By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – A records request of the city did not shed a huge amount of light on the HCD rejection of the city’s latest version of their Housing Element—but it did clarify at least one curiosity.
According to the city’s email records, Sherri Metzker, the city’s Community Development Director, received the letter from HCD informing the city about the rejection on Monday, April 3, at 11 am but did not forward the letter to council until two days later, at noon.
The city manager, Mike Webb, did not clarify this timeline other than to say this was consistent with his original account.
In the email to council, Metzker noted, “While the letter clearly states that our housing element remains out of compliance, I would like to point out that as far as HCD is concerned, an element is either in or out of compliance. There is no in between.”
However, she characterized the latter as more of a “conditional approval.”
She adds, “There are really only two comments that need to be addressed before HCD can certify the document. One has to do with the Nishi project and their desire for the city to add language to the DA to help convince them the project is not restricted to students only (it isn’t) – we expect this to be a simple step to achieve.
“The other involves the rezone of various sites throughout the city to provide opportunities for affordable housing (as identified in the element itself).”
Metzker concludes, “I am not surprised by the content of this letter as I knew that the city has not completed the rezone process. Therefore, HCD is unable to certify the element without the rezones.”
This definitely paints a positive spin on the entire process. As we learned this week, the rejection by HCD is enough to trigger the Builder’s Remedy and that may limit the city’s ability to control projects that come forward until the city is in compliance.
Metzker also glosses over the fact that it is the rejection of University Commons as a mixed-use project that plays a precise role in the rejection by HCD.
In the letter, HCD wrote, “In accordance with public comment received by HCD, it appears University Commons, a project set to develop 264 units of mixed-income housing will no longer have a residential component.”
They add, “The absence of residential units from this project would require the City to identify additional sites to accommodate a revised shortfall of 485 units of lower-income housing and 227 units of above-moderate housing. The element must be revised to address this shortfall.”
I have been troubled by the fact that the city had received the letter prior to Tuesday’s meeting but failed to share the letter with the council before Wednesday after the meeting. With this email chain, we now know that the city had the letter on Monday, held a public meeting on Tuesday, but did not disseminate the letter until Wednesday.
Further, I think that city staff is overly optimistic about the chances of gaining compliance.
Last week, I asked the city manager whether the city could find the 264 units of mixed-income housing to be zoned in the city—and he expressed confidence that they could, but he could not elaborate at that time where and how that would occur.
In a way, the city is fortunate here because they are also relying on around 1000 units in the downtown to meet their housing obligations. While about one-quarter of that could be accomplished with the redevelopment of the Hibbert Lumber site, it is not clear when or how they can get another 750 units—let alone in the next five years.
The city is already pessimistic, as Mayor Will Arnold most recently expressed about being able to meet the next RHNA cycle without peripheral housing, but I think realistically they won’t be able to make this cycle without it as well.
Furthermore, as noted to the Vanguard, the city cannot count peripheral housing for the purposes of RHNA without rezoning the land—which itself requires a Measure J vote.
City Manager Mike Webb did inform the Vanguard that the city will have an agenda item on the next council meeting on April 18, with a Housing Element Update including an overview of the letter from HCD.
Last night, the council held a closed session special meeting where the only item was significant exposure to litigation pursuant to Government Code section 54956.9(b).
They note a communication from Taylor & Wiley which has been representing Dave Taormino, who has the Palomino Project that he had been hoping to get on the ballot for November 2024—but was among those postponed by council’s action last Tuesday.
Mike Webb told the Vanguard that no reportable action was taken. A representative from Taylor & Wiley did not respond to a text from the Vanguard on Tuesday evening.