By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – This week the hammer came down on San Francisco, On Tuesday, HCD announced it was reviewing the city’s housing approval and permitting process and at the same time, HCD informed the city that it must revamp its housing element to convince the state agency that the city has a realistic plan to build 82,000 housing units by 2030.
One of the big problems that SF faces it that the city claims to have 44,234 housing units in its pipeline.
It notes, “HCD has previously suggested that cities consider ‘past completion rates’ for ‘pipeline project[s]’ when crediting units towards a City’s RHNA obligations.”
The letter argues, “Based on historical rates of completion, the City’s housing pipeline of projects currently without building permits only appears likely to accommodate approximately 9,254 units of housing during the next 8 years.”
By contrast, “the City proposes to assume that the rate at which its housing projects ‘in the pipeline’ will produce permitted housing will more than quadruple (from 17% to 80%) during the next RHNA cycle. This assumption is not reasonable, especially in light of the City’s own findings that the City has recently placed a number of new constraints on development.”
The fact is HCD is suddenly requiring more than simple paper compliance with housing allocations – instead cities are going to have to show that they can build the housing.
UC Davis Law Professor Chris Elmendorf pointed out in an op-ed yesterday in the Chronicle, “San Francisco is about to change dramatically — whether it wants to or not.”
“What happens if San Francisco doesn’t get its act together?” he asks. “For starters, the state will decertify the city’s housing element, which would cut off various streams of state funding, including for affordable housing. More dramatically, it would empower a “builder’s remedy” under state law that would allow developers of affordable and moderate-income housing to bypass city zoning codes.”
Elmendorf notes, “There are unresolved questions about how this will work in practice, but a San Francisco without an approved housing plan could be San Francisco in which new apartments are allowed to pop up helter-skelter throughout the city. Ultimately, courts could rewrite the city’s master plan for housing, exercising judicial authority conferred by a bill signed into law that City Attorney David Chiu authored when he served in the Legislature.”
A key point that we ought to be looking at is the “city’s magical projection” in terms of its pipeline guesstimate which “UC Berkeley data scientist David Broockman ran the numbers and found that San Francisco’s pipeline guesstimate vastly exceeds historical yields.”
It is not an accident that HCD has lowered the boom on San Francisco. This a shot across the bow of many communities in California, including our own.
Guess what: Davis does not have a certified Housing Element either.
When the Vanguard spoke to City Manager Mike Webb in June he was not concerned about meeting the affordable housing allotment of just under 1000 affordable units.
“I don’t really think it will be a problem,” Webb said. The city will have to lay out a rationale for the sites that will have to be pursued. But even with the loss DiSC, Webb expects they can lay out enough infill sites to not have a problem meeting the housing needs. Though he did say HCD might want to see a timeline where the housing can be built sooner rather than later in the cycle.
The Vanguard has been warning, however, that the city is running out of infill options and here Mike Webb agrees.
“The next Housing Element cycle, that’s where the community will need to be reengaged,” Webb acknowledged. “I don’t see us infilling our way to a Housing Element next time.”
That means that, by 2029, the city will have to figure out how to get the allotment of affordable housing.
But can the city actually get to that 1000 figure this time? Because the high cost of construction in the downtown and the requirements for peripheral projects clearing a vote of the people – I have heard from fairly reliable sources that HCD is going to at some point could be taking a long hard look at Davis.
The article that Chris Elmendorf wrote with respect to San Francisco, could have been written for Davis as well.
The demand for housing in Davis remains sky high. That’s why developers are lining with Measure J projects. The latest one, “On the Curve” which is looking at between 551 and 788 units, many of them smaller and higher density units that could appear to young families.
In the submittal for that project, it notes that Davis has its own housing crisis.
They write, “in the twenty years from 2000 to 2020, the City of Davis grew by only 6,542 people: a 10.8% population increase. That is a growth rate of roughly one-half of one percent annually for twenty years.”
They add, “As a result of Davis’ inaction, we see large discrepancies between the City of Davis and the remainder of the region when it comes to the issues of housing affordability, age, diversity and opportunity.”
But this project will have to get in line with Palomino and the Signature, each of those along the Mace-Covell Corridor. When all is said and done, there could be four or five Measure J projects lined up and waiting to go.
But already some housing opponents are licking their chops for the next development battle, relishing the chance to kill the next project.
But what happens if they succeed? At some point if the city can’t meet it’s affordable housing quota, will the state step in and prevent the community from saying no?
I firmly believe Davis is about to, just as San Francisco will, “change dramatically – whether it wants to or not” – what that looks like, I’m less certain of. Davis is going to have to have a realistic plan to meet the state housing requirement, it is no longer going to suffice to draw lines on maps and call it a day.