HomeCity Government NewsCity Council OKs Housing Element on 5-0 Vote

City Council OKs Housing Element on 5-0 Vote

First published in the Oct. 6 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

It is done.
The La Cañada Flintridge City Council finally adopted a housing element Tuesday that members hope will be accepted by the state. The document will be submitted at the end of the week ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline.
“I’m happy that we’re here with what I believe and what staff has told us is a legal and compliant housing element,” said Mayor Keith Eich, “and I am very excited to adopt this and do all the things in the staff report and send it to Sacramento.”
The few community members present for the meeting applauded after the council voted 5-0 to approve the general plan amendment to adopt the 2021-2029 housing element, which had some revisions from the draft that had been presented last month.
City staff removed several properties from the sites inventory list in the final draft, most notably those owned by St. George’s Episcopal Church and the former site of Pier 1 Imports. The density was altered at a few sites and the city also received three letters from property owners stating that they do not intend to redevelop during the sixth cycle of the housing element.
In total, the city’s sites inventory list has 689 sites for a total of 935 dwelling units, which is a surplus of 323 sites and more than enough to accommodate LCF’s task of showing that it can allow for the development of 612 residential units, though that does not necessarily mean they would be built.
The regional housing needs assessment projects how many dwelling units are needed in each city to address the statewide housing shortage, and LCF is well above the 15-30% buffer for additional units with 52%.
“I think we got it right this time,” said Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gunter. “I think the staff did a very nice job as a number of folks have indicated to listen carefully to what the council had asked them to do based on what they heard from the community. … I think at this point it’s important that we move forward with the housing element that we have, understanding that nothing is ever perfect.”
Gunter added that there is still some “really heavy lifting” to do over the next year to update the zoning that would match up with the housing element, a document that LCF staff worked on for over two years.
The city had sent a draft of the housing element to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, last year and the state informed LCF staff that the lengthy document needed to be revised. Councilwoman Terry Walker said that though there is a possibility that the state will again reject the current iteration of the housing element, she was content with the city’s effort and community outreach.
“At least we’ve said, ‘We’ve met your compliance, but we listened to our citizens, and this is how they think [we] can best work this into our community,’” she added.
As of Tuesday, the HCD website indicates that only 18% of municipalities in Los Angeles County are compliant with the current cycle of the housing element.
After an arduous journey the past year, Councilman Kim Bowman requested that city staff be more proactive with the next housing element by working earlier to avoid another race against a deadline.
“My ask is that we don’t wait six years to do this again, and that we have that kind of level of engagement early and often when we’re thinking about these issues moving forward,” Bowman said.
Three community members expressed their support for the housing element as written and were grateful to the council for listening to their concerns.
“We know that there are maybe some things in the plan that HCD will comment on that we didn’t quite explain completely, but we’re here to support you, and we know that this will get approved,” said Scott Van Dellen, a 26-year resident of LCF.
However, there were some that disagreed with what city staff was going to submit to the state.
Garret Weyand — one of the owners of the controversial 1.28-acre parcel at 600 Foothill Blvd. whose proposal for a three-story, mixed-use structure that offered senior housing, hotel units and office space was denied by the City Council last year — was again critical of the city for relying on a report from consulting firm Michael Baker International. The report analyzed a recent property purchase to determine the density required to make housing development economically feasible in LCF, and Weyand believes the property value of $100 per square foot used in the assessment is not accurate.
“You can’t buy that in Sylmar,” said Weyand, who added that some of the properties on the sites inventory list should not be considered.
Ryan Leaderman, an attorney representing the owners of 600 Foothill Blvd., said that the land value is more than double what was in the consultant’s report.
“What that means is that not enough housing units are going to be produced because it’s infeasible,” he said. “It does not take into account the high land value cost in this city.”
David Haxton, a regular at city and school board meetings, also expressed disappointment in the housing element, claiming that it is not inclusive, a point he has brought up at previous meetings. He urged the city to have an inclusionary housing ordinance that would require developers to designate a certain percentage of residential units for affordable housing.
“You know the phrase: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” said Haxton. “Well, if you approve the housing element without inclusionary housing, you’re part of the problem, as are the five members of the Planning Commission and the director of community development and the principal planner. Each of you who votes to approve this draft housing element is complicit.


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