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City Seeks More Time to Meet State Housing Deadline

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April 27, 2022 -- Facing stiff penalties, the City Council on Tuesday voted to try and buy more time to revise a plan rejected by the State to build nearly 9,000 new housing units over the next eight years.

The Council also voted to extend a contract with Wood LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental consulting firm, to help revise the plan California housing officials said fails to detail how the City plans to meet its quota.

To become compliant, the City must revise or add programs, remove any identified development constraints and complete any rezoning needed by October 15 or face hefty fines and lose State funding, State officials warned.

Councilmembers on Tuesday echoed the same frustrations they aired last October, when they grudgingly approved a plan to build 8,895 housing units, nearly two-thirds of them of them affordable ("City's Housing Element Fails to Comply," February 11, 2022).

"The State doesn't care how we do it, we just have to do it," said Councilmember Christine Parra. "That's what it feels like.

"Our responsibility is to our community," Parra said. "At the end of the day what is our community going to feel like for the people who live and work here?"

Councilmember Phil Brock agreed. "I echo (the) despair in this because we're faced with insurmountable charges that are going to destroy the character of our city.

"And I'm not sure that there's any relief in sight from the State at all, and that's tragic in some ways," Brock said.

He then turned to Planning Manager Jing Yeo. "Do you see any hope on the distant horizon on this?"

Yeo shook her head. "No," she said.

Mayor Sue Himmelrich noted that some cities are deciding not to even try to meet the mandates set by the State's Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

"West Hollywood is basically doing nothing," Himmelrich said. "They just said to HDC, 'You don't understand. Just go away.' Pasadena is pushing (back)."

Acknowledging there was no time to embark on rezoning changes, the Council unanimously followed planning staff's recommendation to request legislative changes that would push back the October 15 deadline for cities that submitted a Housing Element on time.

"While staff is attempting to seek as much clarification as possible on HCD’s comments, there is no guarantee that HCD will certify the revised Housing Element.

That "would potentially put the City back in the same position with an uncertified Housing Element and continuing to be out of compliance," staff wrote.

The Housing Element approved by the Council on October 12 relies on non-profit housing providers using City-owned land and homeowners adding auxiliary rental units.

State Housing officials said the plan failed to provide a realistic inventory of land where housing could be built, did not demonstrate the potential to build affordable housing on those sites and said not explain how it would facilitate development.

On Tuesday, planning staff warned the Council that while Santa Monica is on track to meet its market rate quota, "there will be shortfalls" in the affordable housing units.

A total of 4,720 affordable units have been approved, are pending or are under construction, leaving the City 4.175 units short of the quota.

To build those units, staff said, "it is estimated that an increase of up to 13,000 units will be necessary to make up the shortfall and also include a necessary buffer to address the 'no net loss' requirement.

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