Wednesday, September 29, 2021

We Need to Zone for Approximately 570 Additional Housing Units

Last night, the city held a joint meeting with both the Council and the Planning Commission.  The purpose was to receive a presentation by Mig Inc. - our consultants that the city has engaged to assist with the housing element update process.  Ultimately the city is charged with updating our zoning to accommodate for an approximate 570 additional units, at varying levels of affordability.

In Contra Costa County, area median income (AMI) for 2021 is $125,600 based on a household size of four people

These figures come from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and while we as a city appealed this amount as unreasonable for a number of reasons, our appeal was denied along with the appeals of many other cities.  During the appeal hearing, it was made clear that ABAG does not consider environmental impacts, traffic, unsuitability of available land due to potential landslide, flood, or fire when they mandate these additional units to zone.

In addition to this area of the law being complicated, it's also been changed many times over the last several years making the legal requirements vary quite a bit over time.  There were many questions asked of Mig that focused on two main areas - how the process will work, and what the laws are regarding specific requirements.  Unfortunately, there were a number of inquiries that were unable to be addressed due to work not yet being done, or having to do further research.  When we engaged Mig back in May of this year, their experience and expertise were part of the reason they were selected.  Hopefully when we next meet they will be able to provide more information.

Here are the things that I asked for that are open items:
  • Establishment of guiding principals for this process.  Guiding principals ensures that leadership is clear and aligned on the goals that are trying to be achieved.  This process will be long, and along the way there will be many decisions that need to be made.  The establishment of guiding principals facilitates that decision making because it allows staff at every level to test decisions that need to be made against those guiding principals.  This could be things like, should we have as a guiding principal that we want to maximize housing density?  Minimize housing density?  Concentrate impact in as small an area as possible, or disperse impact as much as possible?  Those types of guidelines will help clearly communicate direction to our consultants and to staff.  

  • Detailed project plan and timelines with both internal and external touchpoints and deliverables.

  • Identification of decision points that are matters of public policy.  There are some decisions that can be made even in a process that is as prescribed as this one.  We should identify those so those charged with enacting public policy can make deliberate choices.

  • Detail behind the initial housing site assessment by ABAG that utilized property level data.  The initial assessment of potential housing sites was performed by ABAG and will be the starting point of our own assessment, however the underlying data was not readily available.

  • Moderate income and overall income band calculation formulas and allowable methodologies to satisfy each.  We not only need to zone for an additional approximate 570 units, but they must be at the various income bands as listed above.  We were told that in a small city like Clayton, there is a presumption that any parcel that is zoned for density of at least 20 units/acre would qualify as Low or Very Low income units.  Above Moderate is considered market rate.  During the meeting however, it was unknown what would qualify as Moderate.  I stressed the importance of knowing these details so we can tailor our Housing Element with a focus on complying with the law.

  • Rules regarding the number of ADUs that can be used to satisfy RHNA requirements at all income bands.  California HCD has issued guidance and adopted practices in this space but that information wasn't presented at the meeting.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Updating our Housing Element and the End of Single Family Zoning in CA

Earlier this month the Governor signed into law two impactful housing bills - SB 9 and SB 10.  These bills are complicated and have a number of varying provisions.  The most impactful thing that these bills do is that they eliminate single family zoning throughout the entire state of California.  We discussed SB 9 at our previous meeting in March of this year and at the time I raised the concern of ending single family zoning.

Suffice to say the passage of these laws is disappointing.  In looking at the votes, it appears that while our State Senator Glazer voted against SB 9, our representative in the Assembly, Tim Grayson voted in favor of ending single family zoning:

It would be easy to take issue with a single representative, but ultimately the vote totals for these bills were not close.  SB 9 passed 28-7 in the senate, and 45-19 in the Assembly.  SB 10 had larger margins.

Ultimately the goals of so much of the housing legislation in the state is to increase housing supply, and decrease housing costs, including decreasing the value of the homes that many Clayton residents own.  This is well beyond a city issue as much of the decision making that cities used to be able to engage in has been removed at the state level.  If we as a people want different outcomes at the state level, we're going to need to elect different people because what we're doing now is only moving the state in one direction.

This is the backdrop for next weeks joint meeting with the Council and the Planning Commission.  Next Tuesday, 9.28.21 at 6:30pm, there will be a meeting where both the Planning Commission and the City Council will gather (virtually) to hear from consultants we've hired about the process to update our Housing Element.  See here for more information about the process:

This meeting will be mostly an informational session.  There will be additional community workshops that have yet to be scheduled.  More information on how to sign up is at the above link.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

9.21.21 Meeting Summary

Last night there were several significant items discussed:

  • We heard a great presentation by Con-Fire Chief Terence Carey about their efforts to address and mitigate fire risk, overall fire risk and activity in the state, and things that residents can do to help address overall fire risk.  The one thing that was stressed as an easy takeaway for everyone is to make sure that there are working smoke detectors in each residence, and that they are tested on a regular cadence.  Chief Carey also talked about a Preparedness & Evacuation reference guide that is on the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District website.  The guide can be found here:

  • The Council approved an appropriation of approximately $40K to upgrade equipment related to network connectivity, audio, and video as it relates to holding meetings in Hoyer Hall.  The funds used for these upgrades are from grants received to support public access to government and will not impact our general fund.  The work is scheduled to be complete towards the end of this year.  Included in the scope is equipment necessary to hold hybrid meetings whereby people will be able to participate both in person and remotely.

    We agreed that due to ongoing recommendations from the County Health Officer, Dr. Farnitano, there is continued elevated risk of meeting indoors and as such, the Council agreed that meetings will continue virtually until such time that the state and county emergency orders are lifted.

  • The Council also agreed to appoint Management Partners as a consultant group to help develop and implement a program to use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.  Clayton is slated to receive approximately $2.9M and the Council is seeking to prioritize businesses in town that have been impacted by COVID-19.  There are a number of requirements associated with these funds including limits on how the funds can be used, procedures for their use, and reporting and audit requirements.  Management Partners will assist in all of these areas, though the execution and operationalizing of the plans that are prepared will fall on city staff.

    There may be opportunities for additional community support through volunteering to help support various aspects of the ARPA plan.  Those potential actives will be fleshed out further as Management Partners progresses with their work. 

  • The Council also discussed the process for placing a tax measure on the ballot.  General tax increases can only be placed on the ballot on a General Election, with the next general election scheduled on November 8, 2022.  I have discussed previously the financial landscape the city is in, and some of the causes of our shortfalls and the impacts if we do nothing.  We do have structural problems that if they are not addressed, will begin to have significant impacts on city operations in the near term.  The good news is that as a small city, the gap we are trying to fill is not so large that we cannot address it.

    The Council agreed to direct staff to do the preliminary work towards a ballot measure for the November 2022 date.  This would include an outline of overall timing, the various steps necessary and when they would be due, etc.  Getting ballot language right and the various administrative requirements take a significant amount of time to work through.  On top of that, outreach, communicating the need, the cost, and the benefits, will take a coordinated effort.  After staff comes back with the overall outline, we will then discuss at a future meeting how to execute on that plan.  

Friday, September 17, 2021

Upcoming Council Meeting 9.21.21

We had cancelled the regularly scheduled meeting right after Labor day so it's been a little while since our last meeting.  

There are a few significant items that will be discussed at our next meeting next week:
  • Appropriation of funds to improve audio / video equipment at Hoyer Hall.  The proposal at hand includes funding to enable a hybrid meeting approach where folks would be able to both be in person and remote.

  • Hiring consultant to facilitate developing and implementing a program to use federal stimulus funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)  Clayton will be receiving ARPA funds and one of the allowable uses is the cost to develop and implement a plan to use the funds themselves.

  • Discuss the process for placing a measure on the ballot.  Earlier this year I outlined some of the fiscal challenges that the city is facing.  One method to address those challenges would be a tax measure which the voters would have to approve.  This discussion is to discuss the overall process of such a ballot measure.
Please let me know if you have questions or comments about any of the above.