Seal Beach hires a consultant to help with state-mandated update of city’s Housing Element

Contract requires a $160K budget amendment

The City Council on Monday, Sept. 11, approved a contract with Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc. The agreement is for the consultant to help city staff revise the Housing Element of the General Plan. State law mandates that cities update the housing-related section of their General Plans.

The council also approved a budget amendment of $160,600. According to the staff report, there is money for this contract and the budget amendment would not impact the general fund. “This Agreement will be funded through fee collection for the General Plan and does not affect the Five-year Plan,” wrote Finance Director Barbara Arenado in a Sept. 11 email.  “The Five-Year forecast focuses on General Fund impacts only.”

This was a Consent Calendar item. Items on the Consent Calendar are voted on collectively, without discussion, unless a council member or staff has the item pulled for individual consideration. This item was not pulled.

“The Southern California Association of Governments region is now about two years into the 2021-2029 Housing Element cycle,” wrote Community Development Director Alexa Smittle in her staff report.

“Due to extensive changes to State housing law over the last several years, Housing Element certification from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has been difficult for most communities,” Smittle wrote.

“Today, about half of Orange County jurisdictions, including Seal Beach, have not yet achieved certification,” Smittle wrote.

According to Smittle, Seal Beach lacks vacant land and historic sites.

“Additionally, the County of Orange, owner of the Sunset Aquatic Marina opportunity site, has withdrawn its support for housing at the site, requiring the City to identify other viable locations for 144 units,” Smittle wrote.

“Obtaining certification remains a critical priority for the City, as the consequences for failure to do so are extreme. Jurisdictions without a certified Housing Element can experience loss of grant funding, fines, lawsuits, and loss of ability to issue building permits entirely,” Smittle wrote.

Seal Beach staff recommends using experts to get the required certification, according to Smittle’s report.

“Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc. has helped several communities, including neighboring Long Beach, work with HCD and achieve certification,” Smittle wrote.

“This is a sole source contract recommendation as the firm is already assisting the City with the zoning code update,” Smittle wrote.

“The Consultant’s familiarity with the Seal Beach Housing Element and associated site challenges will reduce the time and cost needed to move the project forward,” Smittle wrote.

“The contract amendment will approve Budget Amendment 24-03-02 for an additional expenditure of up to $160,600 in professional services from Account 103-300-0231-51301,” Smittle wrote.

“This Account had adequate fund balance and is funded through fee collection for General Plan updates; the contract does not impact the General Fund,” Smittle wrote in the staff report.