HomeCity Government NewsCity Moves Forward on Rezoning, Housing Element

City Moves Forward on Rezoning, Housing Element

In a special City Council meeting on Tuesday, councilmembers unanimously approved the necessary amendments to rezone with changes under the General Plan Amendment, the Zoning Code and the Downtown Village Specific Plan Amendment, or DVSP.
In addition to those items, a vote on the environmental analysis from the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, was also included and was unanimously approved.
The decision comes to the City Council after getting approval and recommendation from the Planning Commission, as well as the pressure to comply with a judgment that the city received on Sept. 5 from the Los Angeles Superior Court giving them a 60-day requirement to complete rezoning that aligns with housing element mandates from the state.
“While we do not always agree with the state legislature, once laws are passed, we work as hard as we know how to make sure we follow along,” said Mayor Rick Gunter in his opening remarks. “And that’s who we are as a city — we always followed the law.”
The recommendations from city staff included to adopt the initial study and declaration from CEQA; adopt the resolution approving the general plan amendment; adopt the two urgency ordinances (one for the zone change and another for the DVSP amendment); and conduct a first reading of the regular ordinance for the zone change and DVSP amendment to later have a second reading and approval.
“All of these changes are necessary to implement the housing element,” said Director of Community Development Susan Koleda. “We are under a severe time crunch, [so] we only made those changes that were necessary to the General Plan and Zoning and to Downtown Village Specific Plan. I have had a lot of requests to change things like uses and different things, that I think were not related directly to the housing element implementation, [and] they were not considered.”
Koleda gave a very similar report to the Council that was also presented to the Planning Commission at its Aug. 30 special meeting. The Council asked questions related to building height with respect of the zone in the city, designated loading zones and parking spaces.
Overall changes to the general plan include consistency with the new housing element, the city’s land use element and their associated maps.
Some changes to the general plan include a slight change in density from 20-30 dwellings per acre to 25-30 dwellings per acre. Floor area ratio, or FAR, will be a 15 to 1 ratio for multifamily and mixed-use and 0.5 to 1 ratio for 100% commercial.
“One of the ideas behind this was to encourage multifamily and mixed-use and to discourage purely commercial in our mixed-use areas,” said Koleda.
The overall changes for the zoning code include increasing the density from 20-30 dwellings per acre to 25-30 dwellings per acre in the multifamily and mixed-use areas. City staff also added a new chapter related to zoning and affordable housing, since there is a different process for those types of projects.
They also added minor changes in wording to better understand the plan, and additionally added requirements for an off-street loading space and bicycle parking for multifamily developments.
The changes to the DVSP included two new mixed-use zones (mixed-use 12 and 25) and created a Housing Element Implementation Overlay Zone for the DVSP area specifically, with a revision of maps, which will also remove constraints on development.
The mixed-use 12 zone would have a density of 12-15 dwellings per acre, while the mixed-use 25 zone and the Housing Element Implementation Overlay zone would have a density of 25-30 dwellings per acre.
Koleda also reviewed the heights in the DVSP. Heights related to the mixed-use one and two zones and the village center did not have a change in height with a maximum of 32 feet.
The new mixed-use areas 12 and 25, the Insitiutional and the Housing Element Implementation Overlay zone would have a new height limit of 35 feet to allow for three stories in multifamily projects.
“I don’t believe that is a substantial change considering we are including that height limit in numerous other areas,” said Koleda.
There were two urgency ordinances included in the decision as it relates to the zoning code and the DVSP because the “city’s current zoning code is out of alignment which has potential to cause problems around public peace, health and safety,” said Gunter.
“With the urgency ordinances, we’ll be able to essentially start the process of helping developers understand the clarity, the zoning and be able to do different things,” said Councilman Keith Eich. “It provides a lot of clarity for everybody, immediately.”
The environmental analysis was found to have no significant impacts.
Community members got the chance to speak during the public comment section and spoke about minor specifications that they would like to see, which included the CEQA study, clarification on the height on buildings that can be built, the space for loading and parking related to senior citizens.
The report states that for senior citizen multifamily residential parking with a studio apartment will have a 0.5 parking space provided to them, and city resident Nancy Antonoplis said she thought that wasn’t practical.
“If I were moving into, you know, downsizing, I wouldn’t be getting rid of my car,” said Antonoplis. “So, I think it’s going to be unfortunate that we have studio apartments that don’t have a single parking spot. I don’t think people are going to come here, rent and give up their car and think they are going to take the bus to work because our bus just basically goes to Montrose. Our transportation is not very good.”
Councilman Kim Bowman offered his thoughts on the overall matter.
“I do not see this as being a settled matter at the end of this meeting today,” said Bowman. “I think that there is more to do, and that very clearly at the top of the meeting, what we said was, we have a housing element, and these are changes that we need to make in order to meet that housing element, because anything left outside of that window potentially causes problems for people in terms of consistency, continuity, and then ultimately safety.”
Eich also added his input in the matter and more clarification on the need for an urgency ordinance.
“There is an immediate need for the preservation of public peace, health and safety,” said Eich. “…We want to do our part. We’ve been urgently, professionally, publicly and accurately doing our part. This isn’t easy when we have a built-out town in a high fire zone with limited infrastructure, people obstructing the process, and very few high value transportation networks accessible in our community. We have been very inclusive, seeking diverse opinions and perspectives.
“Today there’s a disconnect between our housing element and our zoning,” he added. “This tonight, this urgency [ordinance] will fix that and before the Oct. 15 deadline that we have.”
Gunter continued to thank community members, staff and the council for their dedication to this topic.
“This is hard stuff,” said Gunter. “And I’m really proud of the fact that we are adapting our zoning to create more than 600 new housing units in town. We are committed to being part of the solution to have a better place for our children and our children’s children to live in. That’s why we are doing this.”
Councilwoman Terry Walker excluded herself from voting on the General Plan Amendment and the Zoning Code portion, since she owns a business within those areas.
Following the meeting, Koleda told the Outlook Valley Sun that certified copies of the resolution approving the General Plan Amendment and Urgency Ordinances for the Zone Change and amendment to the Downtown Village Specific Plan will be sent to California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, this week, along with the Housing Element adopted in February, which the organization has viewed once already.
“Since the City Council also conducted a first reading on a regular ordinance for the Zone Change and amendment to the DVSP, the second reading is being scheduled for Sept. 19, and if adopted that night, would become effective 30 days later,” said Koleda.

First published in the September 14 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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