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News Updates

Housing Plan Update

The City of Carlsbad will form a public advisory group to help update the city’s “Housing Element,” a plan for how the city will accommodate new housing needs. All California cities are required to have a plan and update it every eight years when the state issues its “regional housing needs assessment.” 

This assessment, which often gets abbreviated as RHNA, pronounced “Ree-Nah,” specifies the number of housing units each region must accommodate by income category. Last Friday, the San Diego Association of Governments board of directors decided how to split up the region’s housing needs among the different cities.

Based on population projections, the state is requiring San Diego County to accommodate 171,000 new housing units by 2029. Housing units can include apartments, condos or single family homes. The formula for how to divvy up the housing was based heavily on the concentration of jobs and public transit in each city, with the idea that putting housing near jobs and transit is better for the environment. 

Carlsbad’s share is projected to be approximately 3,800 new housing units, with about 1,300 in the very low income category, 780 low income, 750 moderate, and 1,030 “above moderate” income category. 

The city’s General Plan, which was approved in 2015, identifies locations for future housing. The total number of housing units Carlsbad has planned currently is based on its growth management program, which was approved by voters in 1986. Under that plan, the city will cap growth at about 54,000 housing units, split among the four quadrants of the city, defined by the intersection of Palomar Airport Road and El Camino Real. 

One issue to be addressed is how the city will proceed if the number of housing units it is required to accommodate exceeds the total number approved by voters. 

The city’s deadline to update its Housing Element is April 15, 2021. Work will start this fall, with the formation of a public advisory committee. The City Council decided at its Sept. 10 meeting how the group will be composed: 

  • The Housing, Planning, Senior, and Traffic and Mobility commissions will each nominate one of their members to serve.
  • Each City Council member will recommend one member to represent one of the four quadrants of the city (the city is often split into four areas for planning purposes. The four quadrants – northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast, are defined by the intersection of El Camino Real and Palomar Airport Road). City Council members would be assigned quadrants at random for the purpose of making a recommendation.
  • One member “at large” recommended by the mayor.
  • The full City Council will make the final decision on all nomination and appointment recommendations. 


  • The city will make information about the application process available in the coming weeks.
  • The committee is expected to start its work in early 2020.
  • Staff would return to the City Council in fall 2020 with the committee’s recommendations for where to put new housing in the community.
  • Based on the City Council’s direction, staff would then prepare the update to the Housing Element.
  • Public hearings on the updated Housing Element would take place in early 2021. 

Background information

  • Housing Element Work Plan Staff Report, Sept. 10, 2019
  • Growth Management Program (link)
  • General Plan (link)
  • Letter to SANDAG about criteria for allocating housing in the region 

Staff contact



September 11, 2019