State sends Goleta ‘Do it again’ letter on housing

California is working to add housing in its cities and counties, and Goleta recently received a letter stating its housing element project submitted in June needed to be redone. This offers potential for open development in the city without the protections of city permit rules, but only if Goleta misses the deadline to resubmit the report. Planning Director Peter Imhof said his planners are on track to get the augmented information through city and state approvals before the Feb. 15, 2023, deadline.

In June, Goleta officials were pleased to have submitted their housing element early in the process. The 11-page letter they received in September from the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), however, lists many additional details the state wants.

In Goleta’s case, the state was wary of “non-vacant” sites — land with outdated uses, such as a long-vacant building, degraded areas, and other underused land — wanting to know more about ” age of structures, lot sizes, existing uses, environmental constraints and additional justification regarding potential for residential development,” Imhof explained. Other comments asked for details, for example, on targeted areas for new housing: were they buildable, which developers showed interest and what are the estimated construction costs?

Much of what the state requested was technical or administrative in nature, Imhof said, or a call for “more robust administrative efforts by the city to encourage and facilitate housing development.” Although the council talks about affordable housing during every development discussion and sets a 20% affordability rating for new developments, the state wanted specific details regarding recent housing approvals for “populations with special needs.” special needs”, such as the elderly, the disabled, large households, women. managed households, agricultural workers and the homeless.

In essence, Goleta must identify areas that will be zoned to contain 1,837 additional housing units between 2023 and 2031: 682 for very low-income households, 324 for low-income households, 370 moderate and 461 above moderate. In the previous round, 2014-2022, the city’s allocation was 979. The county as a whole must zone for 24,856 new homes in this round.

Dozens of cities and counties find themselves in the same limbo, receiving letters from the state stating that “revisions will be required” while only a handful of letters express their pleasure at finding “the housing element adopted in full compliance,” according to information on the HDC’s website. In Santa Barbara County, Goleta is the only jurisdiction that has filed its housing element project. It’s been a tough cycle, said county planning officer Lisa Plowman, 191 of the 197 members of the Southern California Association of Governments missed their Oct. 15, 2021, deadline. That group includes Los Angeles, Imperial, San Bernardino, Ventura, Orange and Riverside Counties, and their cities.

The penalty is severe if a community fails to certify its housing element with the state. The Los Angeles Times recently told how Santa Monica could cope with 16 “builder’s remedies” developments of 4,562 new apartments, one of which is 15 stories high. All were filed during the one-year gap that the city was not in compliance with state housing rules, and those that contain the 20% low-income housing target that could go beyond certain local rules – no environmental review, no discretionary review, and only objective standards could apply, advised Allen Bell, a supervising planner with Santa Barbara County – although Santa Monica should fight the proposals.

According to Goleta’s Peter Imhof, a detailed state response was common for the housing element, which is heading into its sixth eight-year cycle. In anticipation, Goleta received a regional Early Action Planning grant of $195,000 to support staff time on the housing component update.

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