The City Council unanimously agreed on Tuesday to rezone 16 properties across the city to facilitate needed housing developments and set new affordability requirements on these sites. The action rezones 16 of the 18 properties previously identified for study by the council, except the Cottage Row property on Aviara Parkway on Site 8 and the city-owned “Oak Yard” property on Site 15.

Carlsbad’s inclusionary housing policy currently requires 15% of all units in new developments to be deed-restricted as affordable. Among the rezoned sites, the council agreed to raise that rate to 40% on city-owned properties and 20% on those not owned by the city, following last month’s Planning Commission’s recommendation.

This massive effort completes several years of work and community outreach and checks off one of the largest programs mandated as part of the city’s Housing Element, which requires the city to build 3,873 new units by 2029.

City leaders warned that not completing this rezone by the April deadline would result in the city’s Housing Element being out of compliance and make the city susceptible to Builder’s Remedy projects. This state law allows developers to ignore zoning codes when constructing projects with affordable units in non-compliant cities.

“The new reality facing local cities in California regarding housing numbers is unavoidable,” said Director of Community Development Jeff Murphy. “Not everyone is going to be happy… However, to comply with state housing law and avoid triggering the Builder’s Remedy, the city must take appropriate action on the rezone program.”

The rezone will allow higher density at sites, including the Shoppes at Carlsbad and the North County Plaza, with allowed densities of 993 and 240 units, respectively. It also allows for residential development at the Poinsettia and Carlsbad Village Coaster stations, where transit activity will continue.

The council reminded the public that they were not approving any specific projects on Tuesday and only moving forward with the rezoning.

Over a dozen speakers shared their thoughts during public comment, with a mix of support for more housing and concern for how it could change the city and negatively impact traffic.

Council and community members shared concerns about rezoning the Cottage Row site, where up to 150 units were proposed. Residents noted its proximity to two other high-density projects, including the 329-unit Aviara East Apartments, approved in 2021, and the existing 120-unit Laurel Tree Apartments.

“This area will soon already be oversaturated with high-density housing, and second, Site 8 poses major ingress-egress obstacles,” said resident Chris Barnes. “We can’t take any more. Cottage Row is not the right place for this added density.”

Council members ultimately agreed.

“If you’ve walked it, if you’ve knocked it, if you’ve walked around, you know that particular area cannot handle this upzone. From the get-go, I’ve been hoping we could have figured out a different solution, and we couldn’t, so for me, at this point it’s not something I can support,” said Councilmember Priya Bhat-Patel.

Many residents also spoke in opposition to developments on site 3 (Chestnut Avenue at El Camino Real), site 5 (Avenida Encinas parking lot off Cannon Road) and 14 (Carlsbad Village Coaster Station).

On Chestnut Avenue, residents said the area is already dangerous for the many kids walking and biking to school with the existing traffic. They said that the proposed density of 28 units on the 2.5-acre site would make things worse and back up traffic on El Camino Real even more.

Jennifer Fornal, vice president of real estate group Chestnut Carlsbad, which owns the site, said they are developing a plan for a project and are committed to working with the community to address safety concerns.

Site 14, at the North County Transit District Coaster Station, drew concerns about further mass development in the downtown area, with the rezone allowing a density of 200 units.

“I can’t say any of us are really happy about Site 14,” said resident George Skinner. “I don’t think there’s anybody who wants that in downtown Carlsbad.”

City staff said the council’s approved rezone action for sites in the Coastal Zone will now go to the California Coastal Commission for final approval. That process is expected to take between 12 and 18 months.

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