Reposted from March of 2010
Last March I wrote two posts. The first on “Housing” to discuss the process whereby the state seeks to make sure that each community provides its fair share of future housing requirements. The second on affordable housing, which is a component of the housing discussion. In the affordable housing post I mentioned a lawsuit was pending against the city of Pleasanton. That lawsuit ended this week and the ruling may have significant impacts on all cities and counties throughout the state.
In 1996 the citizens Pleasanton passed Measure GG which limited building permits to 350 a year and placed a maximum cap of 29,000 units (homes, apartments and condominiums) for the city.
In 2006 a school teacher and Pleasanton resident, Sandra de Gregorio, in search of affordable housing and the nonprofit Urban Habitat sued Pleasanton. In June of 2009 State Attorney General Jerry Brown joined the lawsuit. The suit stated that Pleasanton used the housing cap to keep affordable housing from being built in Pleasanton.
From a brief supplied by the State: “This case is about the City of Pleasanton’s (“City”) longstanding failure to meet its obligations under State Housing laws. During the briefing on this motion, the City modified its Growth Management Ordinance to allow for exceptions where needed to meet State housing requirements. This is a welcome– if long overdue– move toward compliance. The City, however, has not rezoned sites to make them to be immediately available for development, as required by State law and as it committed to do in its Housing Element five years ago, nor has it repealed or amended its rigid Housing Cap.
The Cap remains firmly in place, presenting an absolute bar to the City meeting its current and future Regional Housing Needs Allocations (RHNA) under State law. Notably, while the City fiddles with the precise number of units it has remaining under the Cap, it never once disputes — and cannot dispute — that it is mathematically impossible for it to accommodate its current RHNA of 3,277 units. Because of this fundamental and irreconcilable conflict with State Housing law, the Housing Cap is preempted by State law.”
On Monday Judge Frank Roesch, of Alameda County Superior Court, issued a decision declaring that Measure GG’s housing cap violates California housing law and prevents the city from meeting its share of regional housing needs. He ordered Pleasanton to change its zoning laws to accommodate:
- the construction of 3,277 housing units, including 2,524 affordable homes, for the current planning period that ends in 2014.
- the construction of 800 or so units of low to very low-income units that it had been ordered to plan for between 1999 to 2006. This was deemed necessary to comply with the previous planning period, which ended in 2007
He also ordered the City to stop issuing non-residential building permits until it has complied with his order, strike Measure GG from all planning documents and complete the re-zoning within 120 days.
As outlined in the brief the Judge based his decision on a California law that requires cities, in their zoning regulations, to set aside sufficient land to accommodate their “fair share” of regional housing needs. This “fair share” requirement has never before had any back bone to it and was generally used as a guideline. Often ignored, especially when applied to affordable housing.
A quick review of “fair share” – Every seven years the state forecasts housing needs for all income levels. Geographical areas within the state are assigned a Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). This number is then broken down further by regional associations, in our case the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). ABAG then calculates the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). The RHNA contains each city’s projected housing need over the next 5-7 years, divided into income groups.
This ruling puts teeth into the “fair share” process. In the Chronicle John King writes “According to a study of housing production between 1999 and 2006 conducted by the Association of Bay Area Governments, just 24 of 102 cities in the region produced more housing than requested by the state”. Cities that have not complied in the past may now have to look at their General Plans and determine if they have zoned an appropriate amount of land to accommodate all housing needs, including affordable housing. They may need to increase density levels or remove constricting conditions, such as height.
Pleasanton officials could appeal the decision.