Encinitas group sues city over Goodson project

A rendering of the proposed Encinitas Boulevard Apartment.
A rendering of the proposed Encinitas Boulevard Apartment.
(Karen Billing)

Grassroots group Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development has filed its third lawsuit in two years against the city of Encinitas over a controversial proposed development.

The most recent one, filed on Jan. 28 in San Diego County Superior Court, contests a decision that the city made to allow the consolidation of four lots into one at the site of a proposed project by developer R. Randy Goodson.

The Goodson project, located at the intersection of Encinitas Boulevard and McCain Lane, included 236 market rate units and 41 for low-income tenants. But last summer the city’s Planning Commission denied the project, which is now pending a separate lawsuit filed by Goodson in January.

Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development argues in its complaint that the lot consolidation “will have detrimental impacts on ERRD, its supporters, and the general public who reside in and around the city.”

The group and Goodson filed their separate lawsuits following a November 2021 City Council meeting, when council members denied appeals from both of them over the potential development.

Goodson wanted to overturn the Planning Commission’s denial of his project. He argued that he met all of the objective standards for it to move forward as a “by-right” project that could circumvent any other city oversight, based on state law.

“The way the laws work and have been progressing for years is not to reduce the development potential of excellent sites for development,” Goodson said during the November council meeting. “This is the place to develop apartments in Olivenhain. It’s the perfect place for development.”

Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development appeal was over issues such as fire safety and percentage of affordable housing that the project was required to have.

Based on guidance from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, the city did not apply a 20% affordable housing requirement to units in the Goodson project that were added through bonus density provisions. As a result, the project’s 41 affordable units would be about 14.8% of the 277 total units.

The chairman of Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development, Olivenhain resident Daniel Vaughn, said in an interview that the project provided a “poor return in desperately needed affordable housing.” He added that the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development needs to do more to require construction of affordable housing.

“Our organization wants there to be responsible development that provides for those in our community most in need,” Vaughn said. “We believe that there needs to be additional housing available to the extremely low and very low income residents.”

Encinitas City Councilman Joe Mosca also said he was concerned about the percentage of affordable housing.

“Here we have a state agency that is erring on the side of less affordable housing, and we’re now taking their lead,” he said. “I would push back and say 20% means 20%, not 14%. I think HCD got that wrong.”

Encinitas Residents for Responsible Development, which was formed in late 2019, first took the city to court in March 2020 over an ordinance that streamlined the process for lot consolidations. One of the allegations in the lawsuit was that the city did not properly disclose how the Goodson project would benefit from the ordinance.

The city denied that the ordinance was specifically related to the Goodson project, court documents show. The city’s attorneys also said many of the points in that lawsuit were “argumentative, vague, and contain innuendo.”

The second lawsuit, filed in May 2021, alleges that there were violations of the California Environmental Quality Act in the city’s sixth cycle housing element, which shows how the city plans to zone for new housing from 2021 to 2029.

Both lawsuits, in addition to the third and latest one, are pending in Superior Court.