Susan Frost, Special Projects Coordinator, related that under state law, density bonuses are intended to provide affordable housing units while offsetting the costs within the residential development. In 2019, new state law changes adopted became active. In Livermore, only three projects utilized density bonuses in the last 15 years. Two of those projects involved the city as a partner.
Residential projects providing 5% of the units for “very low” income families and projects providing 10% units for “low income” families would qualify for a 20% bonus. Projects providing 10% of the units for “moderate income” families would receive a 5% bonus.
The update also allowed transitional foster youth, disabled veterans and homeless persons in the “very low income” category to qualify for up to a 20% density bonus, and “low income” students up to a 35% bonus. Land donations could qualify for a density bonus by contributing at least one acre of land that could accommodate 40 living units located within the project boundary inside the development or within ¼ mile. The square footage of child care facilities, if located within the residential project, could also determine the size of the bonus. Conversions of apartments to condominiums for moderate or low income families provided within existing buildings could also qualify for density bonuses. Modified parking standards similar to the current city standard were added.
Vice Mayor Robert Carling wondered why the city has only had 3 projects over the last 15 years applying for the density bonuses and will the changes encourage others? Frost believed that these changes will not encourage more projects in Livermore since they are more applicable to urbanized areas.
Councilmember Trish Munro was struck by what very low income, low income and moderate income meant in the Bay area. Frost replied that the levels were determined for the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Numbers for a family of 4 with very low income status would be $58,000, for low income $89,000, and moderate income would be $104,000.
Councilmember Bob Woerner asked if there were more that the city could do to encourage projects at the low end of the spectrum? Paul Spence, Community Development Director, replied that the density bonuses are intended to try to encourage just that. Most of the low income projects are heavily subsidized by cities or other organizations. The City of Livermore is involved in a number of projects presently that will bring units on line for a variety of income categories. “We are working hard to maximize our resources”.
Woerner wondered if any grants at the state level were available that could be used?
Spence responded that the governor’s budget should have additional resources available. City Manager Marc Roberts added that Mayor John Marchand initiated an item to determine whether there were adequate staff in the city’s Housing and Human Services division when the state takes action on the new regulations. He added, “We are working on this at all levels to maximize our outcomes.”