The Pleasanton City Council heard the first of two reports on the state's potential impact on housing at its February 19 meeting.
Gerry Beaudin, Director of Community Development, began by noting, "From the state's perspective, there is a housing crisis that creates an overall threat to economic vitality."
He said Pleasanton's location puts pressure on it for growth and development. "Pleasanton is jobs and transit rich."
Beaudin reported that the State has deployed a range of strategies over recent years in an effort to address housing needs. These include the increasingly stringent mandates of the Housing Element and the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process.
All California cities and counties are required to accommodate their "fair share" of regional housing need, as determined through a RHNA process. Under current state law, a jurisdiction is not required to build the RHNA-assigned housing units. Rather, it is required to adopt a land use program including identification of specific sites with available infrastructure and suitable physical conditions to accommodate these housing units under market driven conditions.
He added that RHNA and the city's housing element provide an opportunity to exercise local control. "We don't get to decide how much, but we do get to decide where it will go, and as of today, are in a position to decide how it looks and use our public processes to get there."
The next RHNA numbers for the 2023-2031 cycle are expected in late 2021. Beaudin predicted a heathy allocation given the healthy economy, the attention from the state and the fact that Pleasanton is relatively employment rich with transit opportunities
Approved State legislation related to housing focused on creating and preserving affordable housing, streamlining the local approval process, and increasing local accountability. The Housing and Community Development (HCD) has been given greater enforcement authority over reporting and progress on RHNA numbers.
In 2017, Governor Brown signed 15 housing-related bills into law. Additional housing legislation was passed in 2018. The trend seems certain to continue, with dozens of pieces of new legislation introduced in the opening months of the 2019 legislative cycle, according to Beaudin.
He pointed out that in the first two months of 2019, over a dozen housing-related bills have been introduced, with more expected this year and next. Senator Wiener's proposed Senate Bill 50 has received significant attention. An evolution of his 2018 proposed SB 827, it is aimed at significantly relaxing development densities and height limits around transit stations and job centers.
Another factor expected to have an impact on housing laws involves the Committee to House the Bay Area (CASA). The group released a 10- element "Compact," including an aggressive series of housing policy and funding measures around three themes: Housing Production, Preservation, and Protection, intended as a springboard for State-level legislative initiatives.
It will be used by lawmakers to develop new laws to address housing. Our goal is to retain local control and character, and maintain the level of service residents expect said Beaudin.
He continued, CASA aims at increasing housing and decreasing opportunities for local input. There is a lack of focus on impacts created by additional housing, such as water, sewer, transportation, schools, libraries and parks. There is not a lot of mitigation discussed in addressing a 30-year housing shortfall in a short period of time
Beaudin commented, that the release of the CASA Compact and wave of new draft legislation has stirred debate across the State and the region. In the Tri-Valley, Pleasanton has come together with the Town of Danville, and the Cities of Dublin, Livermore and San Ramon, to develop a coordinated position and response to CASA and forthcoming proposals coming out of Sacramento.
Mayor Thorne pointed out there are 17 jobs for every housing unit in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. "We are being asked to solve their problem."
Councilmember Julie Testa worried about the bill requiring high density housing near transit, since an ACE station is located in the downtown. She suggested considering protecting the downtown by registering it as an historic resource.
Testa reported that Urban Habitat, a group advocating for affordable housing. has described the state legislation as real estate bills not housing bills. They are not designed to address affordability.
Councilmember Karla Brown said Pleasanton is much more than a bedroom community. "It seems like the state is trying to make it one."
Councilmember Kathy Narum said, "I find it depressing we are losing local control. We are on the right track to protect things that make Pleasanton what it is, including the downtown. It feels like Sacramento is trying to make us into an urban community."
At the March 5, 2019 City Council meeting, staff will continue this discussion by providing a summary of the CASA Compact and key State legislation, as well as the outcomes of the ongoing Tri-Valley cities discussion.