By Mary Ella Anderson
I and my fellow housing advocates were pleasantly surprised at the outcome of the second session of Housing Element discussion at the Board of Supervisors on Monday, May 5, Was it the constant dogging or the way pending elections have of focusing the mind of candidates? Either way, cooler heads prevailed and the result is a HE that has a good chance of passing muster at the state level.
A lot of credit for this outcome must go to staff, to Michael Richards, Director Hamblin and Assistant Counsel Ruth. Richardson has incorporated comments from the state HCD and after much discussion, mid-point density was returned at least to Housing Opportunity Zones. In the discussion, it appeared that mid-point density, being a mathematical formula, is confusing to most, especially builders and real estate agents. It has always been the case that the number of housing units on a parcel can be reduced for good cause, but the CPR Planning Commission was threatened by the idea of mid-point density and wanted to essentially encourage less density in housing. Housing for All attorney Jan Turner characterized their proposal as “an anti-housing element” and in the end mid-point density was retained.
Counsel Ruth reminded the Supervisors that the EIR for the HE is based on encouraging development in areas with sewer and water, and that while extending development beyond services might be “okay” the goal should be to encourage less development outside HOZs. The figure of 75% development within HOZs was mentioned as the goal, leaving a quarter of the whole for those areas outside sewer/water districts.
Supervisor Lovelace noted that development of smaller scale housing complexes outside of HOZs still consumes land, and that building fewer units meant more land consumption. The idea of planning is to leave something for the future.
Solar shading protection for existing housing was also kept. As I understand it, the right to a share of the sun for people and their gardens can’t be taken away by new development. At least, not without a chance for the homeowner to lodge an objection.
Also, county building standards will now allow housing units as small as 150 square feet. These smaller, efficiency units, are seen as a wave of the future as younger people don’t seem quite as enchanted with mansions and palaces as their elders have been.
Speaking for the Farm Bureau John Laboyteaux and Katherine Zeimer made it clear to the supervisors that the farm community did not want the proposal to allow second units on AE land included, They said that all agricultural groups in the county were opposed to the idea. Laboyteaux said that the least the HE should do is “to make it possible for us to continue to feed ourselves” and that “the primary purpose of AE land is to grow food.” Tina Christensen of the Humboldt Association of Realtors defended the idea of changing the rules to allow second units on AE and TPZ land without the need for a Conditional Use Permit, but in the end the supervisors were persuaded to leave things as they are. Supervisor Bass, however, indicated she might raise the issue again later on.
Staff will put everything together and have it ready by the Board of Supervisors’ meeting of May 13 at which time they should pass it formally. Only straw votes were taken at the Monday meeting, so nothing is set in concrete yet. Eternal vigilance is recommended.
P.S. Jon , if you post this separately , please correct my name – it’s Mary Ella, not Mary Ellen. Thanks for your interest and being so supportive.