By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – The third time indeed was the proverbial charm. The city of Davis on February 8 received a letter from the California Department of Housing and Community Development that the City of Davis’ Housing Element has been certified/approved.
After two rejections, the council approved the third version on December 5, 2023, and it was received for review on December 14.
“HCD is pleased to find the adopted housing element, including all technical modifications, in substantial compliance with State Housing Element Law,” the letter noted.
The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) requires all local governments to adequately plan for the housing needs of everyone in the community. Governments meet this requirement by submitting “Housing Elements” or “Housing Plans” that are the blueprint for how jurisdictions will grow and develop. The Housing Element includes features like land use, transportation, conservation, noise, open space, safety, environmental justice and housing.
“Housing Elements must be approved every eight years and with the current California housing crisis, this plan is more crucial than ever,” the city said. “The City of Davis is happy to announce that our Housing Element has been certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, with no conditions or caveats.”
“I am excited to share the great news that the City of Davis’ Housing Element has been approved by the California Department of Housing and Community Development,” said Davis Mayor Josh Chapman. “We want to thank the community for their patience and everyone who provided valuable input over the last few years. Policies and projects within the Housing Element are already being executed by the team and we look forward to additional implementation of the plan.”
The letter from HCD noted that “the City must continue timely and effective implementation of all programs,” and these include: No Net Loss, Downtown Davis Specific Plan Capacity, Downtown Missing Middle Housing, Prioritize Special Needs Housing Development, Housing Choice Vouchers, Facilitate Production of ADUs, Revise Reasonable Accommodation Procedures, Affordable Housing Incentives, Affordable Housing Rezone Program, Achieving Permanent Affordability, Additional Development Streamlining and Affordable Housing Preservation.
While it took the city several attempts to get this housing element approved, the steps ahead may well be more difficult.
The city, in passing the housing element version three in December, also recognized that the days for meeting its housing needs through infill are likely coming to an end.
In December, then-Mayor Will Arnold warned, “I would just say to those who have said that we will be able to meet our next RHNA cycle numbers without going outside of the city limits… I suggest they tune in or watch the recording of this meeting as we really try to meet our current requirements simply with infill and the difficulty we’re having in doing so.”
Councilmember Bapu Vaitla has said similar things, as has City Manager Mike Webb.
The city this month is preparing to embark on a General Plan Update.
In addition, the city has proposed to evaluate whether it should put an amendment to Measure J on the ballot as soon as November or no later than November 2026.
The city said this past fall that it intends: “Amend language already in Measure J/R/D that exempts from its public vote requirements projects that provide affordable housing or facilities needed for city services, or other changes to city ordinances that would help create affordable housing. Any change to Measure J/R/D would require a public vote.”
In the Second Version of the City’s Housing Element, it noted, “The city of Davis will complete a comprehensive review of the following policies to evaluate the cumulative impact on residential development… Measure J.”
Here it is required to evaluate “whether the cumulative requirements are a constraint on housing development.”
The city acknowledged that it did not undertake this review “prior to the preparation of the 2021-2029 Housing Element Update. However, with the passage of SB 330, the City understands the importance of an evaluation of its growth management measures to ensure that they do not conflict with State law. The City’s 2021-2029 Housing Element Update evaluates whether these policies serve a constraint to meeting the City’s housing goals and includes related policies as appropriate.”
After lengthy analysis, the city concludes, “While Measure J adds costs, extends processing times, and has been used to halt development projects that would convert agricultural land to urban development, it is only a constraint to meeting housing needs if the city lacks sufficient infill housing sites.”
The city continues that, at that point, “there is not currently (2021) enough land designated for residential development to meet the sixth-cycle RHNA.”
However, the city simply needed to “rezone additional sites to meet the RHNA” and they were able to identify “sufficient candidate rezone sites within its limits to meet the RHNA, averting the need for a Measure J vote.”
But, as noted in previous reporting, with the city lacking infill sites going forward, meeting future housing requirements could be problematic.