Carlsbad Objective Design Standards

Hat tip to ‘just some guy’ for sending this in!

To transition away from subjective housing regulations in compliance with state law, the City Council introduced new objective development design standards during its Aug. 29 meeting.

In 2021, the city of Carlsbad used $185,000 in state grant funding to pay RRM Design Group to create the Objective Design Standards Manual for multifamily and mixed-use developments citywide, replacing the city’s existing subjective design guidelines. Also, city also received $160,000 in state grant funding to pay AVRP Studios to develop the Village and Barrio objective design standards.

The manual establishes objective standards citywide and an appendix addressing the Village and Barrio standards. These standards include site design, such as pedestrian and vehicle access, open space and landscaping; building design, including window treatment, roof structures, and exterior materials; mixed-use design, including window and door locations, awnings, and services areas, and utilitarian design, such as trash enclosures, outdoor light fixtures and bicycle parking.

“The (manual) will help strengthen local design regulations since the city currently cannot enforce subjective design guidelines with projects,” said Shelley Glennon, the city’s associate planner. “It will ensure project compatibility with existing community character. It will encourage residential construction for both affordable and market-rate units by creating standards that are appropriate in meeting the city’s affordable housing needs.”

For example, in the Village and Barrio, an appointed review committee approved seven architectural styles: Spanish revival, craftsman, American mercantile, Victorian, Colonial revival/Cape Cod, traditional modern and California contemporary (However, not all seven styles are allowed in each of the subdistricts regulated by the Village and Barrio Master Plan).

SB 330 limits municipal agencies’ ability to impose regulations that delay or impede eligible housing projects. While these projects don’t receive ministerial approval under this law, the city’s Planning Commission and City Council could not deny projects that adhere to objective design standards unless they pose a clear threat to health and safety.

According to City Planner Eric Lardy, the city currently has four projects under SB 330, including the 4K Apartments project, Hope Apartments (Carl’s Jr. in the Village), Carlsbad Village Drive Mixed Use (Smart and Final) and the FPC Residential project (Ponto).

Councilwoman Teresa Acosta asked how the city would enforce projects that alter their designs after approval, citing concerns from residents who told her projects don’t always align with pre-construction renderings.

“If it’s not consistent, we ask them to change it,” Lardy said. “One process has 10 findings that need to be made and compared to what has been applied. We think these objective design standards will help … so it will be clear.”

If the city does not make these certain changes, the California Department of Housing and Community Development could decertify the city’s housing element and limit the city’s ability to regulate new housing built in Carlsbad.

Del Mar Oceanfront Apartments

This 6.9-acre oceanfront site has been called one of the most exclusive and unique properties in the United States, and has been listed for sale since 2007 – the current price is $49,000,000. An incredible turn of events is underway – the planned high-end resort was defeated by the voters, so now they want to put apartments there and are using the state’s mandate for lower-income housing as their leverage. From the UT:

A developer is proposing a 259-unit apartment complex on an ocean bluff in Del Mar that was previously the site of a contentious battle over a resort.

Owner Carol Lazier has submitted paperwork and applications to Del Mar for what is being called Seaside Ridge, which would be the biggest apartment complex in the city. Plans call for 85 subsidized apartments, some for individuals making as little as $30,000 a year, on the nearly 7-acre site near Dog Beach.

Lazier and her partners are betting on new state laws that encourage residential building — especially for rent-restricted apartments — to get the plan approved.

“Our plan would help the City of Del Mar comply with the law by building 259 apartment units,” said project spokesman Darren Pudgil. “Seaside Ridge will provide 78 percent of the city’s need for 54 lower-income units (required by the state) and well over 100 percent of the city’s moderate-income need. This will provide equitable coastal access for a range of income groups.”

Seaside Ridge would have nine buildings, some up to four stories, and a two-story parking podium/garage. Taller buildings are clustered in the center and in the east portions of the site. The development would have 305 parking spots and 25 electric car charging stations. The mix of apartments would include 71 studios, 131 one-bedrooms, 38 two-bedrooms and 19 three-bedrooms. It would also include a trail accessible to the public that leads to views of the ocean.

Lazier, the property owner for around 20 years, previously worked with Zephyr Partners and The Robert Green Company to develop a hotel on the site called Marisol. The effort to get the project approved, called Measure G, was defeated by voters in 2020. A developer has not been selected yet for the apartment project, but Lazier has hired architects, land use experts and lawyers.

Lazier is known for her philanthropy, donating $1 million to save the San Diego Opera in 2014 and other donations.

A legal firm representing the development, Southern California-based Sheppard Mullin, argues Del Mar must approve the plan because it falls under recent laws — namely Senate Bills 330 and 8 — that encourage additional housing and streamline approvals.

The legal claim for Seaside Ridge centers on Del Mar being out of compliance with the state’s Housing Element Law, which requires municipalities to rezone parcels to meet requirements for housing. Seaside Ridge’s law firm also uses a law signed by the governor last year, AB 1398, that requires local governments to approve most housing projects if they are out of compliance. Del Mar has identified the fairgrounds as a possible site for subsidized housing but has yet to approve a firm plan, setting up an opportunity for Seaside Ridge.

While it remains to be seen how lawyers and staff for Del Mar will interpret Seaside Ridge’s legal claims, housing analyst Nathan Moeder said the legal argument for approval makes sense. Moeder, who was not involved in the project but reviewed legal arguments, said it appeared to be an example of a community unable to escape housing requirements imposed by the state.

Moeder said it would be ironic if the project is approved because residents of the area would probably have enjoyed the resort defeated by Measure G, with restaurants and more public features.

“This is the unintended consequence of NIMBYism,” he said, referring to the anti-housing term Not in my Backyard. “They tried to stop a hotel that was more public-orientated, it had a restaurant and a bar that the public could use, and now they are just going to stuff housing there.”

Moeder said the NIMBY movement will need to get smarter about opposing projects because most land-use fights will now need to be taken up in Sacramento.

“It’s the state that’s making this happen. It’s not the local governments,” he said. “You can pass any initiative or referendum you want at the local level. The state will override you.”

SB 6 and AB 2011

Re-purposing commercial and industrial properties into residential developments is an idea that should have been fast-tracked years ago.  Bills were signed by the governor yesterday, and they make it look like thousands of new homes will be built shortly.

But there is more to it, of course, since politicians and lobbyists are involved.  They want unions to build them, and/or they want some or all of the homes to be for low-income housing.

From this article – an excerpt:

For years, California state lawmakers have tried to reconcile warring views on what labor standards should be required of developers who’d be allowed to build housing more easily and quickly to combat the housing crisis.

Most recently that debate has splintered organized labor over two bills that both unlock commercial real estate for residential use. The Senate’s bill has the backing of the powerful state Building and Construction Trades Council, while the Assembly’s bill counts on support from affordable housing developers and the state’s Conference of Carpenters. The Legislature’s progress on housing for this session was framed as recently as last week as a battle between these two forces over the bill in the Assembly.

But following weeks of tense negotiations between the two unions over the labor provisions in the Assembly’s bill, the labor groups failed to hammer out a compromise.

So instead of choosing sides, leadership in the state Assembly and Senate simply gave their seal of approval to both bills. They opted to give developers two choices if they want to build housing where strip malls once were: Comply with stricter affordability standards or stricter labor standards.

Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat, called the two-bill package “a monumental legislative agreement, and one of the most significant efforts to streamline and amplify housing production in decades.”

If passed, both bills would apply to overlapping sites — and leave the choice of which policy to use in the developer’s hands.

Full article here:

San Diego: Buyers More Critical, But Stable

This company surveys new-home and resale agents every month, and this report confirms more of what we’ve been experiencing:

  1. A few more listings (but NSDCC listings are dropping off now).
  2. More listings not selling/buyers getting pickier.
  3. Buyer traffic is steady, and better than expected.

The Home Listings Index dropped from 70 to 37.5, which means the number of listings increased, which is bad for the new-home agents.  But for resale agents, it’s good!

Home of Tomorrow

In 2021, how many garages have 2-3 cars parked inside? We should change the name from garage to ‘flex space’, or ‘California basement’. Hat tip to my friend Ken:

JBREC was pleased to be asked to be part of a team assembled by Pro Builder Magazine to collaborate on a concept home for their “Immersive Show Village”  that was highlighted last week at IBSx and is available to tour all year long.  The home was dubbed “The New New Home” and JBREC’s research, in collaboration with Pro Builder and Woodley Architecture Group helped form the vision.

Link to ProBuilder digital magazine

Over the past year, the pandemic provided the opportunity for us to examine how people live now and how they will be living in the future. The team considered the functionality of the entire house from the front to the garage, outdoor spaces, and casitas. The following provides a glimpse into the research.

  • A 2,500-square-foot home that is right-sized for the family. The team chose to challenge itself by designing a home on a typical lot that is readily available throughout the country. The profile is a family with two children (around 9 and 12) with parents working from home and children attending school from home. Selfishly, this describes Ken’s family so we had a little bit of a head start.
  • A need for privacy. The New New Home was designed to look inward instead of toward the street with an interior courtyard rather than a larger front porch. This layout offers a private retreat while connecting almost every room on the lower floor to the outdoors. The courtyard also provides a safe place to drop off packages just inside the front gate.
  • Will we always need a two-car garage? Maybe not. While the home’s design highlighted a two-car garage, it included a single-car option to inspire and ask “what if?” In a future where we rely less on cars, the flexibility to offer a single car garage creates the opportunity for extra square footage, building in options to suit the preferences of different owners. The single-car option still allows for storage space in the garage and opens the possibility for more entertaining space in the courtyard.
  • A casita for multifunctional space. While the main house stays under 2,500 square feet, the guest house adds livable space. This multifunctional room could work as a guest quarters or multigenerational suite for extended family, whether a parent or a boomerang child who graduated college but is not ready to start their career. In the July 10, 2020 edition of The Light, we noted that more than 1.1 million 23-to-30-year-olds had moved “back home” since February. The casita could also function as a home office that is separate from the house.
  • A large, functional backyard. When asked to choose between a large backyard and a larger front yard, homeowners indicated the backyard was more important. The New New Home offers a private courtyard and a nicely sized backyard. The yard is large enough to include outdoor seating areas, a space to garden, an outdoor kitchen, and includes a covered outdoor room with transition space between the great room and the backyard.
  • A simple and open kitchen layout with all of the appliances along one wall is supported by a spacious island providing space for the kitchen sink and informal dining. Storage is important, and while this home doesn’t have a walk-in pantry, a run of cabinetry between a “clean room” (designed as a healthy transition space from the outside) and kitchen takes the place of the walk-in setup.
  • Multiple spots to accommodate working from home. JBREC’s consumer research found that 60% of households earning $50K+ who are working from home right now anticipate continuing to work from home at least part-time post COVID. The New New home includes two work spaces located on separate floors. Both offices were designed to incorporate lots of light, while considering the background behind the workspace. The offices have smaller dimensions to accommodate a built-in desk and storage but no space for clients “sitting across” from the worker.
  • Your kids live at home too! Our August 14 edition of The Light highlighted the need for spaces dedicated to remote learning as more than 4.0 million students were impacted by school closures. This home was designed to accommodate a growing family with the children’s “wing” featuring two secondary bedrooms that share a bath, and a layout that maximizes separation between the kids’ wing and the primary suite. The children’s bedroom provides space for separate study or remote learning areas.

Our New Home Trends Institute, our consumer research, and our constant “on-the-ground” consulting work continues to help inform our knowledge of how people live and how their homes are evolving. Let us show you how to implement these strategies into your next new home community.

Ken Perlman

If you have any questions, please contact Ken Perlman, Managing Principal, at (858) 281-7214 or


Here’s Rick’s forecast of 15% appreciation for 2021, and another 15% for 2022-2024:

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