City Council unanimously votes to extend Interim Housing Ordinance

City Council unanimously votes to extend Interim Housing Ordinance

Photo Credits: JAMIE CHEN / AGGIE

Interim Housing Ordinance to be extended to the next fiscal year, when a new ordinance will be drafted

On Nov. 27, city staff brought up two pressing issues during the weekly city council meeting. The council wanted to “extend the current interim ordinance for a limited period, to allow additional commission/community review of the draft replacement requirement, and provide preliminary direction on each of the four key issues identified in their latest report.”

The council voted unanimously 5-0 in favor of extending the Interim Ordinance to the next fiscal year. Mayor Brett Lee spoke on behalf of the council.

“Everyone on the council has a commitment to providing affordable housing for people with lower incomes,” Lee said. “What we did today is we renewed our existing interim ordinance, which requires 15 percent of apartment complex units to be affordable, and we currently have an exemption of mixed-use development.”

Michael Webb, the city manager for the City of Davis, was pleased with the outcome.

“It’s to maximize how much affordable housing we can provide to the community, at certain income levels with each new development project that happens,” Webb said. “But not getting so far as to eliminate the feasibility of the project happening. The recommendation here was to continue with the proposition we have here for multifamily housing.”

The commission addressed various issues regarding the alteration of the Affordable Housing Ordinance. It recommended removing the vertical mix and stacked flats exemptions to the ordinance.

“Currently, there is no city requirement for the provision of affordable housing units when a project like that is built, and tonight the full council gave full direction for staff to come back and actually provide us with an ordinance that provides us 5 percent requirement for projects like that,” Lee said. “The downtown area would be viewed as a special area that may not be required to have that 5 percent. It would be on a project by project basis but [with] the understanding that there would be some contribution to affordable housing.”

Following the 2009 Palmer Decision, Davis looked to update and change its affordable housing policy to comply with the decision. In 2017, however, former Governor Jerry Brown signed various new housing bills. Of these bills, the most important was AB 1505, which “additionally authorize[d] the legislative body of any county or city to adopt ordinances to require, as a condition of development of residential rental units, that the development include a certain percentage of residential rental units affordable to, and occupied by, moderate-income, lower income, very low income, or extremely low income households or by persons and families of low or moderate income.” This essentially overturned the Palmer Decision, and now the city once again seeks to change its housing laws.

A study conducted by Plesia & Company reported on housing in Davis. The report was edited by BAE Urban Economics. In this report, Plescia & Co. highlighted the city’s return on investment for each of the four residential and mixed-use development prototypes and presented preliminary information on the effects of affordable housing on the net project value of those four development prototypes. This was heavily cited during the city council meeting, as it is expected to influence the legislation in years to come.

On Nov. 5, the City of Davis released the Affordable Housing Ordinance. This was set to be reviewed by the planning commission on Nov. 14 and then reviewed by the Social Services Commision on Nov. 19. The conclusion reached by the commission was that the interim ordinance would be extended until 2019 or 2020, when more information would be available and a decision could be made. This was confirmed on Nov. 27, when the ordinance was brought to a vote. Residents such as Larry Guenther, a local contractor, and council members alike were pleased with the decision.

“That gives us time to flesh out all the ideas,” Guenther said. “A lot of people were talking about a lot of different ideas. The planning commision has weighed in with a lot of ideas, the social services commission has a lot of ideas. Other community members have a lot of ideas, and so that gives some time for the community city staff and City Council to come up with a much better Affordable Housing Ordinance.”

The vote simply extended the Interim Ordinance, and by the end of the fiscal year in June, a new ordinance will have to be drafted.

“It’s probably unlikely to change in June,” Lee said. “It will probably just be a renewal. The ordinance we renewed keeps in place what has been the case in terms of apartment complexes. This hasn’t been an obstacle for people building apartment complexes.”

Community members, however, were skeptical. Many want greater changes when the Affordable Housing Ordinance is once again brought to the table in June.

“We’re all problem solvers,” Guenther said. “People are problem solvers, developers are problem solvers. If you give them an avenue to get around the system, they’ll take it. It’s very difficult to get one ordinance that absolutely guarantees the perfect situation. But it won’t happen without discussion with all community members. We’ve got a lot of smart people and we need to hear from them. We need to hear from students. Our biggest employer is the university. About half of the city’s renters are students. We need that voice. That voice has to be part of our answer.”

Written by: John Regidor — city@theaggie.org