The city of Encinitas has become the poster child for tension between state and local housing laws – a conversation driven by a group of residents determined to keep their coastal city from changing.

Housing and growth issues are nothing new in Encinitas, but they reached a tipping point this year.

Voice of the Year

The city was slapped with a second lawsuit from a developer for not complying with two state laws intended to encourage affordable housing. The city wrote a housing plan in an attempt to comply with state law, but voters rejected it. Cities across the state put slow-growth measures on the ballot this year, many of which resembled one Encinitas passed in 2013.

Encinitas residents have demonstrated how affluent, educated residents can shape how communities grow. According to the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, higher housing costs along the coasts – which are caused both by increased demand to live near the ocean and by the lack of housing construction in the area – severely impact housing costs in the rest of the state, as they push more people inland, driving up housing costs there.

Thanks to residents who regularly show up to speak at public hearings, who hire their own lawyers when unhappy with how the city has handled developments and who can finance campaigns against housing ballot measures, residents have maintained a tight grip on the future of Encinitas, forcing other communities to bear the brunt of building more housing for everyone.

The city spent years trying to craft a housing plan to its resident’s satisfaction and ultimately failed at the ballot in November after a group of residents campaigned hard against it.

Now the city needs to restart figuring out how to balance its need to comply with state law with residents who continuously tell the state of California that it can’t tell them how to grow.

This is part of our Voice of the Year package, profiling the people who drove the biggest conversations in San Diego this year.

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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