A divided Santa Maria Planning Commission postponed a decision on a build-to-rent, single-family home development that would incorporate accessory dwelling units as part of the project from the start.
On Wednesday night, planning commissioners voted 3-1 to delay the item pending research on issues related to large rental properties and a specific plan for the broader area. Commissioners Esau Blanco, Robert Dickerson and Yasameen Mohajer agreed to the delay, but chairman Tim Seifert voted against it.
That vote to delay came after it appeared that the four members were evenly divided on whether to approve the project.
The tiebreaker — Commissioner Tom Lopez — earlier had recused himself after discovering he has a business relationship with the applicant’s management company.
Canfield Development has proposed multiple types of housing and public amenities for 160 acres on a nearly 17-acre lot bordered by Blosser, Stowell and Battles roads and Depot Street in the Blosser-Southeast 5B Specific Plan. Both single-family and high-density residential projects are proposed along with assorted amenities such as parks, a school and a fire station.
Commissioners were tasked with considering a planned development permit and tract map for the Blosser Ranch development with 105 single-family homes, along with a community center, a pool and more. The applicant also has proposed detached accessory dwelling units on 96 of the lots.
The two-story homes, with three- and four-bedroom options, would sit in a gated community. Each lot would have two garage spaces, two driveway spaces and a pair of spaces for the ADU. On-street parking would be banned, but 57 guest spaces would be included.
Dickerson wondered if the project would lead to a monopoly for rental housing rates that would reverberate to other rental projects in the community. He asked for data about the build-to-rent market in other areas.
“This isn’t an issue of capitalism. It’s not an issue of this is a free market economy. It is the potential issue of a large landlord affecting all of the rentals, and that’s the difference.” Dickerson said.
Increasing the housing supply can ease the housing supply shortage and help keep rental rate lower, according to Canfield’s representative.
“I see it as a good project and something that’s needed for the community and supported by the community,” Seifert said, noting the favorable comments made by employers and residents.
Wednesday night wasn’t the first time planning commissioners saw the proposal. The panel previously held discussions at two study sessions, leading the applicant to tweak the proposal such as adding carports to provide on-site parking for the ADUs, too.
“These guys are offering us what we’ve asked for. We’ve asked for single-family homes. We’ve asked for some control over the ADU situation, and we’re getting that with this project,” Seifert said. “The (existing) ADUs to me are a mess. The state requirements, they take away all of our powers.”
Blanco said he didn’t believe the proposal complied with the specific plan due to a number of modifications sought for the project.
“What’s the point of a specific plan if we can’t be specific and tied to it? That’s really my concern,” Blanco said. “That’s what we’re up here to do, right, is to judge, not on the market rates or anything like that, theories of economics. I’m here to evaluate things based on the documents that required to be complied with.”
But Canfield’s representatives said that at least two modifications were to meet planning commissioners’ prior request to install parking for the ADUs.
City planning staff said it wasn’t clear how quickly they could return with the information sought by commissioners.
Blosser Ranch is just one phase of the large development, and another phase of the project will land before the commission in the near future, planning consultant Laurie Tamura said.
“We’re moving these projects forward. They’re all coming to you over the next couple of months, so we want to be able to allay your fears, address your concerns and move the rest of the project forward,” Tamura said.