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City's Housing Element Fails to Comply

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By Jorge Casuso

February 11, 2022 -- Santa Monica's plan to build nearly 9,000 new housing units over the next eight years does not comply with State law and must be revised, California Housing officials informed the City this week.

The Housing element update approved by the City Council on October 12 fails to provide specific information on how it would spur the development needed to meet the State-mandated housing quota, State officials said.

In a letter dated February 8, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) said the City "may need to add or revise programs to address a shortfall of sites or zoning available to encourage a variety of housing types."

To become compliant, the City must complete any rezoning needed to accommodate its State-mandated housing quota by October 15, according to the letter from HCD's Senior Program Manager Paul McDougall.

HCD's review outlines a series of shortcomings in the Housing Element update, which provides a road map to build 8,895 housing units over the next eight years, more than two-thirds of them affordable.

Instead of relying on private developers, the City's plan turns to non-profit housing providers using City-owned land and homeowners adding auxiliary rental units but does not remove building constraints.

The housing element, State officials noted, "requires a complete analysis of potential governmental and nongovernmental constraints.

"Depending upon the results of that analysis, the City may need to revise or add programs and address and remove or mitigate any identified constraints."

Revisions to the Housing Element the City must make include providing the following:

  • An analysis of how the plan would further fair housing that includes "metrics and milestones to target meaningful outcomes,"

  • An inventory of land "suitable and available for residential development" that includes vacant sites and sites "having realistic and demonstrated potential for redevelopment,"

  • An analysis of "the extent existing uses impede additional development" that includes recent trends to determine whether there is potential to build low-income housing, and

  • A more detailed discussion of when City owned sites would be available and revisions to programs that need to be made to "facilitate development on these sites in the planning period."

Housing officials also asked the City to revisit a prior request to take "meaningful and sufficient actions" rezoning single-family neighborhoods "to overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities."

"In response, the element now appears to only promote accessory dwelling units; an insufficient action given the perpetuated segregation noted in the element," State officials wrote.

McDougall's letter to City Manager David White notes that the housing element adopted by the Council on October 12 was due October 15 but was received for review on November 10 ("Council Cautiously Approves Housing Plan," October 13, 2021).

"As of today, the City has not completed the housing element process for the 6th cycle," the latter said. "The City’s 5th cycle housing element no longer satisfies statutory requirements.

"HCD encourages the City to revise the element as described above, adopt, and submit to HCD to regain housing element compliance," McDougall wrote.

Failure to do so jeopardizes the City's ability to receive funding from several federal, state and regional programs, according to the letter.

If he City fails to meet the State-mandated housing quota, it could face fines of at least $10,000 per month, the loss of eligibility for grants and State funding programs and the loss of local control over development, according to City staff.

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