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Local News

Goleta Planning Commission Approves Amendments to Housing Element of General Plan

The city is seeking certification, making it eligible for grants and providing legal protection

Goleta planners are taking another swipe at certification of the Housing Element of the city’s General Plan, with amendments approved by its Planning Commission and recommended to the City Council for adoption.

City planner Anne Wells said that many of the changes had to do with finessing the language of the as-yet uncertified Housing Element to closely match with the state Department of Housing and Community Development’s language, for ease of evaluation.

The changes including a widening of the city’s definition of farmworkers, as the term applies to farmworker housing policies, and a clarification of terms between inclusionary housing in-lieu payments (the money developers pay to the city toward its affordable housing efforts instead of providing units priced for moderate- to low-income individuals and families), and development impact fees (the money developers pay the city to compensate for estimated impacts).

The development impact fee for residential units of more than 3,000 square feet was struck from the Housing Element, and staff provided clarification on the city’s policy excluding rental projects from its affordability requirements for residential projects. Staff effort also went into beefing up the element’s technical appendix.

“I see a lot of these things as technical changes and clarifications, and I don’t see an issue with them,” Commissioner Brent Daniels said.

If the city gets its way, the Department of Housing and Community Development will see it that way, too. The Housing Element has been a thorn in the city’s side for years, as multiple attempts to get state approval — attempts that go back to the city’s first years — have been unsuccessful.

HCD certification of the city’s Housing Element is not mandatory, but it would make the city eligible for certain grants and provide the city a measure of legal protection with regard to its Housing Element.

HCD certification would be a milestone for the city, but before sending the document to the state, the City Council must adopt the amendments and the accompanying environmental report, which, according to Wells, indicates that the effects would be less than significant as a result of the changes to the policies.

Having been with the city, and its attempts to get state approval for its Housing Element, since incorporation, Commissioner Jonny Wallis expressed her own feelings on the process with HCD.

“It just seems they have never been quite clear if they want something in a specific format. ... It’s cost time, and it’s cost our staff a lot of work and it’s delayed things,” she said, adding that the information “would have been helpful.”

The Housing Element amendments now go to the Goleta City Council.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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