HomeCity Government NewsState Has Quibble With LCF’s Latest Housing Element Draft

State Has Quibble With LCF’s Latest Housing Element Draft

First published in the Dec. 15 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

La Cañada Flintridge isn’t in the clear just yet when it comes to its housing element. The city received a much-awaited response from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, regarding its second draft, and it was yet another rejection letter.
The state denied the housing element that was submitted by LCF in October, and Mayor Keith Eich told the Outlook Valley Sun that he was disappointed that the municipality’s efforts weren’t approved.
“We did a lot of public and commercial property owner outreach and put our best effort forward,” Eich said. “I’m anticipating staff and consultants to come back soon with their perspective and a recommendation. I’m hoping most of the items are more administrative in nature.”
City staff and consultants who have been working on the lengthy document –– required as part of the state’s effort to address its potential housing needs –– the past two years weren’t dejected. Susan Koleda, LCF’s director of community development, was actually optimistic and somewhat relieved by the state’s response.
“There were three comments that we got from HCD, which staff and the consultant were actually happy with because that showed the amount of work that had gone in between the first and second [letter from HCD],” Koleda said on Tuesday.
The first letter from the state sent last year was 11 pages long with 14 lengthy comments. The most recent response was only four pages.
Some of the notes from HCD ask that the city elaborate on how it will promote fair housing as well as special needs housing and remove any impediments to development.
Koleda seemed confident that she and the consultants will be able to answer those questions when they meet with state officials and hopes to speak with HCD “as soon as possible” to get more clarity on the comments, including one regarding the city having received two fair housing cases referred to litigation.
“We believe two of the comments will be pretty easily addressed with a discussion with HCD,” Koleda said.
However, there is one issue that will require more work to be done: the sites inventory list, which is a catalog identifying properties that could be considered for development.
“We’ve always identified to [City Council] that [the sites inventory] is probably our biggest issue that we have to deal with, and we were correct,” Koleda said. “The vast majority of work that needs to be done is with the sites inventory. That and then the zoning code amendments to actually implement [the housing element].”
The city submitted a list of 689 sites for a total of 935 dwelling units, more than enough to accommodate the number of homes LCF was tasked with for the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, which projects how many dwelling units are needed in each municipality to address the statewide housing shortage. LCF was designated with 612 residential units, though they don’t necessarily have to be built.
The state-mandated sites inventory list is essential to any housing element and shows HCD that development is not only possible and feasible in a city, but also facilitated by the local government.
HCD has some concerns about the sites submitted by LCF and requested more information about some properties, especially non-vacant lots, that would indicate the potential for development.
“While the element provided sample projects, the element should relate those projects to the existing uses identified in the sites inventory to demonstrate redevelopment potential and evaluate the extent existing uses impede additional development,” the state’s letter said.
HCD wants a more complete site analysis from LCF as well as a plan to mitigate any issues that may arise should development occur on Foothill Boulevard, where most of the sites listed are located.
“[The housing element] should still discuss whether the distribution of sites improves or exacerbates conditions,” HCD’s letter stated. “This is critical as the sites to accommodate lower-income households are only located along Foothill Boulevard near the 210 freeway. If sites exacerbate conditions, the element should include programs to mitigate conditions and promote inclusive communities.”
The next step for the city staff is to get direction from HCD and then have a discussion with the local housing element subcommittee, and then a revised document will likely need to be taken back to the City Council to determine the next steps. The council isn’t likely to meet until Jan. 17.
LCF is well past the October 2021 deadline to comply with the sixth cycle of the housing element, but it isn’t alone. According to HCD, only 40.45% of municipalities in Los Angeles County have had a housing element approved by the state.
Koleda is hopeful that the next version of the housing element will be the last one to be submitted and that the state’s response will come sooner than the most recent one.
“They did take the full 60 days [to respond], but what I have heard is once you get down to the last couple of comments, they do get you done quicker because you’re so close,” Koleda said.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]