City seeks info for future low-income housing

The city, pending state approval, will form a task force to look into funding sources to preserve existing low-income senior housing and explore housing alternatives such as assisted-living and home health care.

The Laguna Beach City Council approved the city's draft housing element, a document that helps a city plan to preserve and expand housing options for its residents, at its Oct. 15 meeting.

The city's senior population is growing, and Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson is concerned that a group of housing units currently dedicated to low-income seniors could convert to market-rate housing.

Residents 65 and older number 4,163, or 18% of the city's total population, according to the 2010 United States Census. That percentage is an increase from 13% in 2000.

Both 55-to-64 and 65-and-older age groups in Laguna increased by more than 32% from 2000 to 2010, according to census data.

Laguna Beach has 85 units designated for low-income seniors, including 15 apartments at Harbor Cove, 310 Broadway St., and 70 units at Vista Aliso, 21544 Wesley Drive. Harbor Cove could convert to market-rate apartments in 2019, while Vista Aliso could change in 2028, the draft element said.

The Vista Aliso units are reserved for very-low income tenants, residents whose income is not more than 50% of the county's median income — $87,200 for a family of four in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The median income for one person in Orange County for 2013 is $61,050, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

"I'm wondering if we shouldn't be putting money aside if we need to buy the property," Pearson said of Vista Aliso. "That's our biggest senior housing project."

Mermaid Terrace, at 485 Mermaid St., has 25 condominiums designated for seniors whose incomes are between 81% and 120% of the county's median income, the draft said.

Laguna Beach has identified seven groups, including seniors, that have special housing needs, meaning that certain residents live in a situation not typical of the average Laguna Beach household, the draft housing element said.

Other groups with special housing needs include disabled persons; very-low, low- and moderate-income workers in Laguna Beach; and female-headed households, the draft said.

The task force could include residents, Housing and Human Services Committee members, planning commissioners and City Council members, city planner Carolyn Martin said.

The group will provide a list of senior housing options that include board and care homes, assisted-living facilities and home health care, with the goal of enabling seniors to live independently in their homes, according to the draft.

The city will also identify possible funding sources to preserve existing extremely low-, very low-, low- and moderate-income housing, and contact the Harbor Cove property owner to discuss long-term options by December 2015, the draft said.

State law requires cities to adopt a housing element as part of their general plans. Laguna's current draft is good through 2021.

Officials from the California Department of Housing and Community Development will review Laguna Beach's draft to ensure it complies with state law and return it to the Planning Commission with any changes. The commission would recommend any changes to the City Council for review and approval before resubmitting the draft to the state.

"The city has done a lot to promote affordable housing in a high-cost area," Martin said during the Oct. 15 meeting.

As examples, Martin cited the Glennwood House, which houses 50 young adults with developmental disabilities, and amending the city's second residential unit ordinance, which allows for an attached or detached structure between 275 square feet and 640 square feet on a minimum 6,000-square-foot-lot, the municipal code said.

The median single-family home price in Laguna Beach was $1.2 million in 2012, compared with $500,000 countywide, according to DataQuick, a real estate information company.

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