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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Council Approves Housing Element Revisions

• Staff Is Authorized to Submit the Changes to HCD for Review

BY BILL KOENEKER

On a 4-1 vote with Councilmember Skylar Peak dissenting, the Malibu City Council gave the green light for the staff to submit revisions to the Draft Housing Element and send it back to the state Department of Housing and Community Development or HCD for review and comment.
The council was told the state agency had reviewed the draft document after it was submitted last year and two months ago planners received the first official comment letter from HCD in response to the city’s submission of its housing update.
The letter asked for further information and evidentiary support related to the strategy of the city to use second units to fulfill the need for very low and low income housing units, the suitability and availability of infrastructure as well as environmental constraints on new development, according to a planning department staff report.
John Douglas the consultant hired by the city to oversee the update, said they were very pleased by the results of a survey sent out for those interested in utilizing those second units as affordable housing.
“We believe we can satisfy 30 additional units that can be satisfied [for the affordable housing credits],” he said.   
Douglas also talked about the densities required for the affordable housing overlay zone. He cited six units to 20 units per acre for low and moderate income.
Some residents have expressed concern with this approach.
Lucile Keller, representing the Malibu Township Council, said MTC believes the planning director is trying to find the least damaging manner to meet the goals.
“The city should not follow [the SCAG numbers]. The allocation [for the number of affordable housing units] is wrong. All the nongovernmental constraints exist today or more than when the city was sued over this,” she said. “The appellate judgment should be used as part of the report. The non-governmental constraints convinced two judges. We should avoid being forced into high density development.”
Councilmember Lou La Monte, who called the process “a mandated fictitious solution to a mandated fictitious problem,” asked about the farm worker housing mandate.
Planners said that every city that allows farms must provide farm worker housing. “It would still have to go through the planning process and HCD control,” said one planner.
Councilmember Skylar Peak asked about winegrowing areas. “What if we say no?” he asked.
City Attorney Christi Hogin acknowledged the city had been sued before and won, but the goal was to get HCD certified.
 “Then you have the presumption of a valid housing element. We do have options of being self-certified. We are not there yet. We need to get an Environmental Impact Report. The easiest way to get certified is by HCD. The court could go on to issue permits. Let’s play it straight,” she said.
Councilmember John Sibert said he was encouraged by how many second units might be available. “I personally know of three people who have second units but did not yet respond to the city,” he said.
Sibert said he thought the council should go through the document segment by segment.
But when Peak put on the table a motion to bring it back for further discussion, he could not get a second. Sibert then asked what the timing was and was told it is important to keep the process moving forward to meet the deadline, so the city can start on the next update cycle.
La Monte then made a motion to send the revisions to HCD for review.
 The council voted 4-1 to approve the motion, with Peak dissenting.
 Critics say they are concerned the plan could lead to high density development despite census records that indicate little population growth and many empty residences.

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