Encinitas Tries Again With Revised Plan on Housing for Poor : Migrants: City says revision meets needs of farm workers, but critics say efforts to house the poor are stymied.
In response to warnings issued in September that it was not providing adequate housing opportunities for such groups as homeless residents and migrant farm workers, the city of Encinitas on Tuesday sent a revised draft of its general plan for review by state housing officials in Sacramento.
Craig Jones, senior planner for the city of Encinitas, said the 30-page housing portion of the city’s general plan has been expanded to more than 80 pages and includes details on dozens of housing programs available to the city’s homeless population--including at least three such programs that directly address the needs of migrant laborers.
The revised draft, which will not be made public until Friday, also provides details to suggest that affordable, multifamily housing units will make up 25% of the city’s overall development potential over the next five years, Jones said.
“It is a better document? That’s a judgment call,” he said. “It’s a more complete, more detailed document. But it doesn’t change the city’s policy. It provides details.
“Our position has been all along that our present housing element met the requirements of state law. There’s no changes in our philosophy. Our position is that we’re not anti-housing and we’ve never been anti-housing.”
In September, in a letter to Encinitas City Manager Warren Shafer, the state Department of Housing and Community Development detailed flaws in the housing section of the city’s general plan. The housing element, in part, outlines the city’s state-mandated plans over a five-year period to provide low-income housing for the poor and homeless.
Nancy Javor, chief of Housing Policy Development, said her agency had not yet received the latest version of the Encinitas housing plan. “Once we receive the draft element, we have 45 days to review it and make a decision on whether it complies with state law.”
The state’s involvement in September followed on the heels of two lawsuits filed in Vista Superior Court by an advocacy group representing migrant farm workers in San Diego County.
The suits, brought by the nonprofit California Rural Legal Assistance, claim that Encinitas has purposely stymied plans to build affordable housing for the poor within its limits. One could go to trial as early as March.
“The first suit deals with shortcomings of the adopted general plan, asking the question, ‘Does it meet state law?’ ” said Claudia Smith of the legal assistance group’s regional council.
“The second suit addresses the city’s growth-management plan that is inconsistent with the provisions of the general plan, in other words, are they even implementing the plan?”
The issue highlights the shortage of immigrant labor housing in San Diego’s North County, where crowded camps of laborers”’ shanties dot the fertile landscape, often in view of newly built luxury homes and condominiums.
One such camp, known as Los Diablos, or The Devils, was burned out in November. But residents have rebuilt because they say they have nowhere else to go.
Local lawmakers and growers have said they have limited funds with which to underwrite low-income housing for migrants.
Encinitas, however, has taken a harder line on the issue. City officials have said they have little legal responsibility to provide shelter for the migrants, many of whom have entered the country illegally, they reason.
Although she had not yet seen the city’s revised housing element, Smith said she was skeptical of its contents.
“I’m not prepared to take at face value any representation by the city as to the contents of the general plan or any changes supposedly in the works,” she said. “They have consistently misrepresented its contents and attributed to it qualities it simply does not possess.
“We’re going to have to take a long, hard look at what they’re proposing. But I’m skeptical that it will be anything more than cosmetic changes. The city just hasn’t inspired confidence that it’s come to grips with the serious task of removing all sorts of government restraints in the development of affordable housing.”
For example, the city last year reneged on its commitment to reserve 74 building permits a year for low-income housing as outlined in the general plan. “The city opened up the permits to anyone, removing the restrictions for low-income housing,” Smith said.
Although city officials have set aside 119 additional permits for low-income housing in 1990, they had not indicated how they are going to make up for the permits lost the previous year.
“The math just ain’t there,” Smith said. “We’ve failed to see the proof in the pudding.”
Jones said one in four housing permits issued by the city in 1990 will go to multifamily housing that is more affordable for the poor. In addition, the city’s new plan estimates that at least 70 new housing units will be built for migrant workers on employers’ properties.
“That’s not an insignificant number of housing units,” he said. “We’re not shutting off the development potential of multifamily dwellings in Encinitas.”
He said that a list of housing programs “is the single most expanded portion” of the revised housing plan, as well as provisions for the building of transitional and emergency shelters not included in the previous draft.
The new draft even singles out a new need category referred to as “migrant day laborers,” which Jones said is an overlapping of both migrant workers and homeless residents.
Jones said the draft of the housing element would be put up for public discussion and vote sometime in February.