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?

The Housing Element is unlikely to pass at the ballot if it is not seen by the majority to do something that directly benefits them.
The HE as its draft is written is cast in terms of new buildings rather than people, It gives detailed guidance as to how building is to be done but does not cover how attainable housing can actually result, and does not identify any benefits that voters can identify with. There are legitimate fears about crowding, traffic, and parking, and some folks oppose any change at all.
So we are intent on suggesting changes to the plan that may help it pass. And others have been working to help create awareness. We have similar objectives. Along with fixing the plan it should be possible to update its environmental document.
It seems that Encinitas is in transition, as is our world. The old downtown needs revitalization. Transportation is a-changing and so is the way that goods are purchased. And the young generation has new-fangled ways to communicate and form their communities. This would be a good year to to talk about visions for the future of our city and defining a future that we can agree on.

Paul Krugman points out that future changes may not be as radical as some have suggested. “Perhaps the future isn’t what it used to be”.

Though the discussion is reasonable it does not address the impacts of recent changes that are still propagating into the economy.

For instance, consider the effect that the Internet cloud is having on work. It’s no longer necessary to trudge to a desk or a cubicle, a knowledge worker can be anywhere through the internet cloud. Live video conferencing can easily eliminate many meetings.

The full effect of the belt tightening that many Americans experienced in “the great recession” has yet to be seen, but young people are finding it difficult to start careers and as a result either stay longer with their parents or need very modest accommodations.

Goods can be purchased through the Internet and delivered by drones or self-driving delivery vehicles. Together with more work from home this could reduce the need for daily travel.

These expected changes might have negative consequences as well. Local merchants could see less business as Internet companies like Amazon take over delivery of goods. Knowledge work could be sent overseas, possibly reducing the pay levels of educated Americans.

Does the Draft Proposed Encinitas Housing Element support trends such as this?

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

 

SmartCarTen years from now, in the year 2026, the way we get around will certainly change. Pint sized cars powered by gas or electricity may become more popular. These vehicles will fit in smaller parking spaces but may need a charging place and secure storage at home for items such as surfboards and kayaks.

Small cars are useful for getting around town but may not have the comfort needed for longer trips or the space for more than a couple. That is to say a family may also have a larger vehicle used for highway travel and to get to the ski slopes.

Does the Draft Proposed Encinitas Housing Element support this trend?

FreeParkingEncinitas has always been a “free parking” zone. We have never had parking meters and there is no charge for parking almost anywhere. Visitors can park for free to use Moonlight Beach or to shop downtown. Long-term residents are accustomed to on-street parking. Our Municipal Code provides for onsite parking for all new residences and requires businesses to provide sufficient parking for customers. Street parking in most areas is used for visitors and deliveries.

Does the Draft Proposed Encinitas Housing Element support free parking?

The draft plan appears to be a short-term response to a manufactured issue. Growth is inevitable but this plan is a reaction to a mandate, not a vision of the future. Our City Staff treats the Citizens like children that just need to be educated and kept in line. Yes, we may need a plan, but this one isn’t the right one.
For example, not all uses mix well. Pacific Station is the poster child for this. With loud and unruly bar patrons downstairs why would anyone want to buy a condo unit upstairs?
And the current plan does not provide for enough parking and storage. A tradesman will often have a car and a truck, and his wife may have another. A sportsman may have a boat on a trailer, a truck to pull it, and yet another vehicle to get around. A recreation enthusiast may need safe parking for his bicycle, but he may also want to store his kayak or surfboard. And our city needs to identify parking places for Motorhomes, Dune Buggies, Sail Planes (Yes I have a friend in Mid-Cardiff with one), and other Recreational Vehicles.
Our City Staff should have described their scheme in terms of the needs of people, not in terms of the needs of HCD and developers. It is likely that this scheme will not pass next November, We should fix it now so that the growth of our city is in response to the needs of our people.
 How does the Draft Proposed Encinitas Housing Element provide a vision of the future?
I see that ideas, good ideas, brought up by the likes of the ETA do not exactly meet the criteria of the HCD. But just ignoring them creates the perception that they are being dismissed because of “Not Invented by the Staff of City Hall”, at least in the minds of the audience in the seats and those watching it on TV.
I prefer to use the term “Low Cost Housing” rather than “Affordable Housing”. The former term talks about cost of housing while  the latter term, legally defined as  30% of Gross, is easy to misunderstood. Yes, we need a lot of Low Cost Housing so that “Market Rates” can keep prices down. Many people want modest residential lifestyle to use their resources for other purposes such as remittances, student debt payoff, travel, charity, or whatever. Some couples will have no children, or maybe just one and won’t want a big house and yard work.
Any points or questions that I am making now will be raised by other folks and have to be answered when the vote arrives, so I hope this to be a productive exercise. I am engaging the process by questioning everything.
A quotation from an unnamed correspondent:
“Higher density isn’t necessarily a gift to developers. If we have an affordable overlay … you only get the higher density if a significant portion of your units are income-restricted. That adds bureaucracy and constraints on developers, not just easy profits. People who own property have certain rights to develop those properties. It’s not necessarily a “gift” or “corrupt.”  If not for developers, we wouldn’t have any homes or shops or offices.
“The current dream of a starter home for many millenials is NOT a suburban house with a yard, but a small condo in a mixed use development where they can walk to shopping, restaurants, AND transit so they don’t have to own 2 cars and drive a lot. Young folks want to stay connected through texting and instagraming and all that, and it’s a lot easier and safer if someone else is driving! I completely agree that the model should change and more options should be available.  We’re not talking single-family homes for most of these properties. We’re talking apartments, townhouses, and I am going to try to make sure we include small cottages in clusters around some common space.
“We do need to work on design standards – the housing element is not just the map – it’s a set of policies as well…”