Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ojai May Reject State Housing Plan

Requirements to allow 433 units by 2014 seen as threat to air quality, water

By Nao Braverman
The City Council determined Tuesday night that with Ojai’s small town character and quality of life at stake, they would consider opposing the state’s housing mandates.
The Regional Housing Needs Assessment requires that Ventura County must allow for the construction of 28,481 units to be built by 2014, with 433 being in Ojai. Six of those have already been constructed but many vocal residents and council members agree that a daunting 426 new units would be far more than Ojai’s air quality and infrastructure can handle.
“It is imprudent, even disingenuous to submit a plan that encourages a density that is counter to the city’s General Plan” said Ojai resident Jim Jackson. At least seven residents echoed his concerns, and added that they feared the deterioration of local water infrastructure, air quality and disaster preparedness.
“What if we don’t accommodate those RHNA numbers?” asked Mayor Sue Horgan.
Though the city itself is not required to build the 400 plus units, it would not be able to deny developers the right to build them.
Generally a city’s plan is evaluated by the State Department of Housing and Community Development and is eventually granted approval. Some cities do not receive approval and thus certify themselves, said city attorney Monte Widders. In that case a city must defend its plan if challenged in court, without backing from the state. That does not exempt a city from formulating a plan to accommodate those new units, it only means that the city did not get approval for its plan from the State Department of Housing and Community Development, Widders clarified.
Council members then inquired about what would happen if the city decided not accommodate such a huge number.
City manager Jerre Kersnar along with Widders agreed to investigate the possible legal ramifications if Ojai decided not to make room for the 426 new units mandated by the state.
City consultant Tom Figg had earlier stated that about 10 percent of California cities are not in compliance with housing mandates. Another approx-imately 11 percent are in the process or not yet due for evaluation.
“Some of these communities are non-compliant by not having adopted or updated a Housing Element in compliance with applicable deadlines or have chosen to self-certify,” he said.
Among those are Goleta, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach and Atascadero. The latter two are in the process of trying to become certified, according to Figg. Grover Beach let its housing elements to lapse, because it lacked financial resources and had more pressing priorities to attend to. Pismo Beach lacked available and affordable land, he said. Both noted the lack of access to grants but neither had any legal pressure to immediately adopt a Housing Element.
Mayor Horgan asked city staff to investigate more cities that were out of compliance and find out if there were any documented consequences.
One of the negative impacts, according to Widders, is that the city would lose access to some housing related state grants. But council members noted that the city had never taken advantage of such grants during its years of compliance with housing mandates.
Though the council and community members were skeptical of whether local water purveyors could handle an influx of 426 new units, Widders and Figg confirmed that both Golden State Water and the Casitas Municipal Water District had certified water management plans that indicated they could provide water for Ojai residents at full build-out for the next 30 years.
Figg agreed that the data collected by both water companies could be interpreted differently. But as the state had, in the past year, approved water management plans for both Ojai’s primary water purveyors indicating the capacity to provide water for a potential 426 additional dwellings, it would be hard to argue the contrary.
Were the city to adopt the Housing Element proposed by Figg, some additional options could be a Split Home Program and an Amnesty Program.
The suggested Split Home Program would allow some large home owners on large units to split their homes into two units, to add to the unit count without additional development. The Amnesty Program would allow owners of illegal units to legalize their property with incentives.
Council members were divided in their comments but all were at least willing to look into not complying with the state’s mandates, after the legal ramifications had been thoroughly considered.
Councilwoman Rae Hanstad, Councilwoman Carol Smith and Councilman Steve Olsen said they were willing to try the Amnesty Program. Hanstad was concerned about the ability to maintain the local water quality. Smith was eager to move forward saying she was more concerned about protecting Ojai from being taken over by million dollar condominiums than water. Horgan was strictly against the Amnesty Program and clearly opposed to the Housing Element entirely.
“I’m just waiting anxiously to see what happens,” said Mayor Pro Tem Joe DeVito.
Council members agreed to wait until staff returned to them with more information on the legal ramifications of not having a certified Housing Element that accommodates 426 new units. The meeting concluded in celebration of community member Rose Boggs’ 80th birthday.


James Hatch said...

Way to step up to the plate! I hate to say I told you so, but this is what I suggested months ago.

Anonymous said...

Something more to this, I fear.
City manager, who was appointed by
current mayor, implies many more
high density projects in the works
after mayor steps into term one year
early. Refusing state mandated
affordable housing sets up expensive
and protracted legal battle, something city council is already
well versed in. Combination of
apparent corruption and ineptitude
makes for unsettling future for
citizens here, who by the way showed up in droves in opposition to high density
housing plan- and why not? New Condos already here are not selling, let alone the large water requirements of prospective development. PL

Furry Herbalist said...

Seems to me that 426 new housing units in Ojai forces high density (or multiple storied buildings) down our throats and every other orifice as well.

If the City has to enter into a legal battle, why not one that preserves our current density, allows private landowners to develop within existing guidelines and tells the State to bugger off with the "build it and they will come mentality" which is entirely predicated on the need to increase revenues because they've already spent the money the .coms didn't bring in. (Yeah, I know, that was a run-on sentence.)

Kudos to the Council for refusing to roll-over and play dead on this one.

B Dawson

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm stupid or didn't read the article right, but does 426 new housing units mean actual houses or housing complexes?

Anonymous said...

426 housing units means 426 dwellings, not 426 multiple unit dwellings. Maybe we could build a big honking high-rise with 600 units and keep the state off of our back for awhile. (Kidding.)

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Ojai, can't afford to live there, would love to but can't. Why not make it affordable for younger couples with families to be able to raise their kids in Ojai! This town has been run over with the rich from tinsle town! Classic case of not in my back yard! you got yours and now no one else should be allowed in!

Anonymous said...

Uh oh......sounds like the return of Secret Agent Buff Stevens.

Anonymous said...

Don't you mean Agent Truth Stevens? 426 single dwellings is less profit and luxury than the multiple unit projects which city
had been steadily filling in Ojai with. Perhaps there is less money to be had in affordable housing, but why is gentrification the long range plan of Ojai's mayor and city manager? What has happened to modest homes and small friendly neighborhoods without walls and gates? Wonder why if new expensive multiple unit developments, which the city favors, are slated, somehow their impact gets
conveniently mitigated or assigned negative declaration.

James Hatch said...

The truth is that our local government should not be hogtied by the state. Whether we need the houses or not is not the point. The point is that we, on a local level, should decide whether we need them or not, rather than some obscure state bureaucrat.

As far as I'm concerned, Ojai has absolutely no responsibility other than to consider the recommendation. (Consider it rejected.) If the state tries to mandate it, we'll challenge it.

This really speaks to a more fundamental problem: Top down regulation and power distribution from federal (although not federal in this instance) to state to county to local to individual. This is entirely upside down.

Anonymous said...

Oh drat! That villan Buff Stevens returns fresh from his cookie cutter WalMart gig.Buff you are a hard flea to shake!

Mark Nash said...

I see James Hatch has returned from his holiday vacation. So where did you go on vacation James? North Korea, or was it Iran, or maybe South Africa. Oh I forgot Aparthied has been abolished in S Africa so rule that out. Welcome back...

Anonymous said...

Oh really now James Hatch,do you think? The local level should decide, when it fact they show no interest except in those big projects which they receive
compensation for? None of that
in affordable housing, so might as well challenge it legally and
make the money off of litigation.
Good thinking, James, there is
a place for you in local government-you fit right in!

James Hatch said...

Dear Anonymous,

Top down government bureaucracy so you can have your affordable housing. Why not call it what it is: Socialism.

If you think those elected have a vested interest in every big project, then vote them out. Oh, but you've tried that already. Your collective lot of left wingers don't amount to much at the booths.

Sounds like you're in the minority once again.

Anonymous said...

James Hatch, whoever you may be, I’ve studied your position carefully to see if it goes anywhere new. Housing and a quality of life are not left or right wing privileges but basic human rights. The needs of the many
outweighting the needs of the few,as with housing, are not by-products of a top-down government model typically supporting the monied interest, which I assure you doesn’t equate to socialism. And, by inherent design state legal guidelines apply to everyone equally and are not a directive of
A state bureaucrat forcing compliance. Your argument is void for vagueness as well as being antiquated and a proven failure more than 40 years ago.I’m betting that the collective civic wisdom of Ojai will find a just and fair
solution to the housing needs you use to play politics with.

Anonymous said...

If James Hatch is serious at change
through the political channels he
might start by using his real name
and attaching credability to his
blog ranting. So far he takes pot shots at those who at least tried, but fails by not registering the actual election results correctly and proportionately. The "left wing" minority received almost 50 percent of vote cast. PL

Anonymous said...

Regarding Ojai's state directed affordable housing, I
am inclined to think the city council is rejecting
something that they have no vested interest in. They
tend to never meet a multiple unit condo project they
don't like. 426 single dwellings is less profit and
luxury than the multiple unit projects which they
have been steadily filling in Ojai with. Perhaps there
is less money to be had in affordable housing, but is
gentrification the long range plan of Ojai's mayor
and city manager? What has happened to modest
homes and small friendly neighborhoods without
walls and gates? Refusing state mandated
affordable housing sets up expensive and protracted
legal battles- something the city council and attorney
are already well versed in. The city attorney advises
litigation, the council follows, and of course the
attorney bills for substantial hours. There is a
combination of apparent corruption and ineptitude that
makes for an unsettling future for citizens here.
The water requirements and environmental impacts are
something everyone has concerns with, but one wonders
if new expensive multiple unit developments which the
city does favor, are slated, somehow their impact gets
conveniently mitigated or assigned negative
declaration, which traditionally happens. Through
these challenging housing demands, one hopes for grass
roots guidence and wisdom, like that which has brought
many to fill city council meetings recently to insure
that a sane process and plan is in place to meet
Ojai's growing pains.

Pete Lafollette

James Hatch said...

Dear Anonymous 1:53,

Careful with your utitilitarian argument, it may come back to bite you. Suppose state voters passed state constitutional amendment that declared it was policy of state to encourage housing developments to deal with shortage and in doing so declared that local zoning ordinances that restrict growth were unconstitutional. Would this be the needs of the many outweighing the few?

The state mandates that affordable houses be built and subsidizes along the way: This isn't socialism?

Dear PL,

At least you can take comfort in knowing that your collective lot are a near majority. You can really legislate when you almost win a seat on the council, and the voters almost gave your fellow party members seats on the council, which means you almost had a governing majority.

Is it your position that city council should just roll over on this to avoid litigation costs? Would that be your policy regarding any controversy that might involve legal costs? Does allowing these homes mesh with your vision of Ojai?

Anonymous said...

There are real concerns about the dwindling housing stock here for middle incomes with families and other residents. It is not
reactionary but realistic that unmanaged unplanned for growth is the broader ominous threat, and advocates shouldn't be stigmatized.
A potential multi-story higher density project is no ghetto blight. The Ross Apartments in Meiners Oaks is where a denser vertical configuration is more
functional and desirable than horizontal sprawl,and compliments the European model of a centralized
downtown plaza providing a pedestrian friendly district, simular to Ojai's arcade design. Another positive model to look at is the Fulton Street seperate residence project- where homes were sold on condition not to turnover for profit. Or any number of educational or spiritual foundations here providing housing on site to attract and keep talented people.So yes it is possible to limit market dictated
exponential growth, decrease traffic congestion and lesson environmental impact of housing projects. Very predictable that city planners won't approve variances in parking,occupancy,density, and number of prospective housing units, given current ordinances and the vehemence of the community. I would not consider it alternative or "left wing" political values- the steady
erosion, by sprawl, of open space and quiet quality of
life, but would assert carefully planned growth represents majority opinion of Ojai residents as well
as attracting tourist revenue.
Differing perspectives is tradition in Ojai and is to be expected- coming from what has always been a creative and thoughtful locale, drawing energies and talented minds from distant places to share their lives here. It would seem this is the resource that will manage Ojai's growing pains, not the demi-Gods of market forces but collective efforts by those who have a real sense of place and commitment to keep the traditions and faith in this valley.

Pete LaFollette

Anonymous said...

Oh my God -You can't even drive down Ojai avenue as it is how many more cars do we need clogging Ojai avenue from 496 two car family’s possible add that up---
(THINK ABOUT THIS) we have no work for that amount of people. The city needs to do what ever it takes to fight and protect us from the pipe dreamers and their madness.

Anonymous said...

Agree with above comments about traffic-council and planning produced
Bryant Street commercial project without
and EIR or traffic planning. Sustainable growth is possible, but citizens need
to participate with groups like
recent trucks, water, and anti-chain
store efforts. The side effects to local
quality of life are unavoidable but
manageable if planned for correctly.
Affordable housing is a step in the right
direction to keep things on a local level including jobs and lesson commuter
traffic which causes grid lock you now
are seeing.