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Goleta Council Backs Inclusionary Exemption for Planned Assisted-Care Facility

General Plan Amendment required for proposed residential project to pass muster with housing element.

Applicants for Mariposa at Ellwood Shores got the nod from the Goleta City Council on Tuesday, which directed city staff to move forward with the General Plan Amendment the proposed 99-resident assisted-care facility would require.

The project drew a 4-0 vote of approval, with Councilwoman Margaret Connell abstaining.

Mariposa would be built at 7760 Hollister Ave.; Dixon’s Goleta Storage currently sits on the property, which is just under three acres in size.

The issue under examination was the city’s housing element, which requires residential developments to provide a percentage of units for affordable — or inclusionary — housing or pay a fee, to house those who work locally. Because an assisted-care facility would be classified as institutional use, instead of residential, and because it would not be providing housing for local workers, city staff said the inclusionary rate should not apply.

According to staff reports, no other jurisdiction in the region is known to have an inclusionary requirement for assisted-living communities. State funds, like Medi-Cal, do not apply to assisted-living facilities. Federally insured financing requires that all residents receiving the same package be charged the same fee.

The property would also need to be rezoned and have additional permits issued, but council members just tackled the General Plan Amendment on Tuesday.

Harwood White, agent for the project’s owner, said the project has been in the works since cityhood began. He said enforcing an inclusionary rate on the facility would render the project “infeasible.”

“Customarily, an inclusionary requirement has to do with rent or with purchasing a home,” he said. “Assisted living goes much further than that.”

Mariposa’s best source of financing is through the Federal Housing Administration of the Housing and Urban Development Department (FHA HUD), and HUD requires privately owned market-rate facilities to not charge different fees to their residents, he said.

The small units would be “affordable by design,” White said.

Mariposa would have 44 employees. Of the two public speakers, both said the facility should take responsibility for housing its workers. Gary Vandeman said two-thirds of the employees at Mariposa would make $10 an hour or less, and Barbara Massey followed suit, saying the project would create dozens of low-cost jobs without mitigating the impacts.

Steve Chase, city planning and environmental services director, urged the council to provide staff with direction so they could deal with the contradictory housing policy.

“This policy is a mess,” he said. “It applies to employment, yet it is placed in the residential component of inclusionary housing. It’s out of sync.”

Connell said she understood the institutional nature of the facility, but that inclusionary rates should still apply for the employees.

White said he hoped the project would be before decision makers in the fall.

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