GENERAL COMMENTS ON ZONING IN ENCINITAS HOUSING ELEMENT
This is a package of suggestions. The Housing Element includes hundreds of little decisions. There are too many items to cover in 3 minutes so we hope you will study the suggestions and incorporate those considered most desirable so as to improve the Proposed Housing Element for the benefit of its residents and the surrounding community.
The Planning Commission does have the responsibility and power to shape this into something that the citizens will want rather than something they feel compelled to accept. I have seen you devote hours of deliberation to details of a single project, I hope you will give the housing element the attention it deserves.
I want you to think in terms of what is right for the Encinitas of 10 or 20 years in the future. The plan we have tries to constrain the future into a repeat of the past. Please don’t try to quantify everything. Leave room for tomorrow. Allow for internet delivery of goods and new delivery methods such as drones or self-driving delivery vehicles. Allow for new ways for people to get around such as self-driving cars. Allow for work from home — knowledge work and very small businesses. Also realize that we are a destination, and allow some housing units for seasonal residences.
These comments are general in nature and should serve to suggest improvements in the Proposed Housing Element. Some of the comments apply to the Floating Zones document and others may better be handled as suggestions in the Design Guidelines.
PROPOPSED HOUSING PROTOTYPE: STUDIO APARTMENTS AND MICRO UNITS
A studio apartment, also known as a studio flat or efficiency apartment is a small apartment suitable for 1 or 2 persons.
This type of apartment typically consists of one large room which serves as the living, dining, and bedroom. Kitchen facilities may either be located in the central room, or in a small separate room, and the bathroom is usually in its own smaller room. A variation is the “L-shaped” or “alcove” studio, in which the central room branches off into a small alcove that can be used for sleeping or dining.
Studio, efficiency, and bachelor style apartments all tend to be the smallest apartments with the lowest rents in a given area, usually ranging around 300 to 600 square feet in the United States, but considerably smaller in countries such as Japan, South Korea, and several European capitals.
An average size might be 450 square feet, with the larger units called Studio Apartments and the smaller ones called Micro Units. It is suggested that Studio Apartments and Micro Units be added to the housing prototypes, with up to 10% of these in any development but with more when Density Bonus is invoked.
We wish to encourage modest and ecologically-friendly lifestyle but this is something that cannot be legislated in this country.
In terms of affordability, the Studio Apartments and Micro Units are the only ones that could provide for low income and low-low income residents without any subsidies.
FACILITIES FOR CHILDREN
Families include children and younger children need outdoor play space located close to the residence. Some developments may use nearby parks but for developments not within 1000 feet of a public park a mini park should be provided, with play space and tables. This type of need could be satisfied in a mixed use area by a Day Care, Nursery, Child Care Center, and/or Youth Center use.
BUSINESSES IN MIXED USE LOCATIONS: NOT ALL USES MIX WELL
In residential areas concern must be made for quiet enjoyment by the tenants. Late night businesses such as bars, theaters, restaurants, and dance halls should be prohibited. Hours of delicatessens, fast food establishments, coffee shops, markets, and liquor stores should be limited. Suggested hours are 7 AM – 9 PM. Other storefront retail might be encouraged to operate just between 9 AM and 6 PM.
Vehicle-serving businesses such as rental agencies and car dealers must provide onsite storage for working inventory with off-site facilities for preparation and surplus inventory.
Car and bike rental businesses may serve either residents or visitors. To the extent that they serve residents the parking requirements of residents might be reduced at the discretion of the Planning Commission.
Allow some upstairs spaces to be used as offices for clean and quiet businesses such as lawyers, dentists, chiropractors, artists, architects, and small knowledge businesses – this not to reduce the number of residential units but rather to encourage more Mini Suites and Studio Apartments in the R-30 mixed zones.
TRAFFIC, STORAGE, AND PARKING
Increased traffic on nearby residential streets should be avoided. New vehicle traffic must be routed to arterial streets rather than neighborhood streets, even if this requires closing intersections or imposing one-way streets.
Traffic impact from the Proposed Housing Element was covered in the Environmental Impact Report and necessary changes are to be part of the Circulation Element, which should be on the agenda in the next year or so.
As well as providing secure storage for bicycles the residents also need secure storage for other recreational equipment such as motorcycles, surfboards, kayaks and skis.
PARKING IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF ISSUE
Thinking to the future we can envision options such as self-driving cars, perhaps operating on demand as an extension of today’s Uber. These services could, within the next 10 years, change the amount of required parking. We can also imagine that many of our vehicles will be half-sized, providing local transportation and requiring smaller parking spaces. However it is possible that these changes will not happen this soon.
Respect for existing neighborhoods must be primary. We must consider parking in these areas to be already taken by existing residents, businesses, visitors, and customers. Parking overflow into neighborhoods must be avoided.
In mixed use areas the businesses need enough parking for employees, delivery vehicles, and customers who drive there. In many cases a parking study may be needed and the project should be subject to Planning Commission approval. On-street parking may not be enough. Parking overflow from residences onto streets and into customer parking areas is a concern that cannot be dismissed lightly.
Within mixed use areas, business needs are already covered by the Encinitas Municipal Code, Chapter 30.54 and the Encinitas “Off-Street Parking Design Manual”, Resolution PC2000-10, and the existing Use and Development Regulations such as the Downtown Encinitas Specific Plan and the North 101 Corridor Specific Plan.
With respect to residential uses, Chapter 30.54 has in the past been applied, however the State has imposed reduced requirements in the Density Bonus Laws and in AB 744 (Chau), signed on October 9, 2015.
Encinitas should not give up without a fight. Court decisions related to AB 744 are yet to determine the total impact of this legislation, and there is justification for increased parking.
Parking is a true cost. Whether funded by a developer or new residents or out of the City budget. It is unlikely that citizens will allow the burden of overflow parking from new developments to be borne by established neighborhoods.
Large cities such as downtown San Diego and San Francisco have a chronic shortage of parking and as a result use private paid parking lots and parking meters to provide and fund parking. Huge cities such as New York provide extensive public transportation systems and many residents choose to not own automobiles or even get driver’s licenses.
Encinitas has historically been a “free parking” area and a visitor serving city. Neighboring cities such as Solana Beach and Carlsbad are also “free parking” areas and have free on-street parking and free parking lots. Shopping malls and markets also do not charge for parking, this helps them attract and retain customers.
Paid parking in downtown Encinitas would be an experiment in social engineering, an effort to discourage car ownership and encourage the use of public transit. We don’t think this city is ready yet for that and there is no public transit to many popular destinations.
A suggested parking guideline would be to provide at least one dedicated space per residential unit, with provisions for EV charging. Additional parking should have a minimum of one space per adult resident, perhaps allowing tandem parking for the same unit. There must also be nearby parking for occupational vehicles, such as pickup trucks and identified storage places within the City for trailers and motorhomes. There is need for additional parking for visitors and guests, either on-street or in spaces marked for guest parking. Residential parking must not overflow into business spaces and surrounding neighborhoods. Parking must of course satisfy ADA requirements and there must be areas for loading and delivery to residents and businesses.
Project applications that request reduced parking below existing requirements of Chapter 30.54 should be required to disclose parking reduction deficit requested by the developer. In many cases the City will be asked to impose parking districts for prior residents, provide municipal parking lots or structures, or allow private paid parking lots. The size of the parking deficit should be indicated in the application so that the City can plan for municipal parking lots and structures. These might be funded by assessing a parking deficit fee.
BENEFIT THE COMMUNITY
A number of changes in the plan are suggested for the benefit of the surrounding community and to support Community Character.
Story poles or Virtual Story Poles at both site activation and building application, coupled with the Community Participation Program will allow for increased community involvement in the process and will give the citizens a chance to offer improvements and buy into each plan.
All multifamily proposals in a Floating Zone should go through the Planning Commission whether or not they are in a Coastal Development Plan area. Any increases in Pad Height should be passed upon by the Planning Commission to avoid creation of artificial hills.
In as much as not all uses mix well the hours of businesses in Mixed Use Zones should be limited at the Planning Commission level, and alcohol-serving establishments in Mixed Use Zones should be either forbidden or strictly regulated for noise and disorder.
DETAILED COMMENTS ON FLOATING ZONES DOCUMENT
These comments are separable; some may be accepted and others may be rejected. We urge that they all be accepted and incorporated into the final Floating Zones documents.
[30.36.010 A 2 page 1] Introductory Provisions
The term “attainable housing” is neither defined nor quantified. Does this mean “very low income”, “low income”, or something else?
[30.36.020 pages 3-6] Housing Prototypes
Add a prototype for “Studio and Micro Units”
Size: 300-600 SF, with 450 SF max avg.
To be allowed in any prototype that allows Mixed Use, Apartments, or Flats
Add a description of “Studio and Micro Units”. Indicate that it is desired that such units be mixed with larger units in the same building. Indicate that access nay be from a common entrance and corridor or by a common stairway or elevator. The purpose of this prototype is to provide units that are small and hence lower in cost, to create “affordable housing”.
[30.36.030 page 7] Neighborhood Center
Update prototypes to allow “Studio and Micro Units”
[30.36.040 page 15] Village Center
Update prototypes to allow “Studio and Micro Units”
[30.36.050 page 23] Main Street Corridor
Update prototypes to allow “Studio and Micro Units”
[30.36.060 A page 30] Neighborhood Transitions – Applicability
We would like to see a landscaped buffer separating any single home zone from a multi-family zone across a street, not just “immediately abuts”.
[30.36.060 D 2 b page 30] Neighborhood Transitions – Massing
Update to allow “Studio and Micro Units” as a permitted activity within Transition Area 3
[30.36.070 D 1 c pages 33-34] Building Height – Average Grade
We question whether this allows the use of fill to raise the building pad higher than the pre-development grade and higher than neighboring sites. The issue of site grading is a strong community concern and the discretion of the Planning Commission Hearing should be required on a case-by-case basis.
[30.36.070 I 1 page 36] Site – Defined
The word “site” is used with two meanings in the draft proposed HEU. The first is one of the 33 “sites” proposed for a floating zone. The second is that the Draft HEU document [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 HEU [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 potential 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.
This can create a situation in which part of a block is redeveloped while the remainder is not. The mixed rezoning that could result from this is an important impact. Issues such as transition are not covered. This loophole should be discussed and resolved in the document.
[30.36.080 page 42] Use Provisions – Vehicle Sales and Rental
Rental of Automobiles, Bicycles, and Surfboards and other recreational equipment should be permitted in Shopfront and Mixed Use zones with no more than a Minor Use Permit. Storage, servicing and turnaround of rental automobiles should be off-site unless a Major Use Permit is obtained. One or two instances of this use should be encouraged within 1000 feet of a transit station.
[30.36.090 B through E pages 51-54] Parking (Automobile)
It appears that the “Draft Proposed Floating Zones” document does not meet the requirements of AB 744. It also is a major departure from the previously agreed-upon Specific Plans for Downtown Encinitas and the North 101 Corridor.
Accordingly, we suggest that the entire section be reworked. It is suggested that the rework use the specifications of Chapter 30.54 to provide the basic parking requirement and the reduction from this be termed a “parking reduction deficit” that may then become a starting point in establishing municipal parking areas. If time and resources do not permit, then replace the section with a reference to Chapter 30.54 of the municipal code and revisit this issue when the Circulation Element is revised.
[30.36.090 F pages 54-55] Parking (Bicycle)
Long-term Secure Bicycle Parking space must also be supplied for other recreational uses such as Motorcycles, Surfboards, Kayaks, and skis.
COMMENTS ON DESIGN GUIDELINES DOCUMENT
[Chapter 2 page 13] Housing Plan Common Themes
Safe playspace facilities for children should be encouraged.
[Chapter 4 SD.5 1 g page 43] Site Design Guidelines – Parking Design
Long-term bike parking must be secure to protect from theft. There must also be secure storage for other recreational equipment such as surfboards and kayaks.
[Chapter 4 SD.10 2 b page 47] Site Design Guidelines – Open Space
Outdoor spaces must be designed to consider the safety of children and pets. Landscapes must not contain toxic material.
Attachment 1: Who Knows What the Future Holds
Attachment 2: Small Living Units
Attachment 3: Studio Units
Attachment 4: Children Need Outdoor Playspace
Attachment 5: Where Is The Vision?
Attachment 6: What Will Cars Be Like In 2026?
Attachment 7: Where To Park?
Attachment 8: How Many Parking Spaces?
Reference 1: Text of Assembly Bill No. 744
Reference 2: Book – The High Cost of Free Parking