Arcata City

Staff Report

Review the Draft 2018-2027 Housing Element Update and Consider a Recommendation to the City Council


Department:Community DevelopmentSponsors:
Category:Public Hearing


  1. A. Housing Element Resolution No. PC-19-08


The Housing Element is the policy and implementation document addressing the City’s share of the region’s housing need.  The Planning Commission received a presentation from staff on the Housing Element public engagement efforts at the September 24, 2019, meeting.  At the October 8, 2019, meeting, the Planning Commission received a report on the draft vacant sites inventory and revisions to the policies and implementation measures.  At tonight’s hearing, staff recommends the Planning Commission review the draft Housing Element (Attachment A, Exhibit 1) and continue the hearing to its December 10, 2019, hearing for recommend that City Council.

Discussion/Fiscal Impact


The City of Arcata is responsible for a share of the region’s housing need (Attachment A, Exhibit 1, Table 3-1). The Housing Element is comprised of a policy document which describes the goals (Attachment A, Exhibit 1, Page 8) and implementation measures (Attachment A, Exhibit 1, Page 12), and an appendices which provide the data supporting the implementation measures and policies (Attachment A, Exhibit 1, Page i).  The City’s 2018-2027 Housing Element must be adopted by City Council on, or before, December 29, 2019.  The City Council must receive a recommendation from the Planning Commission on the Draft Housing Element in order to adopt the Housing Element pending State Housing and Community Development Department certification. 

During the review of the Draft 2019 Housing Element, staff identified clarifications that will be required before adopting Resolution PC-19-08. The discussion on population growth, for example, needs further review and comparison with existing and concurrently developing policy and technical studies. Due to the timing for review, and delays getting the draft Housing Element, the Director decided to start the public review of the Draft Housing Element without formal internal review. Staff is recommending continuing the Planning Commission hearing on the matter to December 10, 2019, to allow sufficient review and necessary revisions.

Notwithstanding the minor edits and clarification for consistency that the December 10 version will include, the policy and implementation measures are ripe for discussion. The Planning Commission should focus its deliberations on those areas of the element. In addition, the Commission should consider the appendices and data projections to clarify any concerns or questions those raise.

In particular, the Commission should take note of the Upzoning implementation measures. Among the upzoning strategies, allowing three units on Residential Low density parcels, allowing high-density zoning in certain areas, and the Arcata Gateway Specific Area Plan.


The City’s consultant is finalizing its recommendation for the environmental review. The City may adopt an addendum to its 2014 Housing Element Negative Declaration and the common sense exemption or it may draft a new Initial Study, likely supporting a Negative Declaration for the updated Housing Element. An addendum may be adopted if the policy is largely unchanged and the technical appendices are updated. With the exception of the upzoning proposed in this Housing Element, the addendum is appropriate. Staff are evaluating the environmental determination for those additional elements to determine whether they would fall under the common sense rule that their adoption has no possibility to impact the environment. Each of the upzones would conduct independent CEQA analysis, and the upzones are speculative at this point, requiring independent public process. Therefore, the upzoning may be considered too speculative to conduct environmental review on. This scoping phase would not be subject to environmental review pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Sec. 15004.

Meeting History

Nov 12, 2019 6:00 PM Video Planning Commission Regular Meeting

The Commission received a staff report including public engagement that was conducted and used to inform the Policy and Implementation Measures in the Draft Housing Element, and asked questions related to the data used in various sections, conditions for a third unit, clarification on the units and projects that count towards the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, homeownership, and verification of the number of units for the homeless population. Due to the tight deadline to have the Housing Element adopted, Staff requested that this hearing be continued to the December 10, 2019, Planning Commission meeting when an updated draft can be brought back that incorporates additional public feedback and feedback from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

On a motion by Commissioner Vaissade-Elcock and seconded by Vice-Chair Mayer, the Housing Element was continued to the December 10, 2019, Planning Commission meeting.

Ayes: Tangney (Chair), Mayer (Vice-Chair), Barstow, Reinman, Vaissade-Elcock. Noes: None. Absent: White. Abstention: None.

MOVER:Julie Vaissade-Elcock, Commissioner
SECONDER:Judith Mayer, Vice-Chair
AYES:Judith Mayer, Daniel Tangney, John Barstow, Julie Vaissade-Elcock, Michael Reinman
ABSENT:Kimberley White