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La Cañada eyes affordable housing bills that could complicate city zoning practices

Doran Gardens, a new affordable housing complex on the 300 block of West Doran, held an open house T
An affordable housing unit in Burbank. Under possible new laws being discussed in Sacramento, La Cañada may have assume another 112 units of affordable housing in 2020-21, up from the current 343 units.
(File Photo)

As California lawmakers hash out the political fate of several bills aimed at homelessness and affordable housing, La Cañada Flintridge officials are cautiously eyeing key pieces of legislation that could impact city zoning and regulation in the years ahead.

Ann Wilson, division manager of the city’s administrative department, updated the City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday on proposed laws against which the city has taken a stance. Statewide efforts are being made to see municipalities adequately zone for high-density and affordable housing projects.

“The housing provisions are focused on city housing elements’ compliance with current state requirements as a way to resolve the current housing crisis,” Wilson said. “The governor has specifically promised to prosecute non-compliant cities.”

Although La Cañada complies with state mandates, that threshold could increase the number of units cities must zone for and restrict which lands could receive such a designation.

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La Cañada has zoned for 343 units of affordable income housing, according to Community Development Director Susan Koleda, and might have to assume another 112 units in 2020-21 to maintain its current compliance.

“The social equity adjustment, which would increase the number of extremely low-, very low- and [moderately low-income] units we’d have to provide, is going to be higher than it has in the past because we don’t have a lot of that,” Koleda said.

While the city supports a handful of bills, others are being watched for the potential impact they’d have if passed.

Senate Bill 330 would declare a 10-year statewide housing crisis and prohibit cities from imposing parking requirements and impact fees on affordable housing projects. Assembly Bill 1763 would force cities to allow unlimited density and issue incentives for 100% affordable housing projects within half a mile from a high-quality bus corridor.

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Senate Bill 13 aims to prohibit local jurisdictions from imposing impact fees on accessory dwelling units smaller than 750 square feet and requiring parking on lots when carports or garages are converted into such dwellings.

Meanwhile, Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) has introduced SB 592, the Housing Accountability Act, which effectively retains portions of SB 50, a bill that was scuttled in May by colleague Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Wilson said SB 592 would impose numerous requirements on cities and levee significant fines and “unprecedented” compensatory damages on non-compliant entities.

“The bill does not, in any way, guarantee or promote funding for housing,” Wilson said. “It expands the housing accountability act to include any form of land use decisions, even including ministerial projects.”

As of Wednesday the bill was before the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. The California Legislature adjourns July 12 for a one-month summer recess.

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