Objective Design Standards


The State passed Senate Bill (SB) 35 and the Housing Accountability Act in 2017 and SB 330 in 2019, which require that residential projects be reviewed using objective standards. The legislation further states that a local agency may only use objective standards to deny or reduce the density of certain projects. A Program was identified in the City of Encinitas (“City”) 5th Cycle Housing Element to develop objective design standards for multiple family development, which is also included in the recently certified 6th Cycle Housing Element as Program 3B.

On February 26, 2020, the City Council awarded a contract for planning services to RRM for the development of objective development standards and design guidelines and the development of an expedited permit processing program and educational materials. It was originally anticipated that RRM would begin providing professional services in March 2020 with the anticipated completion of the contract in approximately six months. However, the project has taken longer due to COVID and other delays.

On August 25, 2021, staff presented to the Planning Commission and City Council on the status of the development of objective design and development standards for multi-family projects and mixed-use residential projects and sought direction and comments (Link to Agenda, Video, and Staff Report). From August 16, 2021, a survey was released to the public to gather input through September 8, 2021, in both English and Spanish. The public feedback was considered and incorporated where applicable with the development of objective design standards along with the comments received at the Joint Meeting. Staff and RRM presented the draft standards and received questions, comments, and suggested edits to the draft standards from the Planning Commission at a study session on October 7, 2021 (Link to Agenda, Video, and Staff Report).

On November 4, 2021, City staff provided a memo to Planning Commission amending the staff recommendation to request direction from Planning Commission to allow more time to review the objective design standards with Special Counsel (Link to Agenda, Video, and Staff Report). The item was continued without discussion to November 18, 2021.  At the public hearings on November 18 (Link to Agenda, Video, and Staff Report) and December 2, 2021 (Link to Agenda, Video, and Staff Report), Planning Commission reviewed the draft Design Standards and Guidelines and continued the hearing to December 16, 2021 to review the proposed modifications.

On December 16, 2021, Planning Commission adopted Resolution No. PC 2021-43 (Attachment 3) recommending approval of Ordinance No. 2022-02 and Resolution No. 2022-03 with modifications (Link to Agenda, Video, and Staff Report). On January 19, 2022, City Council introduced Ordinance No. 2022-02 that modified the Local Coastal Plan to create Objective Standards for Housing Development. In addition they adopted Resolution No. 2022-03 that amended the Design Review Standards and Guidelines (Link to Agenda, Video, and Staff Report). City Council Adopted Ordinance No. 2022-02 on February 9, 2022.

On June 9, 2022, the California Coastal Commission approved the amendments to the Local Coastal Plan (Staff Report). 


The State of California has adopted recent legislation, Housing Accountability Act SB 330 and SB 35, to address the State-wide housing shortage that requires cities to review residential developments based on 'objective' standards, such as specific and defined design requirements, rather than on subjective standards. In response, the City’s 6th Cycle Housing Element Program 3B commits the City to review of the Zoning Code, Specific Plans, and Design Guidelines to ensure that development standards and design guidelines are clear and objective for multiple family and mixed use residential development.

In early 2020, the City applied for and received grant funding under the State’s SB-2 Planning Grant Program to complete this project. With assistance from consultant team RRM Design Group, the work effort associated with this project will result in a set of objective design and development standards to be utilized in reviewing future multiple -family and mixed-use development proposals. Existing zoning will continue to regulate building height, setbacks, density, etc., while new objective design standards regulate such criteria as site layout, building orientation, architectural elements, pedestrian connections, etc. to ensure that new housing maintains a  design quality reflective of the five distinct communities in the City of Encinitas.

Guidelines v. Standards

Source: HCD Objective Design Standards Toolkit- 2021