The California State Legislature has determined that more affordable mixed-use, multi-family, transit station-oriented and homeless housing must be created because of population growth in California, notably in the Los Angeles area, and is implementing changes through the California State Housing Element law.
The housing element is required to be updated every five years and is subject to detailed statutory requirements and mandatory review by the state of California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).
The Los Angeles City Planning Department submitted the draft Housing Element Plan for 2006-2014 for review to the HCD and that agency sent back revisions that need to be made for the draft to comply with state housing element law.
The element must include detailed analyses of identified sites, zoning for a variety of housing types and potential governmental constraints.
In a letter to Gail Goldberg, director of the city Planning Department from Cathy Creswell, deputy director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development, Creswell stated that the recommended revisions would bring the housing element into compliance with the state government code.
The following information from Creswell’s letter outlines revisions to comply with those requirements.
Housing Needs, Resources and Constraints — Extremely low-income: the element identifies projected needs of extremely low-income households, but it must also quantify existing extremely-low income households and analyze their housing needs, considering tenure, rates of overpayment and overcrowding.
The element doesn’t include a complete site inventory or analysis and as a result, the adequacy of sites and zoning has not been established. Based on the results of a complete site inventory and analysis, the city may need to add or strengthen programs addressing a shortfall of sites. Based on a complete analysis of zoning for a variety of housing types, including transitional and supportive housing, programs may also need to be added or strengthened.
Los Angeles has a regional housing need of 112,876 housing units, of which 44,733 units are for lower-income households. To address the need, the inventory generally depends on underutilized multi-family and commercially zoned land. To demonstrate the adequacy of these sites to accommodate the city’s share of the regional housing need, the element must include analyses as follows:
Sites Inventory: the element lists sites by unique reference, size and zone. However, the general plan designation of sites must also be listed. The element provides a description of the methodology for the sites inventory, but given the magnitude of the nearly one million lots inventoried, the element should include an aggregate summary of the sites. For example, a summary could address the capacity identified in each strategic growth area or could summarize potential development in the community plan areas.
Parcels smaller than 5,000 square feet and parcels with structures less than 20 years old have been eliminated from the inventory, and the element should evaluate whether 20 years is an appropriate threshold for uses to potentially develop in the planning period.
The statute also requires the element to include a description and analysis of the extent to which existing uses (residential, churches, hospitals, commercial or offices) may impede additional residential development and include a description, relative to identified sites, of development trends, market conditions and regulatory incentives and standards to facilitate redevelopment or reuse.
The analysis could focus on community planning areas, commercial corridors and Adaptive Reuse Incentive Areas, and should consider the number of existing units on identified sites, where residential, and the impact of any loss of existing affordable housing stock.
Small Sites: Many sites in the inventory are less than half an acre or even a quarter of an acre. The element must include an analysis of smaller identified and underdeveloped sites, demonstrating feasibility, likelihood and potential for more intense residential development capacity in the planning period, including the potential of lot consolidation.
Realistic Capacity: The element describes screening of identified sites to account for land-use controls, development standards and conditions. The element must also provide an analysis of the realistic capacity of commercially zoned sites, accounting for the extent to which uses other than residential are allowed. The analysis could utilize recently constructed and approved residential or mixed-use developments on commercial sites related to areas identified in the inventory.
Infrastructure: While the element notes water is generally adequate, the element must indicate whether existing or planned water capacity can accommodate the city’s share of the regional housing need allocation within the planning period.
Zoning for a Variety of Housing Types: The element must include an analysis identifying zoning available to encourage and facilitate a variety of housing types including emergency shelters, transitional housing, supportive housing, single-room occupancy and housing for agricultural employees. If adequate zoning is not demonstrated for these uses, the element must add or strengthen programs to provide appropriate zoning.
The element did not address this requirement for single room occupancy, transitional and supportive housing and must include an analysis as described above.
The element indicates emergeny shelters are allowed by right in various zones with performance standards.
The city should be aware of recent amendments to housing element law, requiring, among other things, permitting transitional and supportive housing as a residential use and only subject to those restrictions that apply to other residential uses of the same type in the same zone.
Processing and Permit Procedures: The element generally describes what uses, including multi-family, are permitted in various zones and entitlement procedures, but must thoroughly describe and analyze typical approval procedures by housing type and the discretionary action level required.
Fees and Exactions: The element lists entitlement and impact fees but should also summarize the total typical fees and exactions on housing (multi- and single-family), and evaluate their cumulative impact on development costs.
Potential Constraints on Housing for Persons with Disabilities: The city’s reasonable accommodation ordinance and parking reduction program for service-enriched housing is described, but must also include a specific analysis of potential constraints on housing for persons with disabilities.
Building Codes and Their Enforcement: The element must identify and analyze any local amendments to the building code and the degree or type of enforcement for any impacts on the cost, availability and conservation of housing. The element generally quantifies special needs groups and should also include a detailed analysis of the characteristic of need for special needs groups, such as elderly persons.
Housing Programs: This includes a program which sets forth a five-year schedule of actions the local government is undertaking or intends to undertake to implement the policies and achieve the goals and objectives of the housing element through the administration of land use and development controls, provision of regulatory concessions and incentives, and the utilization of appropriate federal and state financing and subsidy programs when available.
Most programs describe an implementation schedule such as “2006-2014”; however, where appropriate, programs must have specific completion dates.
Completion dates can be estimated for programs committing to adopt, amend, revise and explore feasibility with some specific action.
Examples of programs that should be revised include, but are not limited to:
— Program E (for-sale developer assistance: infill housing) ñ describe how the city will assist infill housing development (infill housing is redevelopment of existing development to allow more intense use);
— Program H (for-sale developer assistance ñ small lot ñ describe how the city will facilitate small lot subdivisions;
— Program C (new rental housing opportunities ñ describe how the city will identify and fund new construction;
— Program C (innovative housing design) ñ clarify how the city will encourage developers in project review;
— Program D (redevelopment of Brownfield sites) ñ clarify what actions the city will take to explore redevelopment of Brownfield sites (the Environmental Protection Agency defines Brownfield as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.”);
— Program A (case management and case processing) ñ detail how the city will prioritize affordable housing developments;
— Program B (employer-assisted housing) ñ describe what the city will do once models are explored and how the city will provide technical assistance;
— Program B (incentives for affordable housing in historic preservation overlay zones) ñ explain how the city will provide incentives to rehabilitate affordable housing;
— Program A (property management training program) ñ describe the city’s role in implementation;
— Program H (monitor the affordable housing incentive program) ñ include actions to review or make adjustments to the incentive program based on the results of the periodic report; and
— Program A (preservation of affordable housing) ñ given the 21,577 at-risk units identified in the next ten years, the element must strengthen preservation actions.
The element describes a community-wide process, consisting of a task force which included representatives of various groups and should describe comments and how they were incorporated into the element, including policies and programs.
The city should continue to engage the community, including the parties commenting on this draft, through the revision and adoption of the housing element, including, prior to submittal to the department (Housing and Community Development), making revisions available with sufficient notice to comment (i.e. 30 days), and considering comments and incorporating, where appropriate, and make it available for comment prior to submittal to the department.
The housing element draft can be viewed on the city’s Web site by clicking on “Draft Housing Element Update 2006-2014.”
See related story on page 16.