The City Council meeting on March 7th covered the City’s Annual Progress Report in meeting the state’s requirement to permit 13,209 new housing units in an attempt to solve the state’s affordable housing needs.
For privately-owned properties, the City is proposing several new concepts to achieve this goal, such as streamlined, in-house permitting and parcel up-zoning to incentivize 30 to 60 units per acre of higher-density housing in return for developers providing at least 10% of units as affordable. The developers receive the opportunity to build densities substantially higher than Fullerton zoning currently allows, to bypass local parking requirements, and to build housing in areas that were never zoned for housing previously (commercial and industrial lots), in addition to being able to build 90% of their units at whatever income level they like.
If parcels are city-owned, the land can be sold to nonprofit developers that can provide a higher percentage of affordable units and that meet the deeper levels of needed affordability that for-profit developers can’t “pencil out.”
During public comment, former Planning Commission chair Elizabeth Hansburg said it was distressing that the project at 1600 W. Commonwealth had a huge missed opportunity by only approving units for families at income levels of $84,000 to $109,000 for a family of four at levels that are similar to current rental pricing. “This is City-owned land,” she asked. “Where else are we going to get housing for people making $30-, $50- or $60,000 a year for a family of four?”
At previous affordable housing meetings, members of the public asked the city to focus on accommodating housing for people most in need and not to offer incentives for the market-rate, luxury levels of housing. Every development without affordable housing requires more and more luxury housing to be built in order to eventually meet the state affordability numbers. In the past two years, the city has allowed several large projects without any affordable housing at all, such as the Hub project near CSUF and the Fox Block. Some projects have very little affordable housing, such as Streetlights and the Parkwest Hotel and apartments at the Fullerton Transportation Center.