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Planning commission embraces loosening granny flat regs

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Rent control apartments could be on the horizon

By Peter Dugré

The Carpinteria Planning Commission on March 1 was briefed on over a dozen new state laws recently enacted to combat California’s housing shortage. Many of the orders handed down by the state, which in large part give greater authority to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), will have little effect on Carpinteria. The city has been identified as one of only 13 in the state that is on track to meet its housing requirements, said Steve Goggia, Community Development Director. Still, planning commissioners agreed that the new laws clearly show the state will continue to pressure local government to create more housing, and one area the city should target to increase its housing stock is lowering fees and loosening restrictions on building Additional Dwelling Units, aka granny flats.

“With ADUs, I think we’re missing the boat. We built in a bunch of impediments for people to be able to build ADUs in our community,” said Glen LeFevers, planning commissioner.

While the planning commission did not take official action on the issue of ADUs, each member agreed that the topic needs further exploration. New state laws regarding ADUs last year ordered local governments to ease restrictions on ADUs; however, the language of the law regarding the coastal zone exempted Carpinteria. City planners said that reducing the lot-size requirement from 8,000 to 7,000 square feet might help spur building extra units on single-family lots.

“We have outstanding young people who are being priced out of their own community,” said John Moyer, planning commissioner.

In opting to not voluntarily adopt state changes to ADU policy, members of the public and the city council, last year, had cited parking congestion as a primary reason to not ease regulation.

“People need housing, and yet cars are such a big deal,” said commissioner Jane Benefield. “The traffic, the noise is what they think is a big deal, but then where do we put the bodies?”
Goggia said that the addition of low-income housing at Dahlia Court and Casa de las Flores put Carpinteria on track to meet its Regional Housing Need Allocation requirements. Also, the city has required the allocation of 12-percent moderate-income units in new housing developments.

New laws will require greater annual reporting to state HCD on inclusionary housing such as low and moderate income. Additionally, HCD will require further reporting on building permit applications and the time it takes to approve them, among many other new guidelines, in order more closely monitor housing construction in the state.

While Carpinteria has mandated inclusionary housing in new for-sale developments within the city, apartment buildings have not been required to set aside affordable units. Goggia said that creating a new ordinance requiring apartment developers to dedicate a percentage of new units to inclusionary rents may soon be considered by the city. Goggia explained that since the city does not require rent control units in new apartment buildings, developers might find building apartments more attractive than for-sale dwellings. Evening the playing field might make sense, he said. Commissioners favorably discussed the idea of rent control on a percentage on new apartments.

The city may be entitled to state funds to pay for actions designed to alleviate the housing crunch under a law enacted Jan. 1. State fees applied to development will be directed to local governments to encourage the creation of new housing. Goggia said the process for acquiring the money has yet to be established, but the city could apply for funds to offset costs of items like rewriting the General Plan. Developers of inclusionary housing, such as People’s Self-Help Housing, which built the Dahlia Court expansion and Casa de las Flores, will also be able to use the funds.

Other new state laws designed to streamline permitting for new developments will have no immediate impact on the city. Larger cities needing to meet housing requirements will likely see more workforce housing near transit centers and low-income housing as a result of the new laws.

“Based on our track record so far, HCD is basically saying you’re doing it. You’re going to do it. Good job,” Goggia said.

City staff is evaluating how to acquire new community development funds and how to comply with new HCD reporting standards, which will take effect in 2019.