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Santa Monica 's Housing Target Finalized at Nearly 8,900 New Units

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica

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By Jorge Casuso

March 4, 2021 -- Santa Monica must plan to build 8,895 new housing units by October 2029 under the final housing allocations adopted Thursday by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).

The final allocation -- which requires that 69.3 percent of the units be affordable -- reflects the numbers released last month, which added 22 units to last year's draft allocation.

Of the total units, 2,794 must be very low income, 1,672 must be low income and 1,702 must be moderate income. The rest -- 2,727 -- are market rate, a goal the City is expected to meet.

If met, the new allocation would represent a population surge in a City that has added some 5,000 residents over the past 50 years

An extensive appeals process saw 49 jurisdictions -- including Beverly Hills and Pasadena -- request revisions to their draft Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) allocations.

Of the total requests, only two were partially granted -- to Riverside County based on a jurisdictional error and to Pico Rivera due to a flood plain, City officials noted.

Thursday’s unanimous vote by SCAG's governing body covers the 1.34 million units assigned to the region by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

Jurisdictions must submit plans to meet their allocations as part of the 6th Cycle RHNA, covering the period from October 2021 through October 2029.

“The housing crisis has been and remains one of the most significant challenges we face as a region and a state,” said SCAG President Rex Richardson, vice mayor of Long Beach.

“From our perspective, the RHNA process has always been about working together and doing everything within our authority to address the housing crisis and ensuring that the determination is on the firmest possible technical ground,” Richardson said.

Santa Monica's housing target increased by about 85 percent -- from adding some 4,800 new housing units to adding nearly 8,900 -- after SCAG used an alternative methodology to determine the allocations for the upcoming cycle.

The new methodology shifted the burden from inland cities to those closer to the ocean and boosted the quotas for cities like Santa Monica that have access to high quality transit, jobs and a healthy development community.

"In the end, we challenged ourselves to come up with a formula that addresses our formidable housing challenges in an effective and equitable manner,” SCAG Executive Director Kome Ajise said Thursday.

“This is about more than just counting housing units," Ajise said. "It also carries forward our regional plan for sustainable development, improved mobility, and increased access to jobs, housing, and amenities."

Santa Monica's new allocation represented a five-fold increase over the RHNA goal in the current cycle that runs from 2013 to 2021.

City officials initially asked SCAG to lower Santa Monica's new allocation by giving it credit for past housing production, but the request was rejected.

By December 2019, the Council had accepted the daunting task of adding nearly 9,000 new housing units and began exploring removing caps on development ("Santa Monica Takes Initial Step to Dramatically Boost Housing Production," December 13, 2019).

"If we don't do this, the State will do it for us," Councilmember Gleam Davis said at the December 10 meeting. "It's coming whether we like it or not."

On March 10, Santa Monica become the first Southern California city to proactively take steps to meet its RHNA goal when the Council unanimously voted to allow most large housing projects to be approved by planning staff effective immediately ("City Council Begins Clearing Path for Nearly 9,000 New Housing Units," March 12, 2020).

The Council's decision to embrace the housing allocation likely contributed to the ouster of three incumbents last November, as many as had been defetaed in the past 24 years ("NEWS ANALYSIS -- A Perfect Storm Swept Incumbents Out of Office," November 23, 2020).

The three new council members last month signaled a new direction when they successfully pushed to oppose two State bills that would pave the way for more housing ("New Council Breaks With Past Housing Policies," February 10, 2021).

They also have shown a willingness to explore ways to build more affordable housing ("Councilmembers Float Ways to Build More Affordable Housing in Santa Monica," February 18, 2021).

On Tuesday, the Council is expected to temporarily halt commercial development in zones that allow housing in an effort to meet a the RHNA allocation for affordable units ("City Council Poised to Halt Commercial Development on Possible Housing Sites," March 3, 2021).

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