First published in the Feb. 17 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.
The San Marino City Council last week approved a draft housing element that was sent to the California Department of Housing and Community Development for the sixth cycle, which runs from 2021-29.
The housing element was originally due by Oct. 15, but San Marino used a grace period that extended the deadline to Feb. 11. Applying by the deadline was critical for the city to retain as much local control over land use as possible.
In the final analysis, the city was tasked with the allocation of 397 total housing units, most of which fall into the category of low- to moderate-income levels.
“The city doesn’t have to build it,” said Bret McNulty, a consultant retained by the city of San Marino. “The city is not required to build housing or take property from people to build housing. But it is required to make zoning, using its land use powers through the California constitution to make the amount of land available to allow people to choose to develop, if that is the case.”
McNulty also said that every municipality in California must comply with the requirement to produce a housing element.
The suggested allocations are generated through a Regional Housing Needs Assessment, RHNA, which is provided by the HCD. The assessment requires cities to show that, through their planning and zoning policies, the number of housing units in the allocation could theoretically be developed.
The Housing Element of the city’s General Plan is a detailed statement of the housing goals, policies, programs and quantified objectives for the city. The element is based on a comprehensive technical assessment of existing housing policies and programs and also takes into consideration current and projected housing needs, especially related to low income households and special needs populations. It is completed based on an analysis of market, environmental, governmental and other factors which constrain housing production and includes an assessment of ways that the city “can affirmatively further fair housing for its residents” and provide an inventory of sites available for housing construction.
“Specifically, the Housing Element sets forth how the city will address the need for housing, especially by low- and moderate-income families and special needs families and individuals,” it said in the agenda packet.
Vice Mayor Steve Talt called California’s demand to make local zoning changes to provide extra housing inventory “overreaching” for San Marino, which he said has fought to maintain its status as a “single-family, residential community.”
“But it’s the best we can do under these circumstances,” Talt said.
Council member Ken Ude proposed the motion, which was seconded by councilmember Gretchen Shepherd Romey and unanimously approved through a 5-0 vote of the council.
The HCD will now have up to 90 days to review and certify San Marino’s adopted housing element.