CITY COUNCIL AGENDA ITEM NO. C.1
An ordinance approving a rezone (RZ 14-010) and associated Negative Declaration initiated by the City of Brentwood for a series of text amendments to the Municipal Code, which are necessary to carry out key implementation measures identified in the 2012 Housing Element and required for certification by the State Department of Housing and Community Development of the 2015 Housing Element update. The specific amendments include the addition of a chapter addressing emergency shelters (Chapter 17.770), an amendment to the Planned Development 38 Zone text to allow emergency shelters as a permitted use within Subarea C (Chapter 17.488), an amendment to the definitions for Title 17 (Chapter 17.030), the addition of a chapter addressing reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities (Chapter 17.760), an amendment to the density bonus program chapter (Chapter 17.720), and an amendment to the affordable housing ordinance (Chapter 17.725).
A tonight’s City Council meeting the Brentwood City Council will be deciding whether or not to rezone a piece of property to allow emergency shelters as a permitted use. The property to be rezoned is in the far northwest corner of the city on Empire Ave, in what I call the “Tri-City area”. If you were to stand in the middle of Empire Ave just south of the Union Pacific Rail line you can stand in all three east county cities, Oakley, Antioch and Brentwood, at once.
The City of Brentwood needs to zone land somewhere in their city in order to get their 2012 Housing Element update certified by the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development’s (HCD). State law requires that cities and counties provide at least one zoning designation that allows the location of emergency shelters without discretionary approval. The City doesn’t yet comply with this State mandate. The state permitted the city one year to fix the problem, that timeframe has ended and HCD has stated that it will not certify the Housing Element unless an emergency shelter zone is adopted.
Each city in California is mandated to adopt a comprehensive general plan, which must include a housing element. Housing Elements are usually updated every five to eight years and are subject to detailed statutory requirements and mandatory review by HCD. The Housing Element contains information on the housing needs of the community, including the needs of lower-income households and people with special needs, such as homeless persons, seniors, and people with disabilities. Successful certification of the Housing Element is directly tied to whether or not a jurisdiction is eligible to receive certain kinds of funding, including some transportation funds. Additionally, not having a certified Element puts a jurisdiction at risk of lawsuits from developers. Courts have required cities without approved Housing Elements to allow housing “as-of-right”, without any discretionary review by the City until the Housing Element is certified, including in single-family zones.
Should Brentwood not adopt the Housing Element by May 31, 2015, the City will lose local control over the location of an emergency shelter within its boundaries. State law prohibits a city from disapproving an emergency shelter on the grounds that the proposal is inconsistent with the City’s zoning and general plan if (1) the site is designated as commercial, industrial, or multifamily under the General Plan; and (2) the City has failed to identify a zone or zones for an emergency shelter as a permitted use. Moreover, the City will revert to a four-year housing element cycle versus an eight-year cycle. In addition, if HCD does not certify the housing element by May 31, the City will no longer be eligible for any One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) funding until 2022/23 and the Measure J transportation funds would also be at risk.
The Brentwood 2012 Housing Element identified four potential shelter locations, including: the Brentwood Boulevard Specific Plan, north of Lone Tree Way; Planned Development 38 at Empire; Planned Development 48 at the southwest corner of Lone Tree Way and Shady Willow; and Planned Development 53 at the southeast corner of Lone Tree Way and the new Highway 4. Staff analyzed these locations for their suitability and feasibility. The PD-38 text amendment adds emergency shelters to the permitted uses within Subarea C of the zone. This amendment will satisfy the State requirement for allowing emergency shelters by right. It should be noted that any emergency shelter locating within this zoning district would be required to adhere to all of the requirements contained in the Emergency Shelters ordinance.
I understand the council’s dilemma, if we have to zone for it, why not place it as far away as possible from existing Brentwood homes. Brentwood residents are not complaining. But, dumping the shelter and its associated issues on your neighbor’s doorstep is not the right solution. I have discussed the issue with Mayor Taylor and Councilmen Clare and expressed my displeasure with their decision and I hope they will be able to find another vote for a different location. If not there are actions we can still take.
Assuming the Brentwood Council approves that site tonight, the site still needs to be approved by the Department of Housing and Community Development. Although the City of Brentwood would not be responsible for building the facility, there must be a good faith attempt by Brentwood to ensure that the land would be available during the current Housing Element cycle, 8 years. The property owner has been contacted; apparently the property is under contract to a homebuilder. If so the site will not last through the cycle and HCD should disapprove the site and ask Brentwood to find another location that would be eligible. Contact HCD and let them know. HCD Housing Policy Development Deputy Director, Lisa Bates (916) 263-2911