Planning Comm. looks at housing report

ATASCADERO — With members of governance bodies and residents taking a break around the start of the summer season, Atascadero Planning Commission chairman Tom Zirk wondered if he’d get the required number of members needed to hold their scheduled meeting June 18.

As it turned out, only Commissioner Mark Dariz was a no show, with a scheduled absence already on the books.

Their constituents, doubtless either occupied elsewhere or seeing nothing ‘sexy’ on the meeting agenda didn’t turn out in person either, which led Zirk to note that if anything were to be quoted for posterity from the meeting it would need to come from the lone local reporter smiling back awkwardly in front of nine people with a job to do.

For the moment then it might have been a good thing that the Commission's meetings are not streamed and recorded online at as so many others are or their might have been no human audience at all. 

Despite the joviality with which all those little changes were met, it would be a disservice to think that the contents of the required Annual General Plan / Housing Report delivered by Senior Planner Kelly Gleason were a triviality.

The purpose of the report is for the State of California to monitor the implementation of the City’s General Plan Housing Element and their progress toward meeting the City’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).

The San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) gets in on the act as well dividing up the state’s mandate for housing development across local communities.

“In terms of the majority of the County we’re doing a good job of meeting numbers,” Gleason said, “compared to surrounding communities.”

The targets handed down to help ensure that each region is meeting their share of the burden of population growth included 98 residences classified as very low income in the 2015-2019 span.

A target that they will not achieve before the rollover to a new planning period in 2020 as they hover at the halfway marker, 48 units.

That’s partly because there isn’t a lot of economic incentive for that kind of development, even though demand is high. On the other hand homes for income categories classified as moderate — affordable for individuals making more than 120 percent of area median income — had nearly triple the target production rate. The target was 69 units with 181 built.

As the City Council moves forward with an update to the Housing Element of the General Plan, Gleason explained, they can examine incentivized structures to produce the kinds of housing the City is deemed to need, but the opportunities are there should private developers acton them.

“The State knows we can’t force people to build,” she said, adding when questioned by the committee on funding mechanism and availability, “We’re not seeing a lot of land remaining available for projects. We’re actually hitting our planned build-out limit. Commercial projects will be good for us for sure, those are coming up, but we anticipate a lull in applications for housing as our element is updated in 2020.”

For clarification, she added, at one point long debated Eagle Ranch project has now been officially withdrawn.

For the immediate future lenders aren’t bankrolling projects at the value they might if a round of commercial development is successful, she said, which could allow more “micro home” development and planned affordable to offset this round of RHNA numbers after 2020

“It's difficult for lenders in Atascadero because they're looking at value based on what’s here now rather than what will be here when these projects are complete,” she said.

Skipping the July Fourth holiday week, the Planning Commission is planned for a joint session with the City Council July 11 to look at that update process. On July 16, they’ll likely see more of an audience with the environmental impact review of a mini-storage development than a proposed expansion of services at the ECHO Homeless Shelter.


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