The City Council has taken stock of Santa Monica’s housing inventory, as the City’s elected panel unanimously approved the 2013-2021 Housing Element on Tuesday.
A required component of the General Plan, the Housing Element outlines the City’s overall goals “to promote high quality, safe housing stock with continued maintenance and seismic upgrading, address homelessness, protect tenants, and preserve, rehabilitate and develop housing that is affordable for lower income households.”
The Housing Element also addresses the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) and its objectives to preserve existing neighborhoods and help provide the right amount of housing needs for mixed-use projects.
Other stated priorities include: identifying strategies for expanding housing opportunities; providing services for all household types and income groups; and, serving as the primary housing policy guide.
A major factor governing the Housing Element’s strategy is the loss of redevelopment, or RDA, funding.
“This Housing Element also acknowledges that the City must reset its course
to fund future affordable housing production following dissolution of the Redevelopment Agency,” City staff stated. “Nevertheless, the Housing Element includes a quantitative objective of 1,371 units, approximately half of which would be deed-restricted affordable units, and many of which are already in the building permit process or under construction.”
City staff stated in its report to the Planning Commission the 2013-2021 Housing Element “would not result in any significant impacts on the environment.”
During public testimony, residents Zina Josephs and Nancy Morse both told the council more attention needed to be given to senior housing and assisted living.
Josephs also told the council more affordable housing provisions should be in the Housing Element to ensure service groups who work in Santa Monica but could not afford market rates anywhere in the City still be given the opportunity to live here.
Council member Gleam Davis addressed some of the concerns raised during public comment.
“I think this council’s done a pretty good job when projects come before us … that we have really made an effort to emphasize or recognize the need for very low-income and extremely low-income units,” Davis said.
Davis added the Housing Element really is not a document outlining specific policies but instead puts forth the City’s aspirations for what it would like to achieve in the next few years.
Specific policies concerning affordable or senior housing would be addressed in the upcoming zoning code update, Davis said.
To help meet Santa Monica’s housing needs, the Housing Element proposes exploring ways to find new funding sources by creating partnerships with non-profit housing developers.
A few objectives and programs have been removed from the new Housing Element, including the Homebuyers Assistance Program and Tenant Ownership Rights Charter Agreement (TORCA).
Two other programs were consolidated elsewhere: the Senior Homeless Prevention Program was consolidated into the housing voucher program while the Office Mitigation Program was replaced with other mitigation fee programs.
Another key piece of the Housing Element is to ensure the availability of suitable sites for the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).
The RHNA component “determines the amount of future housing growth for which each city and county must plan in order to be prepared for a fair share of statewide population change.”
Under the proposed Housing Element update, Santa Monica was assigned an RHNA allocation of 1,674 units by 2021. Under the 2008-2014 Housing Element, Santa Monica’s RHNA allocation was 662.
The 2013-2021 Housing Element updates the 2008-2014 Housing Element and will be in effect from Jan. 1, 2014 through June 30, 2021.
Documents and findings related to the 2013-2021 Housing Element are available on the City’s Planning and Community Development website: smgov.net/Departments/PCD/Plans/2013-2021-Housing-Element.
Mayor Pam O’Connor and Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day were not present to vote on the Housing Element; all five council members present voted in favor of the document.