Arcata City
CA

Staff Report
2210

Adopt Resolution No. PC-19-08 recommending the City Council adopt the draft Housing Element pending State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) certification.

Information

Department:Community DevelopmentSponsors:
Category:Report

Introduction

The City is required to update its Housing Element periodically. Currently, the City is drafting the 6th Cycle update that will cover the 2019-2027 planning period. Staff has presented information on the pending update to the Commission at several previous meetings, including the noticed meeting held November 12, 2019 and continued to tonight’s meeting. On December 6, 2019, the California Housing and Community Development Department submitted a letter to the City indicating the revised Arcata 2019-2027 Housing Element met the requirements of State housing element law (Attachment B). At tonight’s hearing, staff recommends the Planning Commission review the draft Housing Element and recommend that City Council adopt the draft Housing Element pending HCD certification.

Discussion/Fiscal Impact

DISCUSSION:

The Housing Element is comprised of a policy document which describes the goals and implementation measures (Attachment A, Exhibit 1), and appendices which provide the data supporting the implementation measures and policies (Attachment A, Exhibit 2).  The City’s 2019-2027 Housing Element must be certified by HCD to meet state Housing Element law, and 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. 


Housing Element Overview

The Housing Element must contain the policies and programs to provide adequate building sites to meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (allocation). The Element must be certified by HCD to meet state Housing Element law. Several programs, including all HCD funded programs, require certification. The City has secured more than $10M in grants in the last two years to complete projects ranging from affordable housing (Isackson’s), business assistance (WING Inflatables) long-range planning (Arcata Gateway Specific Area Plan, West End Plan), and infrastructure (waste water treatment plant UV system).

The housing needs process is overseen by the Humboldt County Association of Governments. This regional approach was conducted in 2018 and 2019, and the City Council supported the allocation method adopting Resolution 189-21. The result of the method (Table 1) identified the housing need allocation to each community. The method is designed to: 1) ensure equitable distribution of housing types for all income levels, and 2) balance the location of jobs with housing. The county’s method used a 50/50 jobs/housing balance.

The State requires that the City demonstrate in our Housing Element enough properly zoned sites to allow build out for the allocation (Table 1). The allocation is segregated by the state into income levels. Housing Element law is intended to ensure adequate housing for households across the full spectrum of income levels. The City must provide an inventory of those sites, and where deficient, the City must provide programs to address the deficiencies.

The vacant sites inventory (Attachment A, Exhibit 2, Appendix B) yielded 152 vacant developable parcels in residential zoning districts.  Using the maximum density allowable on each site, development of all of the vacant parcels identified in the attached inventory would create approximately 351 housing units (Table 2).  This leaves the City with a shortage of 88 of housing units after the units built in 2019 and the projected build out units are accounted for (Table 2. Inventory Summary). The 88 unit deficiency is in the lower income categories.

The City will need to incorporate rezoning and other programs or implementation measures to meet its allocation (Table 2). Currently, the City has 351 units in vacant, suitable sites of the total 610 required. The allocation is reduced by permits pulled in 2019, which totaled 56, including 43 in the low and very low income categories from the Isackson’s project. We project 80 Accessory Dwelling Units will be built in the 8 year period, conservatively.  An additional 89 units are projected from the Creekside Annexation.   And in total, the City will meet its moderate and above moderate allocation, but will fall short in its low and very low allocation. 

Housing Element law requires minimally 50% of the low and very low allocation to be accommodated in projected build out. The City’s low and very low income projections in the draft Housing Element are 80% and 51%, respectively. Since we have met the 50% threshold with the projections, the Housing Element can be certified with the requirement that the City adopt rezones to accommodate the remaining allocation within three years. The City’s Strategic Infill Redevelopment Plan (Infill Plan) will implement the required programs to satisfy the HCD requirement for a rezone program.


Table 1. Regional Housing Needs Allocation

Jurisdiction

Very Low Income Allocation

Low Income Allocation

Moderate Income Allocation

Above Moderate Allocation

Proposed Total RHNA Allocation

Arcata

142

95

111

262

610

Blue Lake

7

4

5

7

23

Eureka

231

147

172

402

952

Ferndale

9

5

6

13

33

Fortuna

73

46

51

120

290

Rio Dell

12

8

9

22

51

Trinidad

4

4

3

7

18

Unincorporated Area

351

223

256

583

1,413

RHNA TARGETS

829

532

613

1,416

3,390

 

This housing element cycle, the City is also required to indicate on the sites inventory which parcels are suitable for lower income, moderate income, or above moderate income housing. Unlike past Element cycles, the City is required to ensure that the sites designated for lower income housing actually produce affordable housing. If moderate income housing is produced on those sites, the City must re-designate, up-zone, or otherwise provide a new site to replace the lost units. This will present a significant challenge if the Infill Program does not designate sufficient inventory to compensate for sites that were identified in the Housing Element as supporting lower income but is built without income restrictions. In short, the Infill Program will need to identify sites that support more low and very low income units than this allocation requires to avoid additional rezoning.

 

Table 2. Inventory Summary. Sites inventory unit production by income category with balance.

 

Zones

Allocation

Vacant Inventory

Allocation Reduction

Projected Annexation

Projected ADU's

Remaining

Very Low

RH, RM

142

23

20

5

25

69

Low

RH, RM

95

23

23

20

10

19

Moderate

RL, RVL

111

52

9

32

45

0

Above Moderate

RL, RVL

262

253

4

32

 

0

Total:

 

610

351

56

89

80

88

 

Process

The public engagement on the Housing Element has been fairly robust. The City offered a housing survey over the summer of 2019. Over 900 people completed the survey, which was offered in English and in Spanish. From this survey, we gathered data about housing needs, concerns, and affordability in Arcata. City staff and the City’s consultant attended ten community events in Arcata, Eureka, and McKinleyville to discuss the City’s Infill Plan and the Housing Element. These events were used to engage people in the policy and practical issues residents and potential residents were experiencing with housing in Arcata. Focus group meeting were held with Latinx families; Creamery District artists, residents, and business owners; and housing advocates who work with members of our community who are housing insecure; and low-income seniors. We gained insight into Humboldt State University students’ experiences through a variety of methods including, “Pop-up” event surveying on the quad, one-to-one conversations with students during events, and analyzing qualitative and quantitative data shared with us by HSU’s off-campus housing liaison. Two community workshops were held, one in English and the other in Spanish. During these meetings, City staff shared information about that state and local housing context, current housing plans under development, and gathered input on the tensions that will have to managed as new housing is developed, as well as input on how to reach the City’s housing goals. Updates were given throughout the process at several Planning Commission meetings as well as the Economic Development Committee and the Housing Equity Group. The feedback we received from the public engagement was used to inform the policy and implementation measures in the draft Housing Element.

The Planning Commission has had five meetings to discuss aspects of the Housing Element over 2019. The Commission continued its November 12 hearing to December 10, 2019, to see certain revisions prior to adopting its resolution recommendation to the Council.  The Council has had two meetings in order to receive public and Council input to address updates to the draft document.  The first meeting was held November 20, 2019, and the second noticed public hearing was held on December 4, 2019 and continued to December 18, 2019 in order to receive the Planning Commission’s recommendation.

HCD has provided a thorough review of the draft Housing Element and provided staff with amendments necessary prior to certification. Staff made the required amendments based on HCD’s comments and on recent public input.  The draft Housing Element and appendices (Attachment A, Exhibit 1 and 2) have been reviewed by HCD and found to be in compliance with state Housing Element law (Attachment B).

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW (CEQA):

On July 23, 2014, the City adopted a Negative Declaration (ND) (SCH#2014032042) for the 2014-2019 Housing Element. Under CEQA Guideline Section 15164, an addendum to a negative declaration may be prepared if “…only minor technical changes are required or if none of the conditions identified in Guideline Section 15162 are present”. The proposed Housing Element has been evaluated for significant impacts pursuant to Section 15164. Policies included in the Element are designed to bring the City into compliance with state law, or to increase the availability of housing sites.

Some of the programs identified in the 2019 Housing Element will require future action to increase density, or change zoning. However, those actions are speculative under this review and will occur at some point over the next three years. Though these measures are required in this Element, they are too speculative to conduct environmental analysis on. Identifying the need to increase density somewhere in the City in this document as a program, recognizing that the specific rezone will also be subject to independent environmental review, does not itself have an environmental impact. Therefore, it can be seen with certainty that adoption of these programs will not have the potential to impact the environment.

The analysis in an Addendum is meaningfully different than a determination that a project is “exempt” from CEQA review, as there is no exemption in CEQA for general plan amendments. Rather, the determination here is that the potential impacts of the proposed 2019-2027 Housing Element were adequately evaluated in the previously adopted Negative Declaration and the new programs are exempt per the common sense rule.  The draft addendum and Notice of Exemption are attached for review (Attachment C).


Meeting History

Dec 10, 2019 6:00 PM Video Planning Commission Regular Meeting

The Commission received a staff report by Deputy Director Dart that identified the major revisions made to the following Housing Element sections based on comments that were received: Policy HE-13 and Implementation Measures 5, 11, 14, 19, 20, 21, 24, and 25. Discussion followed that included the process for determining the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, inclusionary zoning under Implementation Measure 20, incentives listed in Policy HE-13, the order of the Policies, how the Housing Element fits with the infill specific program, and consequences of not meeting the identified time frames within the Housing Element.

On a motion by Commissioner Vaissade-Elcock and seconded by Vice-Chair Mayer, Resolution No. PC-19-08 was adopted with recommendations to the City Council to adopt the draft Housing Element with an addition under Policy HE-13 to include Implementation Measures 11, 12, and 20; to switch HE-14 with HE-20 as a priority; and to amend Resolution No. PC-19-08 to include, under CEQA determination, the Addendum and Common Sense Exemption as stated in the Staff Report.

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

RESULT:ADOPTED [UNANIMOUS]
MOVER:Julie Vaissade-Elcock, Commissioner
SECONDER:Judith Mayer, Vice-Chair
AYES:Judith Mayer, Daniel Tangney, John Barstow, Julie Vaissade-Elcock, Michael Reinman, Kimberley White