In response to the State Department of Housing and Community Development's (HCD) statement that the city has not done enough to meet low-income housing mandates, Dublin has hired a specialist to help the city streamline the state's requirements.
Under SB 35 standards, which requires cities to provide a clear-cut approval process for eligible multifamily developments, the city, according to HCD, has not made enough progress in accommodating those requirements.
Dublin has since retained RRM Design Group to assist staff with preparing objective design standards along with companion amendments to the Dublin Municipal Code. City staff presented a draft outline of potential new standards to the planning commission during its regular June 8 meeting.
“This effort is in response to SB 35, which has identified the city’s need to adopt clear and objective standards,” said Jamie Williams, with RRM Design. “As of July 2020, HCD determined the city has not made sufficient progress in meeting their lower-income RHNA mandate and is subject to an intervention process for proposed developments to have at least 50% affordability. It’s important to note that (current) zoning ordinances will remain in place, but will be provided with additional objectives.”
The purpose of the new standards is to remove nebulous terms and definitions from housing requirements for low-income residents in order to streamline eligibility and home design mandates.
Dublin Principal Planner Michael Cass agreed that the standards in the past have been open to interpretation.
“I’m somebody who likes more specificity in these development standards, and I think locking in some of these (standards) could be beneficial, and so I think that maybe some of this will be good,” said Cass.
The city’s proposed multifamily residential (MFR) objective design standards would apply to all new multifamily developments within Dublin. Objective versus subjective language is the main sticking point of the standards and will require a move from language such as ‘should be’ or ‘could be’ to include “will provide” and “must include.” A firmer outline of the guideline language will provide, staff believes, a more stringent and streamlined process for project approvals.
Projects that seek the SB 35 streamlined ministerial approval process would be required to comply with all the objective design standards. Existing projects would be subject to the multifamily residential standards through the city’s discretionary site development review process but would not be allowed to deviate.
In order to create an efficient plan that meets the state standards, RRM reviewed existing city plans; identified appropriate language that needed to be in place; took driving tours of local potential sites; and reviewed how other jurisdictions were working to meet mandates. Elements that must be added to the new plan include: specified levels of affordability; located on an infill site; comply with existing residential and mixed-use provisions; and meet other requirements such as locational and demolitions restrictions. In accordance with SB 35, when it comes to construction, “the development proponent shall ensure that the prevailing wage requirement is included in all contracts for the performance of the work.”
Over the next few months, staff will develop a document for the planning commission and city council to review.
“I’m very appreciative of staff for bringing this to the forefront for us to chew on,” said Commissioner Janine Thalblum. “It sets some standards, and I look forward to seeing the document as it grows and moves forward.”
For more information, visit www.dublin.ca.gov.