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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Questions Remain about City’s Mandated Affordable Housing

• Residents Challenge SCAG Numbers

BY BILL KOENEKER

Participants at last week’s Housing Element update workshop conducted by the planning commission seemed frustrated by some of the explanations they heard about what the city would be required to do to implement affordable housing mandates.
“It is as if Dr. Suess and Kafka came together,” said Cindy Vandor, a Malibu West activist who has worked as a census worker.
She was responding to the city’s consultant John Douglas saying neither he nor anybody he knew could understand how a formula was used to derive the numbers formed by the Southern California Association of Governments or SCAG to mandate the number of affordable housing units required of each city.
Vandor, who said the census counted no more than 70 additional residents in Malibu for the past 10 years could not figure out how the city was assigned 441 units of affordable housing required.
“I was a crew leader for the census. If you can’t tell me how you got the number, you can’t use it. You must challenge the 441,” she said.
Vandor asked why couldn’t the city go straight to the state rather than rely on SCAG numbers, a voluntary organization that Malibu pays dues to.
Vandor said she was also bothered by how SCAG apparently relied on the workforce or labor pool by counting Pepperdine University, which is not in the city limits.
“SCAG doesn’t know Pepperdine is not in the city?” she asked.
Planning Director Joyce Parker- Bozylinski told audience members that SCAG would not listen to the city’s entreaty that if labor numbers were used, then the city should be able to count housing on the campus.
“We are getting charged for the employment. But we could not count their housing,” she said.
Representing the Malibu Township Council, Lucile Keller said the city should postpone work on the Environmental Impact Report until the numbers are corrected. “The city needs to challenge the numbers otherwise it will be held responsible for 441 units. The city was sued in 1997. We won. The judge said we were compliant,” she noted.
However, participants received more “bad news” when they were told by Assistant City Attorney Gregg Kovacevich that case law for such action established that SCAG cannot be sued over the numbers generated by the organization. “They cannot be legally challenged in court, only on an administrative [basis],” he said.
Malibu West activist Lynn Norton said the emphasis should be placed on the many guesthouses that have been built in Malibu over the past couple of years and those planned for the future.
Parker-Bozylinksi said the city cannot just use estimates especially for those units that do not have a kitchen and do not qualify as housing units.
Norton said the focus should be on what the city can do as an alternative to upzoning properties.
Ryan Embree agreed and said the city should generate its own numbers and research “what Malibu really is.”
Both Susan Tellem and Keller talked about the infrastructure limits in Malibu, especially the water supply and other elements that have limited growth in Malibu.
Douglas reminded the participants they were not the only stakeholders involved in the issue and that other groups and regulatory organizations were also involved.
He talked about the serious consequences of not being found in compliance with the state and that courts have imposed all kinds of remedies including zone changes, and mandating the issuance of building permits.

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