Wednesday, June 1, 2022

5.31.22 Special Meeting Summary

Last night the Council held a special session and discussed three items:

- We introduced a first reading of a new ordinance relating to solid waste collection.  Due to recently effective state legislation, the lids of the garbage bins (trash, refuse, green waste) will need to be modified to align with statewide mandated colors.  There will be a process administered by Republic Services to replace the bins currently being used later this year.  Our franchise agreement which grants trash pickup services to Republic Services will also be up for renewal later this year and there will likely be a fee hike associated with that.

- We discussed the results of engagement effort regarding the city owned downtown lot.  Back in Jan-21, the city agreed to engage MIG consultants to conduct community outreach regarding what residents wanted to see the space used for.  Given it was during 2021, most of the information gathering was done online.  The website received about 450 hits, and approximately 100 responses were recorded.  When asked, "What would you like to see at the Downtown Site?", the responses were as follows:
  • 30% selected entertainment (e.g. restaurants and/or recreational activities)
  • 20% selected arts and cultural uses
  • 18% selected commercial uses (e.g. services, retail and/or restaurants)
  • 13% selected mixed use project with housing and commercial uses
  • 12% other
  • 7% housing
The consultant also discouraged that the city from conducting further outreach give the options that people were interested in were not feasible.  For example, certain commercial endeavors would only be possible if there were a larger amount of housing, which was not a preferred option.

We also discussed the logistics of developing the downtown property for what was called "non-agency" use.  Non-agency use was essentially non-public purposes.  An agency use could be something like a park, or recreation center.  A non-agency use could be a commercial use like retail or a restaurant, an office building, or a housing development.  If the city were to sell land it owns for the purposes of a non-agency use, the state law for surplus land kicks in and we would be required to first offer the land for sale to be used for affordable housing.  

There doesn't appear to be any immediate need to take action on the land right now.  We are not required to sell it, and there is no cost or penalty beyond routine maintenance for having it remain as is.  Currently the land is included within the updated housing element.  If it remains there, it does constrain further uses however since the city is the owner of the property ultimately it will be up to the Council to determine how it should be used.

Because of the Surplus Land Act that I mentioned above, I suggested that we as a city craft more rigor around what needs to be done should the city ever decide to sell the land for non-agency use.  Currently that decision could be made with a simple majority vote by the Council.  I suggested we add additional process to ensure that whatever decision is made has full community support.  This could take the form of required public information sessions, increasing the vote threshold to a supermajority or even require a unanimous vote prior to selling assets of the city.  I asked city staff to craft a proposal to be brought back to the Council.

- The last item we discussed was the current draft of the Housing Element.  Currently the draft has the city at 891 units, where the required number is 570.  A small buffer seems desirable should the State HCD disallow any of the units we've designated.  The 891 figure includes an additional 123 units downtown, and also includes units already approved for Diablo Meadows (21 units near Mitchell Canyon), Oak Creek Canyon (7 units near Diablo Parkway), and The Olivia (81 units downtown).

ADUs represent a small portion of what is included in our Housing Element, currently at 16.  The method for including ADUs comes from HCD, and is based on past experience.

This session was to receive public comment, and input from Council to be incorporated into the next draft.  I asked staff to prepare a timeline of touchpoints that the public may be engaged - meetings with the Planning Commission, City Council meetings, and other methods to send feedback to the city.  Part of the feedback was the results of the Balancing Act survey asking residents to designate where they would want to see the required 570 units allocated.  Unfortunately the survey had limited options for people to select and instead relied on free-form comments if there were interest outside of the pre-selected areas.  That combined with the overall low response rate (only 44 submissions) and the lack of clear direction, means that the survey seems to have limited probative value.

As for feedback on this draft, I asked that we pursue inquiry with the owners of Clayton Station to determine if it is possible to add units to that location.  This is consistent with feedback received from the earlier Planning Commission meeting. I also expressed interest in increasing the maximum density where it makes sense and consistent with what property owners are interested in, perhaps at some of the institutional sites.  The draft did contain language that would increase the maximum building height from 35 to 50 feet which I asked to be removed.