Del Mar planners hear input on affordable housing

By Claire Harlin

The outpouring of community input at the Del Mar Planning Commission’s public hearing on affordable housing on Dec. 5 sent a message to city officials that the community wants to get involved. The commission responded loudly and clearly by calling another public meeting, to be held on Jan. 2 at 6 p.m.

“I want to hear more public testimony before we make a decision, and it seems like we’ve got a lot more to go,” said commissioner Sam Blick.

As it was his first meeting as a council-appointed member of the citizen advisory board, Blick said he was overwhelmingly impressed by the community’s sweeping participation and informed comments.

The Planning Commission is charged with reviewing the city’s draft housing element, which identifies the city’s housing conditions and needs, as well as establishes goals, programs and policies that will guide future growth for the 2012-2020 cycle. The document represents nearly a year’s effort, but there’s still a big hurdle to clear — figuring out how to accommodate 71 new housing units, 22 of which need to be affordable enough to serve the city’s lowest income bracket.

Although the state mandates it — and some 25 percent of Del Mar residents qualify for it — affordable housing is currently non-existent in the city. That’s why the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has mandated that out-of-compliance cities like Del Mar show in their housing elements that they can accommodate the affordable housing requirements dictated by the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), which takes into account income and population projections.

To make these accommodations, the city must identify a site on which affordable housing can be built — possibly at an estimated 20 units per acre — as well as outline ways existing structures can be modified to satisfy requirements in the moderate income bracket. The city is looking at options such as modifying zoning in either the north or central commercial zones, and although the City Council in November tossed out the idea of using city-owned land for an affordable housing construction, the commission on Dec. 5 suggested reconsidering that option. The commissioners agreed, however, that the city’s parks should not be considered. The council also considered in November revising the entire north commercial zone to allow residential construction at 20 units per acre — a number determined by HCD to be the lowest density possible to achieve affordability — however, residents and the commission expressed concern about this “blanket-zoning.”

The draft housing element is available online at