Local and state officials are working on a deal to reduce the penalties affecting nearly every Southern California city and county for failing to adopt state-approved housing plans by the February deadline.
Under a new law adopted last fall, those cities are now required to re-zon the land needed to meet the state’s housing goals by October 15, instead of the usual three-year deadline.
If they fail to meet the reasoning deadline, the state can put them out of compliance with state housing laws, exposing them to lawsuits, harsh fines, deduction of housing grants and loss of local control over planning decisions. Can do.
“Everyone was late, and so it’s been very hard because at the same time…[state housing officials]were sending letters saying, ‘You’re out of compliance, you could lose your funding.’ And that’s sending all the cities, you know, crazy mode,” said Guy Strahl, D-Santa Monica’s chief of staff, Bills writer Richard Bloom. “It’s driving all the cities crazy.”
Just five cities and one county in the six-county Southern California Association of Government area — Duarte, San Gabriel, Victorville, Westlake Village, Wildomar and Ventura counties — met the February 11 deadline to adopt the state-certified plan, or “Housing Elements.”
Read more: Yorba Linda is the first city in Orange County to adopt a state-mandated housing plan
The remaining 191 jurisdictions in the SCAG area now only have until October 15 to renegotiate the land needed to accommodate the massive increase in state-mandated home construction targets – a time-consuming task that many cities said has been declining. impossible to accomplish.
SCAG’s executive director Kom Azise said that his agency had been seeking more time for rezoning since last year because the new measure, Assembly Bill 1398, “changed the rules of the game” such as the process for areas to modify their accommodations. were in plans.
“We knew right away that when 1398 passed it was going to be a problem,” said Aziz. “Given the number of cities that we had just started completing their housing elements, it was impossible to meet the deadline.”
A proposed settlement seeks to make a Southern California exception to AB 1398.
Strahl said housing advocates, representatives from the state Department of Housing and Community Development, and Bloom are working on an amendment to give Southern California cities “a little more time” for the rezoning process.
Strahl said the provisions of the settlement bill are still being worked out. Bloom is hoping to finalize its language soon so that it can be offered as a “urgency” measure, allowing it to take effect immediately upon passage.
“There are a lot of issues going on. … We’re still trying to make sure (state housing officials) are comfortable. We’re trying to make sure the Senate is comfortable. So there’s a lot of people with whom. We are still investigating,” Strahl said.
AB 1398 is one of the latest in a series of new laws drafted over the past five years to strengthen the state’s regional housing needs assessment, or RHNA, process. The half-century-old law requires California’s cities and counties to plan their fair share of housing at all income levels. As part of that process, local governments are required to update the housing element of their general plans at least once every eight years.
In response to the housing crisis, the state created new methods for assessing housing needs, resulting in a tripling of the SCAG area’s home construction target to 1.34 million homes by the end of the decade. For some cities, the increased targets will increase their housing stock by 40% or more by October 2029.
Several cities said it would be impossible for them to complete the time-consuming rezoning process on such a large scale because the process involves public hearings and environmental reviews under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.
Manhattan Beach planning manager Tylin Mirzakhanian said meeting the October 15 deadline is “going to be very difficult.”
“Demonstrating the capacity for 774 new units completely built in a small town is a very difficult task,” Mirzakhanian said. “…we don’t have a single blank site to rely on. And so, because of that, we faced very stringent requirements.”
Long Beach planning manager Alison Spindler-Ruiz said her city may not complete the rezoning of nearly 800 parcels until sometime next year, even though the city is getting a head start after recently updating its land-use plan. Got it
“The rezoning process entails a whole host of broader community engagements,” Spindler-Ruiz said. “(They include) the reporting of public hearings, mailings and public hearings by both the Planning Commission and the City Council.”
The City of Los Angeles needs to remodel enough land to accommodate approximately 255,000 additional housing units, the city said in a statement. Officials identified about 243,000 “candidate sites” on the list for possible rezoning. Even three years may not be enough time to complete that task, Statement indicated.
“Rezoning efforts typically take many years of community engagement and from initiation to adoption,” it said. “The one-year timeline seems improbable … and even a three-year timeline turns out to be quite fast.”
In Redondo Beach, rezoning will require voter approval, said community development director Brandi Forbes. The earliest the city will get such a measure on the ballot is in March 2023.
“We can do it within a three-year time frame,” Forbes said. “We can’t do it in one year.”
Under AB 1398, cities that fail to meet the October redistribution deadline will be denied compliance with the state’s housing element law, setting in motion a wide range of potential consequences.
Non-compliant jurisdictions face the pitfalls of many state and federal grants, including competing grants to fix roads, add bike lanes, improve transit or build affordable housing.
They cannot deny affordable housing projects because they are inconsistent with zoning or general planning and face potential lawsuits with fines ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 per month. The fine can be multiplied by six for courts that are out of compliance.
Bloom said in a press release when AB 1398 was signed into law that the measure was designed to encourage cities to adopt their updated housing elements in a timely manner.
“Unfortunately, there are instances where cities deliberately adopt faulty housing elements to avoid building their fair share of housing,” Bloom said. “As the housing crisis continues to grow in California, it is important that every local government adopt a plan that meets the requirements of state law (and) to do so in a timely manner.”
SCAG chief Aziz said difficult planning and reasonable housing requirements, coupled with the COVID-19 lockdown and delays in determining local housing allocations, put the region’s cities and counties about six months behind in adopting their new housing elements.
Most cities had a draft housing element as of last October, but the back-and-forth process of getting the housing department’s review and amendments pushed courts beyond the February 11 deadline to get state approval.
“The process is not that easy,” said Aziz. “…we didn’t expect the law to change the rules of the game while we were in process. So, (AB 1398) was not a surprise to us, but we also weren’t expecting it to apply to us.
Housing advocates express conditional support for a redistribution extension, saying they want to spare cities the consequences of losing affordable housing grants, but don’t want to let them off the hook for not completing their housing plans on time. .
“While we want it to have consequences, we don’t want to make the situation worse by (cities) losing out on affordable housing money,” said Leonora Kamner, executive director of Abundant Housing LA.
“SCAG is caught in the middle of this,” said Kennedy Commission Executive Director Cesar Covarrubias, an affordable housing advocate. “We understand that there are cities like LA that have thousands of sites. It’s a big challenge for them. … But we need to hold cities accountable.”