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Articles

Council Tables Housing Element

By Sondra Murphy

Traffic, growth control, affordable housing, water supply and sustainability.

Look through any OVN archive from its nearly 120-year history and one will find these issues passionately addressed.
The topics are revisited in each of the city of Ojai’s efforts to finalize a Housing Element Plan — a required plan to accommodate new housing to be certified by the state based on the Regional Housing Needs Assessment mandated by state housing law as part of the periodic process of updating local housing elements.
The RHNA quantifies the need for housing within each jurisdiction during specified planning periods. In May 2008, City Council members said they were not ready to adopt a plan to accommodate 427 new housing units required by the state. In December 2008, the council determined it could not support any of the three options presented to accommodate a state mandate that conflicts with the city’s growth management plan.
In March 2009, the council voted to submit to the state a new Housing Element plan that would eventually add 427 legal dwellings in Ojai, using as a cornerstone an amnesty program that would encourage owners of about 300 illegal dwellings to upgrade them to legal standards. A June 2010 deadline for compliance and the beginning of implementation of a housing plan is set by the state.
The state responded positively to the amnesty proposal and, in July, the council directed staff to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Report complete with community comments, of which 16 were received. But when city consultant Tom Figg, brought the update to the council earlier this month, the process backpedaled.
The objections had not changed. While the council supported affordable housing as a concept, it was still skeptical about Ojai’s ability to accommodate more than 400 units.
“The council’s heart is in the right place. We want to build affordable housing,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Carol Smith, who added that she had faith in the amnesty program. “I want to spend money on doing programs to build affordable housing … I don’t want to spend another dime of taxpayers’ money on items that are not housing our very poor residents.” Smith said the council should stop paying consultants and move forward with the Housing Element plan.
But Councilwomen Sue Horgan and Betsy Clapp were not sold. “I feel we are being dictated to by the state,” Clapp said.
“This still doesn’t make sense to me,” said Horgan. “We’ve got environmental concerns bumping up against this housing mandate … Developers don’t have the money to develop anything. We have all these competing interests.”
Horgan brought up Senate Bill 375 and MS-4 as examples of these conflicts.
SB 375 strives to control greenhouse gas emissions by curbing sprawl. It provides emissions-reducing goals for which regions can plan, integrates disjointed planning activities, and provides incentives for local governments and developers to follow new “conscientiously planned” growth patterns, such as placing housing developments near transit hubs and jobs.
MS-4 refers to storm water discharge requirements. The city of Ojai is

Look through any OVN archive from its nearly 120-year history and one will find these issues passionately addressed. The topics are revisited in each of the city of Ojai’s efforts to finalize a Housing Element Plan — a required plan to accommodate new housing to be certified by the state based on the Regional Housing Needs Assessment mandated by state housing law as part of the periodic process of

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