The Social Services commission was tasked with making recommendations on the Affordable Housing Ordinance just as the Planning Commission had done last week. After a long and structured conversation they made the following recommendations: extend the interim ordinance until 2019 or 2020 when the city can address a new Housing Element Update.
They said there was not enough information to determine what the diversity of need was. They recommended removing the Verticle Mixed Use and Stacked Flats exemptions to the ordinance.
They ask that the city find creative ways to get affordability without relying on the developer only.
They also were agreeable to land dedication and in lieu fees while many expressed the view that on-site was preferable, but it should be based on the project. They want the council to look at the in-lieu fee structure believing that it is said too low.
The motion put forward was passed 4-0. There was also a recommendation to not do affordability by the bed or bedroom, but rather by the unit, which was approved 3-1 with Georgina Valencia dissenting.
The discussion by the commission was very structured as they went into the four questions, question by question. City Planner Katherine Hess pointed out to the commission with respect to the 15 percent requirement that the current ordinance is a target, the council could approve affordable housing at a lower level than 15 percent on a per project basis.
The commissioners struggled making an exact alternative recommendation.
Georgina Valencia commented, “Making a change in just one piece of the policy is short-sided and not well thought out.”
Donald Kalman said, “It is very difficult to make some kind of recommendation, when there are so many different types of projects and so many different possibilities.”
He called the consultant report, “very disappointing.” He said, “This is the death knell for affordable housing in Davis is how I read this report.”
There were three key findings by the commissioner with respect to the issue. The first is that they were not going back to 35 percent.
Mr. Kalman stated, “We’re obviously not doing 35% anymore, those days are over.”
This echoes a point made in public comment by Greg Rowe, who sits on the Planning Commission speaking as a private citizen, he stated, “The 35 percent goal is not feasible without RDA.” He went as far as to say that “15 percent is going to be really hard to achieve unless it’s a student rent” and that the Interim Ordinance number of 5-5-5 “may not work.”
The second key finding was that while 15 percent is hard to evaluate, they agreed they should stay there for now.
Claire Goldstene conceded, “It’s difficult to figure out what to do about 15 percent.”
Tracy Tomasky, the chair said, “I don’t think we have enough information to give the exact percentages”
Georgina Valencia added, “The 15 percent is where were at, that’s where we should stay, I wouldn’t recommend we adopt a higher percentage right now. Appropriate that we extend it with some provisos.”
Finally, all four of the commissioners at the meeting agreed that they should eliminate the Vertical Mixed Use exemption.
Georgina Valencia captured several key points in her comment. She stated, “I think any exemption from afffordable housing is a bad exemption.”
From her perspective, “If there’s going to be residential, there has to be some requirement for affordable.”
This was not a simple ignoring of the fiscal analysis. Instead, she argued, “We have to start looking at creative and affordable ways to do affordable housing.” She would add, “It’s not just the responsibility of the developer – it’s a responsibility of the community as a whole”
There was a big pushback from the members of the public in attendance to move away from by the bed affordability and away from as Eileen Samitz put it, “Continuing (by the bed affordability) will just perpetuate the problem of mega-dorm designs.”
She found audience with three of the four commissioners, particularly Claire Goldstene.
Claire Goldstene stated, “I don’t like it and I don’t like the kinds of projects that it had encouraged in Davis. We see a lot of that.” She said, “I think having this in the ordinance has promoted – along with other factors – has promoted a certain orientation in housing proposals that has come to the city.”
Georgina Valencia was the lone dissenter on this. She pointed out that developers get bashed every time and “By the bed may make it for the developer more feasible to build affordable housing projects.”
“Why is it so wrong for them to make some money?” she asked. “If we want people to move into the community and build some housing, and we need housing we all acknowledge that, I don’t see it as a bad thing.”
Don Kalman stated plainly, “These mega-dorms in part the way they were born was very wasteful because a lot of them have a bathroom almost for every bedroom.” From his perspective, “the city should encourage a reasonable ration of bathrooms to beds.”
“We have too many bathrooms,” he stated.
The commission also agreed to leave the 5-5-5 ratio in place. Claire Goldsteine concluded that by not changing the 15 percent requirement, “we are limited in what we can do here.” She reminded her colleagues that these are again a target rather than a mandate and they could always develop alternative ways to reach the 15 percent requirement.
Georgina Valencia added, “5-5-5 my not be exactly where we want to be but there’s flexibility in it. I don’t feel uncomfortable with 5-5-5.”
Finally the commission addressed the issues of in-lieu fees, on-site and land dedication.
Georgina Valencia called land dedication “a tool” but pointed out that by creating a land dedication, they are ignoring issues of affordability for the rest of the site.
Kelly Stachowicz clarified that the $75,000 per unit for in lieu fees came about in 2015-16. She noted that the figure was too low to account for the cost of building a unit and that this was not its intention. Rather it was the delta between the willingness of a developer to pay to build the units themselves and the subsidy.
Claire Goldstene noted that she prefers “integration of affordable through out the site” but there is “no need to eliminate (land dedication), sometime it is appropriate.”
She said that she likes the flexibility of the three approaches but does not feel strong about changing it.
The Council next week will get its first shot at the revisions to the ordinance when they return on November 27.
—David M. Greenwald reporting