proposed Encinitas Housing Element provide for small units?

For healthy development children need outdoor play, recreation, and interaction. In single-family neighborhoods this is often in the back and front yards of the houses, and schools also provide organized physical education and some unstructured playtime.

Encinitas has sufficient large parks and beaches and school grounds to satisfy  the minimum legal requirements for parkland. Large-scale organized activities such as soccer and baseball and surfing competitionsare popular at these sites.

The blocks of apartments provided for by the HEU do not provide spaces for unstructured play activities, and there are no provisions for small group activities such as croquet, badminton, and kickball that were common when we were of that age. Neighborhood play helps foster the development of community. The lack of small parks and play spaces is a defect in the proposed HEU that alters our Community Character and may reduce socialization of our young.

Can the Draft Proposed Encinitas Housing Element support families?

This is a slippery discussion.

The maps in the Draft identify locations where a floating zone may applied. The maps call these large locations “sites”.

The Draft [30.36.070 I 1] formally defines a site as any lot or a group of contiguous lots all owned or controlled by an applicant. The Draft [30.36.100 A] also describes activation of a site at the discretion of the property owner. The Draft requires a minimum site area of 25,000 square feet for all sites in floating zones.

The number 25,000 is interesting because a typical city block is about 200,000 square feet, and such a block might contain 20 lots.

This seems to indicate that a builder could gain control of 3 or 4 contiguous lots in a commercial or residential block (within a floating zone) and activate and build just that part of the zone to a higher density. Other properties on the block would remain at their old zoning, call these holdouts.

Is this the intent the Draft Proposed Encinitas Housing Element? Is this what our citizens want??

From the Proposed Draft Floating Zones of the Proposed Draft Encinitas Housing Element:

[30.36.010 B]

Wherever a conflict exists between this Chapter 30.36 and the Encinitas Municipal Code or any Specific Plan, the intent, provisions and requirements of this Chapter controls.

[30.36.100 A]

3. Upon approval of the discretionary permit, the
Floating Zone is activated for the site and the
prior zoning is permanently extinguished.
4. This process is considered a ministerial text
amendment to the Zoning Map of the City.

[30.36.100 K]

2. If amendments to any part of its planning
policy documents, including but not limited to
the General Plan, specific plans, Encinitas Municipal
Code or its Local Coastal Program, are
required to secure or maintain certification
that may otherwise invoke the requirements
of Chapter 30.00, the City Council is authorized
to make any and all necessary amendments
with a four-fifths super majority vote or any
other lesser super majority vote should less
than five Council Members be eligible to vote
while maintaining a quorum.

 

The California Environmental Quality Act requires an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). There is a short description and a long description. The requirements for the EIR for the Draft Proposed Encinitas Housing Element can be found here.

An EIR covers 18 factors:

Aesthetics
Agricultural resources
Air quality
Biological resources
Cultural Resources
Geology and Soils
Greenhouse gases
Hazards and Hazardous Materials
Hydrology and Water Quality
Land Use and Planning
Mineral Resources
Noise
Population and Housing
Public services
Recreation
Transportation and traffic
Utilities and Service Systems
Mandatory Findings of Significance

An EIR of necessity will be a product of human judgment, and the lack of clear thresholds can lead to litigation. Problems can also occur on the grounds that EIRs are too brief or overlooked possible impacts, as there are no explicit guidelines.

Regardless of the problems, an EIR is required for civic projects such as the Encinitas Housing Element.

 

 

Housing units can be smaller to make them truly affordable. A rough rule is that Encinitas rental cost in 2016 is $3-$5 per square foot. If $1000 – $1500/month is available then a small apartment is all that can be afforded.

The typical “illegal” accessory unit in Encinitas fits exactly into this category and as land and construction costs have increased these have become more common.

MicroUnit

Such housing is appropriate for young singles or as starter housing for couples saving to buy a bigger home. It may also suit older singles and couples who are downsizing to deal with fixed income.

Small size can make for low cost, with Murphy beds and basic kitchens and all. It helps if such homes are within easy walking distance of bus or train stops and shopping and eating places.

First you need parcels that are zoned for that density. The R-30 of the Draft Proposed Encinitas Housing Element is a start, but if there is a Density Bonus the actual construction could end up as R-45 occupying the same number of square feet.

HCD takes R-30 density as a proxy for affordability while  a unit may be “affordable” only if it is smaller. The Draft “Floating Zones” document gives “900 SF max avg.” for apartments up to “1,800 SF max avg.” for duplexes. These might rent for $3 per SF, with 1 or 2 parking spaces per unit proposed in the Draft, and an option to charge extra for parking.

If we are serious about low-cost housing some Micro Units 300-500 SF average must be included. These might rent for around $1200 per month. Keep the cost down. Use laminate countertops and white kitchen appliances. Omit the luxury features. Even a Micro Unit might house a couple, or else one person with a roommate, and in California everybody has a car, so I think at least 1 included parking space per unit is appropriate, with additional free guest parking on site. This looks like what Density Bonus was meant to be.

Does the Draft Proposed Encinitas Housing Element support this trend?

Here are some interesting articles on the subject:

The Urban Land Institute report on Micro Units

Micro Apartments in New York and Other Cities

Pod House Module with Roof Deck, Skylight and Solar Potential

7x7x7 Design in Tokyo

Tiny Home Development in SLO

 

Planning Commission – Design Review Checklist- Meeting of 7 January 2016 – Item 8A – My comments are below.

——

Good Evening all. Tonight I am going to request that the Commission get staff to make some small changes in their Design Review Checklist. I am asking that the Citizens Participation Plan take a prominent place in the negotiation between the Applicant and the City. The CPP has to be an integral part of the process, not just a tacked-on nuisance.

I will also suggest ways that the bulk and height of new buildings be communicated to the public.

The Citizens Participation Plan described by Chapter 23.06 of our Municipal Code will be needed for every project in the Floating Zones. This code requires that this take place during the application stages of a project, well before the project gets to the Planning Commission. This program provides an early and less formal dialog between Citizens and Applicants and helps head off problems in later stages. It provides a way for the staff and the applicant to receive and embrace community input, as described by the City’s “Permit and Services Guide”.

I have attended some of the CPP sessions and find that, for those small projects, they are an excellent way for Citizens and Applicants to discuss issues and resolve concerns. This is a tested procedure that works. I’m thinking about community impacts such as view, traffic, and noise, as well as Community Character, whatever that is.

And I’d like to remind you of two definitions.

A “Community” is a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. That is to say, Community is about people, not buildings.

“Community Character” is the sum of all the attributes and assets that make a community unique, and that establish a sense of place for its residents. Can you get your arms around this definition, or should I repeat it?

I’m looking for the best outcome in matching Community Character with the abstract Design Guidelines, and I think the Citizen Participation Program is a non-confrontational vehicle that helps, and is at a stage where it is easiest to change both the paper design and public perception.

The CPP is the way that a Community communicates its character to an Applicant. Community Character is not just about the style of buildings.

I’d also like to mention view lines. Many parts of Encinitas have excellent views of the Pacific Ocean, the Lagoons and Canyons, and other natural features. As building height increases from 30 feet to 45 feet, some of these views are at risk. The idea of going from 30 feet to 45 feet makes this a certainty. And if I had a lovely ocean view and a Floating Zone  tried to take it away you can bet that the City would hear from my lawyer!

Cities to the south of us have view ordinances and regularly use Story Poles.

In the 20th Century builders objected to Physical Story Poles as taking cost, time, and nuisance. They also objected to the cost of redrawing plans. This century everything is done on computers. That includes the maps, plans, and 3D computer visualizations. Nowadays blueprints are done on a computer printer, not with a drafting table and some special paper and chemicals. There is software out there that can give us Virtual Story Poles and let us examine a design from numerous viewpoints.

For example, Google Earth and products such as “Chief Architect Software” exist because they do a better job and make it easier to visualize and modify.

In summary, a lot of negative concerns are due to the unknown. Communication and compromise are key. This has to be about people, not buildings.

I’d like the Commission to direct City Staff to integrate the CPP into the Negotiation Process. I’d also like the Commission and Staff to pay attention both to existing scenic views as well as the views from the proposed buildings. I would also like you to get the City Council to consider a view ordinance.

This is a discussion of the wisdom or folly of grading home sites to be higher than the original grade level. This could be done to improve drainage but is often done to obtain views or overtop neighboring sites. Putting a house on an artificial hill can increase the value of a property but would never decrease it. It can also significantly reduce the value of neighboring properties by eliminating views.

The wording of the Encinitas Right To Vote Amendment (Proposition A) is clear on this:

[30.00.060 6.1]  “Maximum Height. On and after the date this initiative measure becomes effective no building or structure shall exceed a maximum height of two stories or 30 feet. Height shall be measured from the lower of the natural or finished grade adjacent to the structure, to the highest portion of the roof immediately above.”

The wording of the Draft Proposed Encinitas Housing Element seeks to eliminate this right:

[30.36.010 B]  “Conflicting Provisions Wherever a conflict exists between this Chapter 30.36 and the Encinitas Municipal Code or any Specific Plan, the intent, provisions and requirements of this Chapter controls.”

Is this what our citizens are being asked to allow?