Council Takes Action on Housing Element
• City Staff Receives Direction on Proceeding with Process
BY BILL KOENEKER
The Malibu City Council this week discussed the proposed housing element update at its meeting and gave direction to the staff after planners asked the council how it wanted to proceed.
Based on staff analysis and extensive public input, planners had gathered a list of options for the council's consideration.
The council agreed to take the Trancas parcels out of any consideration for upzoning or analysis in the Environmental Impact Report, agreed to direct staff to proceed on an individual evaluation of several options for counting low-income housing including further study of guesthouses and other secondary residential units, but nixed further consideration of allowing existing commercial properties to have residential use above and development of mixed use commercial and residential use. Upon the recommendation of Councilmember Jefferson Wagner the council agreed to include the possible donation of two acres in the La Paz project.
At the outset of the meeting, Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinksi outlined to the council the policy issues involved, the level of public debate and the timeline.
The planning director noted the city is three years late in submitting an update, should send a draft of the update to the state housing department later this year and would offer public hearings on the Environmental Impact Report in the summer of 2012.
"By Oct. 2013, the document should be adopted and that is when we need the next update," she said.
The planning manager said the most important issue is the number generated by the Southern California Association of Governments concerned the assignment of 188 units of low income housing.
"That should be our most intense focus. Malibu needs to demonstrate a capacity for 188 units. If you cannot show you can accommodate the number you have to have high density [up zoning]," she said.
The planning manager introduced the executive director of SCAG Hasan Ikhrata, who ended up butting heads with Councilmember Lou La Monte, who kept insisting to the SCAG head the city had obtained the current numbers for the current update and should be allowed to use them.
"You are asking a logical question after the fact. As SCAG we can't go back. I don't know that the numbers are erroneous information," he said.
La Monte insisted, "Those numbers are erroneous."
Ikhrata, "If they were erroneous, the city had every opportunity to fix that. But now it is after the fact. The city could try to sue. But you will lose. There was ample opportunities for the city. The time has past."
City Attorney Christi Hogin interrupted and, in effect, speaking on behalf of SCAG explained the agency has to allocate to so many other entities [196 cities and counties] and that shifting one entity's numbers would require reallocating to all of the entities. "The battle over the numbers is over. The reason the numbers will probably be lower [next time] is when the real facts are analyzed," she said.
Ikhrata agreed. "All the numbers will go down. Not only the city's."
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said, "It is very frustrating. I understand we screwed up. Things were not challenged. But now do you feel the city is working with you?" she asked. To which Ikhrata replied, "Yes, study and look at all options."
Earlier during her staff report, Parker-Bozylinksi explained the public sees the counting of second units as the preferred method, a strategy for providing adequate sites to accommodate regional housing needs assessment [or RHNA] requirements.
She explained staff believes that land use changes would be necessary in order to obtain certification to accommodate the city's assigned share of new housing under the current RHNA. Planners acknowledge that some residents had recommended that the Environmental Impact Report process be put on hold until options other than rezoning are fully investigated and it is determined whether any rezoning is necessary.
"Staff agrees that all viable alternatives to rezoning should be fully considered in order to minimize impacts on the community. However, the purpose of the EIR is to provide an objective evaluation of feasible housing element options to support sound decision-making. Staff is also concerned that a delay in the EIR process could jeopardize the city's ability to complete the housing element update within the state mandated timeframe. It is staff's intent to run the timeline for completing the EIR concurrently with the housing element update," the planning head added. The council agreed.
Two approaches were laid out for council consideration if the city proceeds with the EIR now or later. The first approach would identify a preferred "project" with other options evaluated at a lesser level of detail in the alternatives chapter. The second approach would evaluate several alternatives at an equal level of detail. The council opted for the second approach
"This approach will require a budget augmentation., A revised Notice of Preparation will be circulated for public review and RHNA credit for non-rezoning options will be identified to the greatest extent possible," the planning manager explained.
Planners had also acknowledged that some residents had recommended that the city seek a revision to the RHNA allocation for the current planning period (2006-2014) prior to moving forward with the housing element. Residents had complained about an apparent discrepancy between the RHNA allocation of 14 units in the previous planning period (1998-2005) and the allocation of 441 units in the current period.
According to the planning staff, they contacted SCAG about the reason for the large differences between the RHNA allocation of the last two planning periods.
"As explained by SCAG, the discrepancy between the two RHNA cycles is apparently based on the small number of housing units built in Malibu during the 1990s compared to the early 2000s. SCAG's forecast methodology relies heavily on historical growth trends to project future development. According to building records, during the period after city incorporation in 1991 to 1997, the number of housing units declined. This decline appears to explain why the 1998-2005 RHNA allocation was only 14 units. However, during the period 2000-2006, housing units increased by 258. This change in historical growth pattern appears to explain the large increase in the RHNA allocation for the current period.
The exchange between the SCAG head and La Monte was the best example yet of the rough sledding city officials would encounter if they insisted in proceeding in that direction.
Some residents had recommended that the city file a legal challenge to SCAG's current RHNA allocation or seek a change in state housing element law.
The staff, according to planners, has in recent months been focusing on ensuring that the RHNA for the next planning period, which is currently being prepared, should "fairly and accurately reflect the significant constraints to development in Malibu."