Majority of Council Sends Housing Element to State for Its Assessment
• Rezoning of Parcels Raises Concerns for Some Critics
BY BILL KOENEKER
The Malibu City Council this week discussed the completed draft of the Housing Element update at its meeting Monday night when more options were made available for review.
The council, on a 4-1 vote with Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich dissenting, agreed to authorize the staff to submit the draft 2008-2014 Housing Element to the state of California Department of Housing and Community Development or HCD, for review and comment.
Council members also directed staff and consultants to study in detail selected sites for the Environmental Impact Report.
Conley Ulich said she had a problem with the sites chosen for analysis. "Why are we not looking at other areas?" she asked. "This is a big red flag: putting housing units where we are considering sewage treatment."
John Douglas, the consultant hired by the city to draft the document, told the council the plan currently takes a two-prong strategy in meeting affordable housing needs.
"We are taking credit for second units and have concluded 53 of those to satisfy the requirements. The remainder of the 135 would come from new multi-family lots not developed and the subdivision of selected parcels," he said.
The two key elements, according to the consultant, is that second unit credits can be preapproved as prototypes and new affordable housing would be developed from a selected number of sites, which would be rezoned for affordable housing. The additional units would be restricted to affordable housing.
Douglas said he and the staff were seeking what approach to take with the Environmental Impact Report, whether to go forward with a study of all potential sites or a study of selected sites in detail for analysis. "There are different costs," he said.
The council ultimately agreed upon a detailed analysis of selected sites, La Paz considered city-owned and existing multi-family lots on the landside of Pacific Coast Highway.
Councilmember Lou La Monte wanted to know, if the document was submitted to HCD, how long it could take. He was told they have 60 days. "Is there any acknowledgment about the bad numbers [of affordable housing units required, 188] submitted by [Southern California Association of Governments]?" La Monte asked.
During public comments, attorney Fred Gaines, who said he was representing Trancas PCH LLC, asked the council to not move forward with submitting the document to HCD.
"It utterly fails to meet the standards. The upzoning cannot possibly get you to the goals. There are a large amount of guesthouses that will be turned into affordable housing? That is not a believable statement. You can't get there from the numbers you have. It's backwards. You should identify all the possibilities then make a decision about what you want to eliminate," he said.
Gaines was referring to the council's previous action when it agreed to take the Trancas parcels including Trancas PCH LLC's vacant lots out of any consideration for upzoning or analysis in the Environmental Impact Report.
Activist Lynn Norton praised the plan and said she believed there is no problem for the city to reach the affordable housing goals.
Representing the Malibu Township Council, Lucile Keller said MTC opposes the rezoning. She said it was not done the last time and even when the city was sued to the appellate level, the courts sided with the city. "Review the court documents," she said.
Planning Commissioner John Mazza said the draft is a good job. "They [consultants] listened [to the public]. Nobody believes you are going to build a lot of affordable housing."
The council had heard the matter previously and at that time, urged on by activists and the public, agreed to the further study of guesthouses and other secondary residential units to be counted as low cost housing, but nixed further consideration of allowing existing commercial properties to have residential use on the second story and development of mixed use commercial and residential.
Upon the recommendation of Councilmember Jefferson Wagner, the council agreed to include the possible donation of two acres in the La Paz project as a study site.
At that meeting, Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski 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 director had said the most important issue is the number generated by the SCAG concerning the assignment of 188 low income housing units.
"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.
Earlier, 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.
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 staff 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."
The SCAG director agreed that would happen.
The EIR would support the effort by providing factual information regarding the various environmental constraints that limit the city's potential for future development, according to planners.
"This is another reason why staff believes the preparation of the EIR should not be delayed," the staff report states.
The most common method of addressing an RHNA shortfall for low-income housing is through rezoning to allow multi-family residential development, according to planners. However, other options have been identified that may satisfy some portion of the RHNA requirements.
Such as determining the amount of credit of second units, which state law allows cities to satisfy as portion of their RHNA requirements.
City planners describe the update as a state mandate to establish new policies, goals and programs relative to the provision of housing in the city.
State law mandates that local governments plan for their share of the region's housing needs for all income categories.