State wants changes to city’s Housing Element

Seal Beach has until Oct. 15, 2022, to update Zoning Code

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The state government has essentially rejected Seal Beach’s latest version of the Housing Element of the General Plan. Technically, the state decided that Seal Beach didn’t mean the deadline to have the housing document “certified,” because the document doesn’t contain details the state requires.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development wants more changes.

That leaves city staff with an Oct. 15 deadline to revise the city’s Zoning Code.

City Manager Jill Ingram confirmed receipt of the Housing and Community Development Department (HCD) notice in an April 18 email to the Sun.

“As noted in its letter, the Housing Element addresses most statutory requirements, however HCD is requiring additional revisions,” Ingram wrote.

“Pursuant to State law, without a certified housing element, rezoning must be completed by October 15, 2022, and staff is proceeding with this effort. The City Council approved a contract with Lisa Wise Consulting at the last meeting to assist with this undertaking,” wrote Ingram.

Ingram has confirmed that the required changes will effect staff’s ability to work on other projects.

“Almost all communities are struggling due to the volume of analysis HCD is requiring, which in many cases necessitates specialized knowledge or information not readily available,” Ingram wrote in an April 19 email.

“As HCD’s letter describes, it is not enough for the City to identify housing sites, we are being told to prove the sites will develop the number of units assigned by the State and implement policies that may be a departure from community preferences,” Ingram wrote.

“Furthermore, the new Housing Element triggers an update of the Safety Element and creation of an Environmental Justice Element under State law. Additionally, while it is a separate issue, the City remains in the process of drafting a Local Coastal Plan. This document shares a number of similarities with a General Plan, which is to say, it is an expansive policy document that requires a significant amount of staff resources,” Ingram wrote.

According to Ingram, the Planning Division has a director and two planners who serve the Community Development and Community Services departments.

“The sheer volume of work the State continues to mandate on cities throughout this process is most certainly impacting staff’s ability to accomplish other important City priorities and projects,” Ingram wrote.

As the Sun reported in March 2021, a potential consequence is that the California Attorney General’s Office or someone else could take legal action. In that case, the court could  prevent Seal Beach approving developments until the Housing Element is brought into compliance with state requirements. This would basically give the state authority to make local development decisions.

In an April 18, 2022, email, City Attorney Craig Steele wrote that generally, that information was still correct.

State requests revisions

The list of the state’s requested Housing Element revisions ran for seven pages. This list included:

• An evaluation of the effectiveness of past city housing goals and policies.

• A list of local, regional, and state fair housing agencies and organizations “beyond the Fair Housing Council of Orange County (FHCOC).”

• A description of the primary activities of fair housing “entities or the city’s capacity to take action such as providing dedicated resources.

The element must also identify and discuss findings, lawsuits, or enforcement actions related to fair housing.”

• An estimate of the number of housing units that need rehabilitation or replacement.

• An inventory of housing sites needs to indicate which sites will be consolidated.

• The city needs to describe its track record for facilitating lot consolidation.

• “Old Ranch Town Center–The element identified this site as a candidate site for rezoning to accommodate a portion of the City’s lower-income shortfall. The analysis states that the owner is considering a proposal for 120 units; however did not indicate if that proposal including affordable units as the inventory is assuming.”

• “Leisure World–The element identified redeveloping a portion of this site for 150 units; however provided no analysis on why this site is likely to redevelop.”

• Analysis of the length of time from approving a housing development and the submission of an application for building permits “that potentially hinder the construction of a locality’s share of the regional housing need.

• A description of the city’s outreach to advance fair housing.