Emily Ann Ramos, who works at SV@Home to preserve affordable housing and protect tenants, told the Town Crier that Mountain View’s housing element is probably on track to comply, but the city may need to “show their work” in the document.

She said it’s a complicated dance for cities because they could be held accountable for any detail of their housing element.

“I think (Mountain View city) staff was just being conservative with what they wanted to require (future) city councils to do,” Ramos said. “They don’t want to tie future city council hands, but that’s the whole point of long-term planning.”

  • Los Altos Town Crier
  • Oct 11, 2022
  •  

The city of Mountain View has moved to the next stage of its housing element process: revision. The city received feedback from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development on its draft housing element Sept. 29.

As the first city in Santa Clara County to submit a draft housing element and receive input from HCD, jurisdictions across the county are keeping an eye on HCD’s response to progressive Mountain View.

Los Altos City Councilmember Neysa Fligor told the Town Crier she’s keeping in touch with the leaders of other cities to gauge the type of comments they receive. Los Altos submitted its draft housing element to HCD in early August but has yet to receive a response; HCD has 90 days to respond.

 

“I thought we submitted a great draft, but we do expect feedback and comments from HCD,” she said.

Based on HCD’s letter to Mountain View, Fligor said she thinks Los Altos will receive more comments than she initially expected.

Full of feedback

HCD’s letter to Mountain View included 12 pages of suggested revisions, such as adding more details about “pending” housing projects and quantifiable outcomes for the city’s planned programs.

City spokesperson Lenka Wright told the Town Crier via email that the HCD comments the city received are “apparently not unusual.”

“We have learned other cities in our area and across the state have received similar feedback from HCD,” she said.

Membership-based housing advocacy organization SV@Home expressed concern that Mountain View and other Santa Clara County cities face a lot of work on the path to adopting a successful housing element. Executive director Regina Celestin Williams said

SV@Home worries that cities in the county will struggle to reach compliance.

“While Mountain View’s letter was not a surprise, it really spells out how much additional time and work it is going to take to meet the state’s requirements,” Williams said.

Mountain View Mayor Lucas Ramirez expressed similar sentiments about the state’s high bar.

“The housing element is no longer the paper exercise it used to be,” Ramirez said. “We have known for a long time that the expectations are high, and I encourage all cities to approach the process in good faith and make a sincere effort to address our regional housing crisis.”

Emily Ann Ramos, who works at SV@Home to preserve affordable housing and protect tenants, told the Town Crier that Mountain View’s housing element is probably on track to comply, but the city may need to “show their work” in the document.

She said it’s a complicated dance for cities because they could be held accountable for any detail of their housing element.

“I think (Mountain View city) staff was just being conservative with what they wanted to require (future) city councils to do,” Ramos said. “They don’t want to tie future city council hands, but that’s the whole point of long-term planning.”

Community concerns

The HCD letter also cites comments from individuals and advocacy groups including the League of Women Voters, Mountain View YIMBY and the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce and Foundation.

The letter includes comments from Mountain View residents like Deniece Smith. Smith told the Town Crier that the housing element process needs to be streamlined and clarified. Smith, who owns a home in the West Shoreline neighborhood, said the city has an opportunity to add many of the required housing units through accessory dwelling units; however, the city’s sometimes differential treatment of particular parcels creates barriers for homeowners interested in adding more units.

“I don’t think there’s one issue,” Smith said. “There are so many interconnected details that depend on what one can do with their parcel. More clarity and consistency could help residents have an idea of where to start.”

Consequences and compliance

Mountain View is following trends that started in Southern California. Nearly 80% of Los Angeles County jurisdictions are still working to approve housing plans that comply with HCD requirements.

All Bay Area cities have a Jan. 31 deadline for submitting a compliant housing element to the state. If they fail to do so by May 2023, they may face sanctions from the state.

Ramos said it’s unclear what specific actions HCD might take. Most Southern California cities are out of compliance but haven’t yet faced sanctions. However, Ramos said, the state recognizes that the Bay Area is the epicenter of California’s housing crisis, making it more likely that local jurisdictions will be punished if they fail to produce a compliant housing element by summer 2023.

“If anyone could make it, it would be Mountain View,” Ramos said. “But it’s going to take a lot of work.”

The range of consequences varies, but Ramos said the most realistic possibility is that noncompliant cities could face limited eligibility for state and federal housing funds. Wright said staff will work with HCD to discuss its feedback and with advocacy groups to address their comments to HCD.

The city of Mountain View expects to send a second draft to HCD by the end of the year, with public review scheduled at the mid-November Environmental Planning Commission meeting. The city council is expected to consider adopting the draft at its mid-December meeting, according to Wright.

To read HCD’s feedback for Mountain View, visit tinyurl.com/swcf78md.

For more information on Mountain View’s housing element, visit mvhousingelement.org.

By 

Katherine Simpson is a reporter covering the city of Los Altos and business for the Town Crier.

 

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