More cities will be looking to update their housing regulations next week, following pressure from state officials to zone for more than 100,000 new homes in Orange County in the next few years.
California’s housing shortage has pitted local city council members against state officials.
City officials have been fighting and pushing back against state mandated housing goals and laws that cities say are unrealistic and rob local elected leaders of the chance to control destiny.
Meanwhile, Orange County residents have identified housing and homelessness as their most important problems, according to the 2020 Orange County Annual Survey conducted by Chapman University.
“Housing costs have skyrocketed in the county during the past decade, and significant media coverage shed light on large homeless encampments along the Santa Ana Riverbed and at the Civic Center in the late 2010s,” reads the survey report.
One housing issue that has officials at odds is granny flats, or accessory dwelling units (ADU) in city planning jargon.
Over the last five years, the California Legislature passed new rules limiting local control over the size and location of granny flats, setting mandatory boundaries that in some cases require cities to allow more units than they would’ve previously.
Those limits also make it nearly impossible for cities to require additional parking spots for the units.
Other cities have already looked at updating their granny flat regulations in recent weeks.
“The state of California started creating laws in 2017 mandating cities to allow people to build [granny flats] and junior [granny flats] to increase the rental stock in California,” said Elizabeth Pearson, founder of Laguna ADU and former mayor of Laguna Beach.
The Laguna ADU company is looking to help seniors build granny flats.
Pearson said she launched the company about a week and a half ago and that this type of unit helps create moderately priced and affordable housing.
“It’s perfect for creating units for younger people,” she said. “Or people who work in our restaurants and our retail stores that can’t live here and this creates an opportunity for them to live close to where they’re working.”
“The state is urging cities to do it and some cities are more open to the idea than others.”
State Mandated Housing
Some cities are also going to review their progress meeting state-mandated goals assigned to them in a previous housing cycle, including Fountain Valley.
Newport Beach City Officials will go over their progress Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Speak Up Newport will hold a webinar with officials to discuss where their next cycle of state mandated housing will go.
The city held a similar webinar earlier this year.
Many cities in the county have pushed back against the newest state mandated goals they’ve been assigned for the next coming years.
The state assigned the Southern California Association of Governments — made up of city council members across the region — to come up with zoning for 1.3 million homes across six counties, including more than 180,000 in Orange County by Oct. 2029.
Almost half of Orange County’s cities filed appeals with the regional board to try to bring down the number of homes they have to zone for by the 2029 deadline.
The regional board denied all of the appeals.
Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa considered behind closed doors going to court over the housing goals earlier this week, but both cities took no action.
Local officials in Orange are looking to push back against a state proposed housing density law that would require cities to approve urban lot splits as well as developments with two residential units in single family residential zones.
The proposed law is intended to increase access to affordable housing, but some city council members in OC see it as another attempt by the state to undermine local control.
Orange City Council members may also push back on another proposed state law that would require “cities to upzone single-family parcels in ‘jobs rich’ areas to allow for up to 10 units without going through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process.”
The Need for Housing to Address Homelessness
Mercy House CEO Larry Haynes said in a phone interview last month that navigation centers are supposed to help people get housing.
“In a healthy system, there are enough housing destinations to have a sort of a free flow, if you will, right, from the streets to the navigation center to a housing unit,” he said.
Mercy House is a nonprofit that works to provide housing and support services to homeless populations and operates shelters in the county.
Haynes, who has been in this business for over three decades, said lack of housing is an issue.
“There’s two truths that are difficult. We need more housing. And there are no shortcuts,” he said. “We should have started 33 years ago. We’ve got to take seriously the challenge of the creation of new affordable housing. There are no shortcuts. we have to do the hard work.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.