At the Livermore City Council meeting on February 11, draft policies concerning housing and transportation were discussed. Stephen Riley, Principal Planner, and Tricia Pontau, Assistant Planner, outlined the issues.
In December 2018, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission released the CASA Compact, which addressees the Bay Area housing crisis and acts as a roadmap for upcoming state legislation. State Senator Scott Weiner’s proposed SB 50 requires cities to modify their existing development standards if a planned project provides low income housing and is located in a job rich or job transit area.
The Tri-Valley cities of Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon and Danville presently meet together monthly to form a unified legislative framework for responding to the CASA Compact proposals and the future state plans for housing. They want to ensure that the housing fits the communities and does not adversely affect the infrastructure of the cities. The League of California Cities agrees that municipalities need to actively influence legislation that tries to take away local control. Each city also faces unique areas of concern and needs.
Laws currently exist requiring all California cities and counties to accommodate their “fair share” of regional housing needs for very low, low, moderate and above moderate incomes. The legislation intends to streamline housing projects, establish funding resources, and make communities accountable for unit availability and affordability. “Fair share” means different things when addressing the various areas and populations residing in the state. Each location requires an approach that considers housing, transportation and job availability in addition to compatibility with various neighborhoods. New road infrastructure, schools, water needs and emergency services need to be considered. According to the cities, the state should fund these resources, since state law mandates the requirements and probable new regulations.
City Manager Marc Roberts asked the Livermore City Council members to voice their thoughts on the draft policies. City staff will provide feedback for the Tr-Valley Cities meeting to incorporate the information into their housing and policy framework, and present it to the council for review in late February.
Councilmember Trish Munro was pleased with the framework. She felt that funding and resources locally need consideration. She stated that when you look at where the jobs and housing have been created, local needs have not been addressed. “The profits are generated elsewhere, and we end up with the problems.” Council member Carling noted, “No penalties exist for not reaching the goals. There is no stick”.
Roberts agreed, replying that Governor Newsom wanted to tie the “stick” to a number of funding resources, the details of which have not yet turned into legislation.
Councilmember Bob Carling recognized the importance of working on the plan as a regional issue, as well as a local issue. “We need to look at ourselves, and try and figure some of this out, too, because we owe it to the residents of this community to provide housing for a variety of people irrespective of their income level.”
The city should focus on the low and very low-income people, Councilmember Bob Woerner commented. He went back to the statement that the city is required to accommodate “their fair share”. He asked, “Who is the decider of ‘fair’? It’s the inner Bay. It’s not necessarily everyone. The origin of the problem is Silicon Valley and the number of jobs created there without adequate housing.”
Roberts commented on Livermore statistics that show 1.3 employed residents per house and about 1.3 jobs per house. Livermore is well balanced, he concluded.
Councilmember Bob Coomber agreed. He added that with a region as big and diverse as the Bay Area, it is wrong for the legislature to create a rigid set of rules that treat all cities the same. In addition, we have to talk about stopping so much growth in the entire state. No one in Sacramento wants to tackle all the problems associated with growth, losing open space and habitat, and maybe running out of water.
Mayor John Marchand mentioned that the CASA Compact from the city perspective does not make sense. The largest problem with creating affordable housing refers to happenings in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Oakland. Some counties in the Bay area are creating 8 to 17 jobs per housing unit, which drives up the cost of housing. That equals 500,000 jobs and only 60,000 housing units.
According to Marchand, steering committees from Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Oakland are trying to address the housing shortage, yet all opposed a transit solution to 580, causing a worsening of the problem. He protested that we don’t have a seat at the table. He suggested the use of a head tax to raise funds to provide additional housing where the jobs are occurring.
Roberts summarized the important issues – finding funding, and consideration of a jobs and housing balance. Final presentation for approval in March should occur at respective city council meetings. The combined approved framework should inform local, regional and state representatives regarding policy and legislation surrounding these issues.