The Davis Planning Commission became the first body to hear the new Affordable Housing Ordinance and the Inclusionary Requirements for Rental Development. City Staff had requested feedback on four questions and, after over two hours of discussion, the Commission expressed frustration at the process and attempted to convey the information about their concerns to the council.
As Commissioner David Robertson put it, “Tell me how many we need. Is there a preference? Yeah, my preference is that we provide affordable housing for the elements of Davis Society that are in need of housing currently. That’s a starting place.
“Do I have an income target for affordable housing in Davis? I don’t know,” he continued. “Sometimes it’s not appropriate to answer questions. Sometimes we count things because we can count them. Not because they should be counted. Is there a preferred income for affordable rental housing? My answer to that is not right now, because I don’t have enough information.”
Herman Boschken opined, “We’re dealing here with what is commonly referred to in recent years as wicked problems. The simple definition of a wicked problem is a problem that has no solution.” He said, “The consultants here weren’t rightly tasked… They did give us essentially what they were asked to give us.”
He explained that they found if they emphasized the social equity aspect to this, you get no economic development. As a result, “[W]e are subject to what you might call, negative sum games. Namely that economic development and equity both lose as it’s structured.
“We are not just missing information, we are missing an assessment,” he added. “It’s hard to encourage going forward with this ordinance as it stands, the 5-5-5, without this contextual information.”
David Robertson offered a possible solution. He noted that they have approved a number of projects with 5-5-5 in place. “Developers willingly or grudgingly saying ultimately that I can accept that as a condition of my project,” he said. “We cannot go to the 10-25, I’m convinced of it.
“Even if the analysis told us nothing more, it told us that ain’t gonna work,” he said.
“One way or another, we have to leave something in place, doing nothing, letting it simply go away, is doing something, it’s going to 10-25,” he said referring to the previous 35 percent standard that everyone agreed was not workable and no one else in the state was using as a standard.
He said, rather than addressing the four questions, “we recommend that the existing ordinance stay in place, until the appropriate time for the city council to decide that. They don’t need us to decide… We just want it to continue until an appropriate time for it to be replaced by something that’s based on data and not on wishes, guesses, hopes.”
He said for the Downtown Core this would be in place, but for the rest of the community we can wait until we have a housing element. He noted that the only reason the ones which have been approved already have worked is because they’ve allowed a bedroom basis for approval. “So I think we have to allow that to continue,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be exclusionary. It can be by a unit basis for a portion or by a bedroom basis for other portions.
“If our concern is locking out families because it’s on a bed basis, let’s allow some flexibility,” Mr. Robertson said.
He continued, “Preferred income level? It ought to for now, be the 5-5-5. Because we don’t have enough data to go further than that.”
Basically the motion would keep the existing ordinance in place until the housing element is adopted or the Core Area Specific Plan is approved “or whatever date the council believes is most appropriate for putting in a different ordinance.”
Sheryl Essex asked to remove the mixed-use exemption, wanting some affordable housing to come out of the downtown redevelopment.
David Robertson responded, saying that “having seen the motivation for that exemption, I agree with you completely.”
Darryl Rutherford suggested that some language change to make it “a minimum 15 percent of which the target is at 5-5-5 and make that our floor of affordability.”
David Robertson suggested, “I think that is implied by the ordinance and I don’t have a problem with that clarification.”
He pointed out that all this is a recommendation to council – they can pull anything out that they want.
The motion passed 6-0 with Darryl Rutherford abstaining.
—-David M. Greenwald reporting