by David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – An article in the Sacramento Business Journal on Monday caught the attention of many in Davis as it reported that Davis, due to its noncompliant housing element, now is under the “builder’s remedy” situation that limits the ability of the city to reject housing proposals.
On April 3, the city received a letter from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) that informed them, “The adopted element with revisions addresses many statutory requirements; however, revisions will be necessary to comply with State Housing Element Law.”
A chief problem is the fact that the Housing Element included University Commons.
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.”
The Business Journal quoted Monica Hernandez, a spokesperson for the California Department of Housing and Community Development, “Because Davis has yet to adopt a housing element that has been found in substantial compliance, the city cannot be found in compliance with Housing Element Law until all necessary rezones are complete.”
The Vanguard was unable to reach Hernandez for additional comment on Monday.
In theory this would restrict the city’s ability to reject housing proposals—but in practice it might not have any effect at all.
For one thing, to qualify for the builder’s remedy, a project must be 20 percent affordable housing—which by itself would limit the number of projects that could come forward.
There is also an exemption for land that is largely surrounded by agriculture.
Under Government Code section 65589.5(d) the council could still reject a project if, “The project is proposed on land zoned for agriculture or resource preservation that is surrounded on at least two sides by land being used for agricultural or resource preservation purposes, or which does not have adequate water or wastewater facilities to serve the project.”
That would seem to apply to the parcel where the Palomino proposal is located. But it might not apply to the Village Farms proposal.
How this would impact potential Measure J projects that are not surrounded by agricultural land is unclear.
The Business Journal reported, “Davis also requires voter approval for new projects that would require annexing land currently used for agriculture to the city. Hernandez said she couldn’t comment on whether that would be affected by a builder’s remedy because it’s outside the department’s housing law accountability purview.”
Davis officials have told the Vanguard despite the loss of University Commons as mixed-use housing, they believe they can find additional land in the city to rezone for housing. However, when asked where that might be, they declined to speculate.