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City Eyes Finish Line on Housing Element

First published in the Jan. 26 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The finish line is finally in sight for the city of La Cañada Flintridge in submitting a housing element that would be approved by the state following a productive conversation with state officials.
Susan Koleda, the LCF’s director of community development, informed the City Council as well as the community that city staff and elected officials recently spoke with a supervisor from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, which sought clarity on the second draft that was submitted in October.
“This is not a rewrite of the housing element,” Koleda told the Council during a meeting on Jan. 17. “There’s actually not a lot of work to do.”
At the meeting, the City Council approved an amendment to the contract with the consulting firm, CityPlace Planning, which has helped LCF in updating its housing element. The amendment would provide a limited amount of additional funds to complete the work on the lengthy document, which is required from every municipality as part of the state’s effort to address its potential housing needs.
Koleda told the Outlook Valley Sun on Wednesday that the required work is more “clarifications, not policy related,” and she hopes to bring back a revised housing element to the Council by next month.
“This is really huge,” she said. “I do see a finish line, but we still have all the zoning code changes that have to be done.”
Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gunter was also in the recent virtual meeting with HCD and commended the consultants and city staff for their work despite having the first two drafts not approved by the state.
“Really, the conclusion was that HCD told us we got the report right on the second submission. What they asked for was information clarifying what we have already done,” Gunter said. “It’s not that our consultants got it wrong; what’s happening is that HCD and the state of California is drowning in a zillion of [housing elements]. The good news is that we’re almost done.”
LCF is well past the October 2021 deadline to comply with the sixth cycle of the housing element, but it is one of many cities still seeking approval from the state. According to the HCD, only 55.8% of California municipalities are in compliance with the current cycle of the housing element. In Los Angeles County, 50 of 89 housing elements have yet to be approved by the state. Any city that fails to comply with HCD’s demands is vulnerable to litigation from the state and other parties, subject to financial penalties and loss of the authority to issue permits.
La Cañada Flintridge will post the modified housing element online for public review when it is complete, and Koleda said she and the consultants are working swiftly to get it done so they can shift their focus to updating the city’s zoning code, which specifies land use and regulates structures within specific areas.
“We need this help to get this done fast,” Mayor Keith Eich said before the Council unanimously approved amending the contract with the consultants. “It’s in our best interest to get this done quickly.”


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