The Planning Commission will vote on Tuesday, April 9, on a Density Transfer Program. The meeting begins 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.
This is a controversial program that has some residents worried it might unalterably change the atmosphere of the downtown.
To address the housing shortage, affordable and otherwise, the City of Escondido is seeking ways to increase the supply of housing, provide more housing choices and theoretically put downward pressure on prices.
One way the City can facilitate new housing development and encourage more apartments and condominiums is to ensure the financial success of the development by increasing its density.
The Density Transfer Program in the downtown area would allow the transfer of residential density from underutilized properties to provide more incentives to developing properties to build more housing in efficient locations where infrastructure and public services already exist.
The draft program is currently scheduled to be considered by the city’s decision- makers, beginning with the Planning Commission, but followed by the city council. But local residents and their input is part of the decision-making process so the city’s planning department is giving residents the opportunity to review important information, learn about the program, and share their comments.
Carol Rea, who has attended several city informational presentations, is not convinced that density transfer is a good idea. Rea was one of four who spoke at the last Planning Commission Meeting, which prompted the commission to delay the vote to allow for more public comment.
Rea told The Times-Advocate: “Ready for our Historic Downtown to have a totally different look?” The proposed amendment, she said, “will allow developers to build tall apartment buildings, each with dozens and dozens of units, throughout the downtown area. The ‘Density Transfer Program’ means that the previous rules that kept buildings in our historic core to no more than four stories in height and 75 units per acre will no longer guide development . . . If the amendment passes, it will immediately open the door for “Aspire,” a 6-story apartment building with 106 units to be built in the lot behind Filippi’s, one the city has deemed ‘underutilized,’ even though it’s one of Downtown’s most popular lots.”
Rea, who is chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, says that part of the reason the PC tabled the project to obtain more public opinion “was that the staff report stated that the Old Escondido Neighborhood Group supported the concept, even though most of the residents were very vocal and very opposed at a meeting on February 20.” Her Historic Preservation Commission was also mentioned as a group that was contacted for input, “but our input was not actually requested and there was nothing in the staff report to reflect that,” she said.
The city’s planning staff is touting several highlights of the proposed program:
• It would help incentivize future development – and keep it in the downtown area to support nearby retailers, services, entertainment, and attract other new businesses.
• The overall amount of new development within the downtown would remain the same. However, if a new project leaves some density on the table and doesn’t build-out their site fully, the program creates a flexible way to still achieve the ultimate build-out of the downtown and create a future sustainable center of activity.
• The program helps accommodate the city’s share of future regional housing needs with greater mix of housing types and choices, in smart growth locations rather than sprawl, which benefits everyone in the community.
Several public and stakeholder meetings have already been held over the past couple of months to help educate and solicit input from the public on the proposed program. But the city says it wants to “reach out to those folks who have historically been unable to make meetings due to other conflicts and responsibilities, as well as garner interest from those who previously participated.”
Readers are invited to attend the events listed below:
You have four (4) ways to learn more and provide input over the next couple of weeks.
1. Open house presentation:
Monday, April 8 in the Mitchell Room, Escondido City Hall 201 North Broadway, from 5 –6 p.m.
2. City Planning Commission meeting:
Tuesday, April 9, in the Council Chambers, Escondido City Hall, at 7 p.m.
3. Mobile community conversations:
Invite planning department staff to come to you. The department says it understands that not everyone is able to attend community meetings, so join the conversation at a time and place that works for you.
Learn about the program on the project website and tell city staffers what you think.
Or find out more information by visiting the project website: www.escondido.org/dsp-transfer-development-rights-program.aspx or contacting Mike Strong, Assistant Planning Director at 760-839-4556 or firstname.lastname@example.org